Nothing like a good ole roster controversy, eh? No matter how you shake it, there is bound to be someone who doesn’t like what the Royals do at the end of the month. Starting September 1st in every MLB season, big league rosters expand to include anyone on the 40-man roster. For playoff teams, this allows them to give their normal starters a bit of a breather or keep an extra pinch-runner or two for close games. For teams like our Royals, it gives them a chance to get a look at some young guys for the last 25 games or so.
The Kansas City Royals are currently in a bit of a weird place. They are currently (time of writing) 46 games below .500. If they won every single game for the rest of the season, they would still wind up below .500 for the season. Yet, they still deploy veteran players like Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Lucas Duda, Salvador Perez, Jason Hammel, and Blaine Boyer on a semi-regular basis. The Royals are much older than you’d like for a team with a 30.5 win percentage.
All of that has to come to an end on September 1st. At this moment, I can sort of understand the continuous deployment of certain veterans. Technically, the Royals could still trade all of them. Technically. Even if you could just dump a few thousand dollars in salary, it would be worth it at this point. It’s unlikely, but, crazier things have happened I guess.
Starting September 1st, it is unlikely the Royals can move their veterans anymore, since any team that acquires them won’t get to use them in the post-season. Lucas Duda, Jason Hammel, Alcides Escobar, and Blaine Boyer will all be free agents at the end of the season. Alex Gordon will be a free agent at the end of 2020. With all of that being said, here are three things I absolutely need to see the Royals do when the calendar rolls over to September.
Release impending free agents
That’s right. Blaine Boyer, Lucas Duda, Alcides Escobar, and Jason Hammel all need to go. Immediately. Drew Butera will also be a free agent at season’s end, but given that the Royals can have 40 guys in the clubhouse, I'm okay with them keeping three catchers around, so long as Cam Gallagher is recalled from AAA Omaha. Continuing to play Esky, Boyer, Duda, and Hammel has an exact value of zero beginning on September 1st. There is no gain to be made by keeping them in the lineup. It’s time to see what Ramon Torres, Ryan O’Hearn, Frank Schwindel, Richard Lovelady, and Josh Staumont can do. The answer may be nothing! And that’s okay! But we already know what the answer is for the vets (also zero) so it doesn't make any sense to keep paying Duda and Esky more money every time they walk up to the plate.
Call up Richard Lovelady, Josh Staumont, Trevor Oaks, Cam Gallagher, Frank Schwindel, and Ramon Torres...immediately
What on earth do you have to lose? Look, I'm not the biggest fan of Ramon Torres or Frank Schwindel, but neither of them cost you more money every 25th time they walk to the plate and both of them make more sense as bench options on the 2019 team than Esky and Duda do. Richard Lovelady has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Get him to KC and let him get some innings under his belt so he can be our All-Star next year (I'm kidding). Josh Staumont is what he is at this point in his career, and has to be protected on the 40-man roster anyways. Cam Gallagher has been the Royals best option for backup catcher since the season started, and I want to see him give Salvy’s legs a break for the last month of the season.
Bench Alex Gordon and shut down Ian Kennedy
Let me start with Ian Kennedy and then I’ll explain my stance on Gordon. Ian Kennedy has not pitched since July 10th and still has two years and $33M left on his contract. Woof. In order for the Royals to get any kind of value out of that deal, they need Kennedy to be healthy and make 32 starts in each of the next two seasons. It really doesn't even matter how good he pitches anymore, if we’re being honest. No one is taking on that contract before July of 2020 and the Royals won’t be competing by then anyway. The Royals need Kennedy to make his starts and be healthy so that the young guys (Fillmyer, Oaks, Keller, Skoglund) have less pressure to make every single one of their starts. I know none of you want to see Kennedy in the rotation next year, but I actually think he can be of some service there, or at very least in a swing-man, 6th starter role.
Re: Alex Gordon. I don’t know what there is for him to do anymore. For me, he is what he is. He’s not going to get drastically better and the Royals have a logjam in the outfield. Brian Goodwin, Jorge Soler, Jorge Bonifacio, Brett Phillips, and Rosell Herrera are all more deserving of at-bats than Gordon at this point. If the Royals want to platoon him against RHP next season and see if he can accrue some kind of trade value, I'm all for it. But there’s nothing left for him to do in 2018. Shut it down, get some rest, start once a week (if that) and come back ready to go in 2019.
This doesn't quite scratch the surface in terms of things I “want” to see the Royals do on September 1st. This is just a list of things that I “NEED” to see the Royals do on September 1st. I’m tired of tweeting about how dominant Richard Lovelady has been in AAA over at Royals Farm. I’m tired of wondering “what if” Frank Schwindel got a shot at the big leagues. I’m tired of watching Alcides Escobar play baseball, to be quite honest. If the Royals are going to try to compete for my time as a fan during football season, they’re going to have to kick the youth movement into full -speed, because I'm not going to watch Lucas Duda play first base over Ryan O’Hearn or Esky play shortstop over Mondesi anymore.