This won’t come as a surprise to many of you, but the Royals were terrible in 2018. If it does come as a surprise to you welcome to the year 2018; can you please tell me where your rock is located so I can also hide under it for the next couple of years? What also won’t surprise you is that the team wants to improve in 2019. We all want to improve, right? If you’re not improving you’re getting worse - ask the 2016 Royals if you don’t believe me.
One of the most common ways we all attempt to improve is by taking stock of ourselves at the end of a given year and vowing to do better in one or more aspects the next year. This is commonly known as a New Year’s Resolution. There are some pretty common resolutions that are made from year to year. Armed with a list describing those resolutions I’m now prepared to tell you exactly what the Royals new year’s resolutions should be.
The Royals need to learn to eat a lot healthier. As in, they need to eat their current contracts instead of trying to dump salary. Who knows, maybe Alex Gordon or Ian Kennedy can bring back a lottery ticket or two if they rebound and the Royals promise to eat the remainder of their contracts. The same could also be said of Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy. The Royals aren’t going to be able to spend any money they save in dumping those contracts to help them win any faster, so they might as well pay the money.
Not eating well cost them in 2018 when they dealt Kelvin Herrera, their best trade chip, and refused to pay a dime of his remaining contract. They surely could have gotten better prospects if they had. They also cost themselves when they dealt their second best trade chip, Scott Alexander, in an effort to dump Joakim Soria’s salary. Soria even bounced back and made that move look even more foolish because he was worth prospects on his own merits at the deadline.
Get more exercise
Especially the exercise of reaching to your belt clip or pocket and getting out that phone and making some calls. Beyond just eating contracts the Royals also need to deal some guys. Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield, and Danny Duffy are the top candidates. If the Royals can find someone who will give the team anything of value for those guys they need to pull the trigger. Will it be painful? Yes. Exercise always is. But the leaner, stronger team they will be able to see in the mirror in 2020 will make it all worth it.
This may seem counter-intuitive after I just said they need to eat the contracts currently on the books but what I mean is that they need to make sure they don’t add any more. Dayton needs to resist the urge to sign guys over 30 to expensive multi-year deals. So far he’s restrained himself to single year deals to guys under 30 and that’s OK. It would be even better if any of them were bounce-back candidates he might be able to flip at the trade deadline for more prospects but he absolutely must avoid signing an Ian Kennedy or a Jose Guillen in order to try and eke out a few more wins in 2019.
Dayton needs to spend more time reading. But he needs to stay away from too much junk reading. The scouting reports can be a lot of fun, but the real focus needs to be on statistics and analysis of those statistics. If he will really hit the books he can be smarter and make much better choices moving forward. Better statistical analysis would have precluded signing duds like Kennedy, Jason Hammel, and Travis Wood. Dayton doesn’t have as much money as the big boys in the league so he’s got to be smarter than them. He can do it if he just reads fewer tabloids and more business journals.
Make new friends
It can be really hard to say goodbye to friends we’ve known a long time even as they prove to be the kinds of people no longer worth keeping around in our lives for one reason or another. But it still has to be done. I know Alcides Escobar is still a free agent, but the Royals need to go ahead and let him drift away to find someone new to hang out with. Beyond even that, though, the Royals need to make sure they’re giving their new, young players their best opportunity to succeed. If that means leaving them in AAA to season a little longer, fine. But if it means Alex Gordon needs to start playing once or twice a week or that Ian Kennedy needs to go to the bullpen in order to make room for younger guys to get their reps in then it needs to happen. Loyalty is a wonderful trait but you can’t let it hamstring your own growth. Let Alex have some well-earned rest and make sure Brian Goodwin, Jorge Bonifacio, and Brett Phillips have their best chances to succeed.
Learn a new(ish) skill
Remember in 2014 when the Royals couldn’t walk and they couldn’t hit for power - the two biggest indicators of a strong offense - but, by golly, they didn’t strike out, either? That’s not the case anymore. In 2014 they were the best in baseball by a large margin. In 2018 they were ninth, a lot closer to average. It’s great for the Royals to say they want to focus on athleticism because they can’t afford guys who walk a lot and hit for power. But it stands to reason to wonder if they might not be better off focusing on guys who don’t strike out. Being fast doesn’t do you a lot of good if you can’t get your bat on the ball. With teams increasingly willing to allow a guy to strike out as many times as necessary to get to the next home run it seems like this could be a market inefficiency the Royals might be able to exploit. Moderate athleticism on base is worth two superb athletes walking back to the dugout.
So those are the resolutions the Royals should make. Will they make them? I don’t know but recent history suggests it’s unlikely. What resolutions would you have them make? Do you have any resolutions of your own you wish to share?