Previously I have written about the best-case scenario and worst-case scenario under potential new ownership by John Sherman. Now I would like to speculate on what I think will be the most likely scenario. Keep in mind this is all conjecture. I have no insider information.
The most likely scenario for 2020 and beyond is very little change from the current path. Dayton Moore is widely respected in baseball, and it has already been reported that he is likely to get an extension as soon as the deal is done. If this is the case, I see the following things as likely.
There will likely be very few free-agent signings in 2020. The current payroll is sitting at approximately $96 million. Combined with a new TV deal this would allow the new ownership to pocket a decent amount of money in their first season (perhaps as much as $50 million). It’s not absurd to want to make money off of their investment right away. Any free-agents signed will likely be similar to the crop we had in 2018; hopefully with more Diekmans and fewer Owings-es. It’s possible they lock up a mid-tier starting pitcher (the free-agent crop of starters is super deep this off season, someone like Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda or Tanner Roark seems right up the Royals alley). Some bounce-back candidates available include Dallas Keuchel, Alex Wood, Michael Wacha and Drew Smyly. All of these seem very possible for a team in the Royals position.
Moving forward, some portion proceeds will likely be taken aside for the ownership group. With a new “break even” of perhaps $140 million (based simply on the increased TV revenue), fielding teams between $115 and $130 million (roughly where the opening day payroll was from 2013-2017) would still allow the ownership group to pocket some money while fielding a, hopefully, competitive team.
The Royals are unlikely to become big free agent spenders. Even with a “baseball guy” and a “Kansas City guy” at the helm, baseball is still a business. With Dayton Moore still around, the philosophy in drafting and free agent signings will likely continue, with perhaps a bit more leeway to target slightly higher-tier free agents (but still not the top level).
Internal development will be the most important thing, as it has been over the last several decades. There is some hope that new ownership may push the team to lean more heavily on advanced analytics. The Indians are one of the more analytically inclined teams in baseball. While the Royals have a very talented analytics department, there appears to be a gap between the analytics department and the scouting, drafting and free-agent acquisition teams. Any refinement in this area can only be a good thing.
The feeling is that the Royals (GMDM in particular) have failed to make some moves during the rebuild that many other teams have made. The unwillingness to eat salary to facilitate trades or make them better has been criticized a lot on these forums. The Royals currently have little “dead money” on the books, which may have been by design given the sale of the team. It’s possible that new ownership could green light trades (and allow for more salary to be eaten in the trades) to help accelerate the rebuild. Could Whit be on the block? Soler? Kennedy could likely be moved if money was eaten.
It sounds like the Royals will be having a downtown stadium eventually. There are already reports of sites being investigated downtown. Fans of the current Truman Sports Complex may balk at the idea of the stadium moving to downtown, but business is business, and a new stadium downtown would likely be a boost to the economy within the downtown area, and could incentivize tax payers to help subsidize a new stadium for the team.
New ownership brings both new challenges and new opportunity. What the future holds is anybodies guess, and only the principles involved in the new ownership group truly know. This is a fun, exciting, scary time for Royals fans, and I for one cannot wait for the sale to be finalized so we can see the direction new ownership will go.