It is hard to believe now, but just four years ago the Royals and Orioles were battling each other for supremacy in the American League. The Orioles had the better record, winning 96 games and the Eastern Division that year, but it was the Royals who made it a clean sweep in the American League Championship Series, capturing their first pennant in 29 years.
The Royals won a championship a year later, and the Orioles were back in the playoffs in 2016, but by 2017 the paint was starting to fade for both franchises. This year, the bottom has dropped out. Both teams have lost around 70% of their games and are easily the two worst teams in baseball, both well on pace to become the fourth and fifth team in the last 40 years to lose 110 games or more.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Both teams find themselves at the outset of a rebuild process that could take years. Who has a better future ahead of them? I talked to Mark Brown, editor of Camden Chat, to compare the two franchises.
Max Rieper, Royals Review: Adalberto Mondesi has the highest upside out of anyone in the organization, and may finally be coming into his own after some early struggles in his career. Jorge Bonifacio gives them a young bat they can work with, and we will see what Brett Phillips and Ryan O’Hearn can do. The club may have found a pair of useful starting pitchers in Jake Junis and Brad Keller. There is doubt as to whether Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy, Salvador Perez, or even Jorge Soler will still be under club control by the time the team is good again, but at the very least they could be valuable trade assets.
Mark Brown, Camden Chat: One reason why the Orioles have a .299 winning percentage is they don’t have any good, young players on the MLB team. Hyped catcher Chance Sisco was a bit of a flop in his first season, Trey Mancini is having a sophomore slump, and Dylan Bundy is having a bad year. They traded everyone else who is young and good or potentially good.
Max Rieper, Royals Review: The Royals came into this year near the bottom of many organizational rankings, and despite some trades and a decent draft, that hasn’t changed much. Seuly Matias has shown prodigious power, but like many others in the system, has been plagued by a high-strikeout rate. Although there are some decent prospects like Khalil Lee, Brady Singer, and Nicky Lopez, the organization still lacks high-upside talent. Perhaps an arm like David Lynch or 2017 first-round pick Nick Pratto can break through next year and show high-upside potential, but the farm system only has one Top 100 prospect right now, according to Baseball America.
Mark Brown, Camden Chat: The Orioles traded six players in a series of July trades that netted them exactly one guy who makes it onto top 100 prospect lists - outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who came from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado deal. They have famously refused to sign international amateurs until this month. There’s an interesting crop of outfielders in the high minors and mid/back-end rotation guys in the low minors. They’ll have to hope the #1 pick next year adds the star power.
Max Rieper, Royals Review: Seemingly every move General Manager Dayton Moore has made since the championship parade has blown up in his face - signing Alex Gordon, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Brandon Moss, and Travis Wood, trading away Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson, and the disastrous deal with the Padres last summer. Some have debated whether or not he lucked into a championship but it is also possible that he was a good GM that has simply declined, as a player declines in performance, as the game passes him by. On the other hand, Moore has provided steady leadership and seemingly has the entire organization on board. The gravitas of having a championship ring and the culture he has developed will at least give this team a clear direction. As for Ned Yost, it is unclear how long he’ll stick around through the rebuild, but it does not sound like he intends to leave any time soon, which will provide some stability, albeit some maddening lineup decisions.
Mark Brown, Camden Chat: Manager Buck Showalter and GM Dan Duquette are both in the final year of their contracts. As the O’s have fallen the last couple of years, stories about front office acrimony and drama have increased in frequency. Owner Peter Angelos is 89 years old and his sons are reportedly getting more involved with the franchise’s direction. Where will they go? It’s a big mystery right now.
Max Rieper, Royals Review: Glass and Moore have talked a lot about how the team was overextended in player payroll during their championship run, so I would expect some leaner payrolls, particularly with Dayton’s recent disasters in free agency. The club has continued to make investments in the draft and international free agents. Much of their financial future depends on a new television deal, which should begin in 2019. However that deal will likely hinge on the fact the Royals play in the second-smallest market in baseball. That will always be a huge disadvantage.
Mark Brown, Camden Chat: When the O’s traded Kevin Gausman to the Braves, they also blatantly dumped the $9 million 2019 salary owed to Darren O’Day, who’s out for the year after hamstring surgery, into that deal, possibly leading to their getting a lesser prospect return. The story from the front office is that the O’s have been overinvested in the MLB payroll to chase the playoffs in recent seasons and they are now going to shift some of that money into areas where the franchise is deficient, including scouting, analytics, and technology. Attendance has tanked along with the team, so I’m sure there’s less money to go around.
Strength of the division
Max Rieper, Royals Review: The Indians continue to churn out quality players like a well-oiled machine and should be contenders even if they don’t retain their free agents. The Twins had a down year, but their young talent is hard to deny, at least on the hitting side. How competitive the division becomes depends on how rebuild movements with the White Sox and Tigers fare. The White Sox have amassed a lot of talent, and have shown a provlicity to spend when needed, and they could be the next big boy on the block in a few years.
Mark Brown, Camden Chat: The second place team in the AL East, the Yankees has a better record than any non-AL East team and they trail the Red Sox by 7.5 games. These teams can have periodic “down” years but they don’t stay down for long - and right now they’re way up. The Rays have found modest success despite all of their challenges. The Blue Jays have Vlad Jr. on the way. This is not a good division to get stuck in the wilderness, as O’s fans sadly learned from the consecutive losing seasons from 1998-2011. All we can do is hope that’s not going to happen again. It might, though.
Who has the better future ahead of them?
This poll is closed