The 2019-2020 Kansas City Royals offseason should be a relatively eventful one for a team coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons. For the first time in almost a decade, there will be a new face as the manager. And for the first time since essentially 1993, the Royals will have a new face of ownership. Don’t forget the standard offseason intrigue, either.
Predicting baseball is often a hopeless exercise. This is especially true for on-field factors, but it’s also true for off-the-field factors as well. Why not give artificial intelligence a shot? With the help of talktotransformer.com, an AI neural network that completes text based on a prompt and my partner in crime for the September 10 game recap, I present to you what a computer thinks is going to happen in the offseason.
Who will be the new manager?
After Ned Yost’s retirement last month, the Kansas City Royals finally hired new manager Ned Yost.
“We’ve been looking to get a manager for more than 11 months,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “We’ve been working our way through everybody and, in the end, all of them said, ‘You know, Ned’s the best guy we could find.’”
There were a lot of contenders for a job in this search: the Twins, Angels, Brewers, Blue Jays, White Sox and Nationals had been among the finalists. There were offers for all three roles, but the Royals didn’t want to hire a new manager just yet before they had a new manager.
”We did not wait for Ned to retire,” Moore said. “We wanted to work with him for that year.”
The Royals gave Yost $2 million to buy out the remaining 10 years of his four-year, $24 million contract, as part of an agreement with the Royals to buy out the remaining five years of his contract.
The Royals had an unusual situation. The team had a $18 million payroll in the last year of Ned’s employment with the club. The only other club that was close to a $18-million payroll was the Twins. Yet they had a payroll just $2 million below Ned’s salary. Moore, however, could not agree with Ned about the timing of the promotion to first base. According to Moore, the Royals could not have gotten Ned to agree to the move without the assistance of agent Jimmy Sexton.
“If you’re going to make a move to start at catcher,” Sexton reasoned, “it had to be a sure thing.“ The Royals, however, knew Ned could not be considered any sure thing because there was no precedent for him starting at first base in the majors. It was the worst of both worlds.
Will the Royals move downtown?
With new owner John Sherman, speculation that the Kansas City Royals could move downtown to Kauffman Stadium continued to gain steam. But the Kauffman deal fell apart.
On Thursday, Kansas City will make all of its scheduled home games at the Sprint Center in Kansas City — which the Royals will relocate to by next year — in time for the start of the 2020 season.
But instead of putting its stamp on downtown Kansas City, the Royals will take away that ability to do so.
”We wanted to continue our tradition of bringing Kansas City and our fans together and build a city-wide fan experience,” said Dan Szymborski, the mayor. “The best way to do that is to be able to have your fans at all of our events. It’s also important given the economic impact the city has as a regional center. In order to stay viable, Kansas City has to have its downtown area. The downtown area should not be sacrificed, and the Chiefs will continue to be at the forefront of the conversation by being able to play their home games at the new and improved Sprint Center in Kansas City.”
When Kansas City was first chosen as the “official new home” for the Royals, they offered the Royals Clubhouse located on top of the downtown Kansas City convention center. The Kansas City Royals Clubhouse is a privately owned property that includes a restaurant, VIP areas and a “party room” with 20 luxury suites. That room is just one of the many luxury suites in the Royals Clubhouse.
The team’s team website lists the Royals Clubhouse as, “A spectacular venue where we make sure fans can relax, meet and greet with the team and stay active during their team’s home games in person and on the digital platform.”
According to the clubhouse’s website, a suite for the Royals player who is most likely to hit a grand slam in a game was purchased Tuesday for $250,000. Tickets are priced at $40, $40,600 and $100,000, and the Royals say they will have the suite ready when the player comes to town on Tuesday.
With their first major move of the 2019 offseason, the Royals added one of the game’s premier closers to their mix. The club traded ace Wade Davis to the Tigers for starter Wade Davis. The Tigers were willing to give up a couple of draft picks and a minor league prospect in exchange for Davis’ services and the 28-year-old’s services.
”We felt it was the best move to upgrade our entire arsenal,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said today.
The addition of Davis, whose career record is 86-78 with a 6.54 ERA over 691 1/3 innings spanning nine seasons with the Tigers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, is a huge win for the team’s young core.
Davis, along with a handful of other players such as shortstop Addison Russell, center fielder Mike Aviles and pitchers David Price and Jose De Leon, has earned the trust of manager Ned Yost and his top brass.
”I am very excited that we signed Davis,” Yost said. “He’s one of the most dominant catchers in the game, period. He has two years left to get it going. He is a big part of our team and a member of our organization.
”I’m sure he will get better each and every time he plays.”
Jorge Soler’s future with the club
The Kansas City Royals offered Jorge Soler an extension and the outfielder made it official on Friday. Soler agreed to a five-year deal that paid him $45 million in total.
Soler and his agent, Joel Wolfe, both talked to Royals General Manager Dayton Moore on Wednesday afternoon, a source told ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday night. When the sides couldn’t come to terms, Soler’s agent made plans to speak with MLB.com’s Bob Nightengale later in the day.
According to MLBAM, Soler is a restricted free agent who must be signed by July 16. The Royals have until July 16 to match Seattle’s qualifying offer offered to Soler.
”I’m pleased that Jorge was willing to commit his future to Kansas City beyond our current deal,” Moore said.
Soler’s new extension will keep him in Kansas City until at least 2020. He will make $5 million guaranteed, the third-highest ever for a free agent. However, he only made $5.5 million last season.
“I’m excited to be in Kansas City,” Jorge Soler said. “I’m looking forward to being there for the next year and a half. I haven`t talked with any of the coaches yet, but I’m going to have to spend the summer getting my feet wet. I`ll hopefully get a chance to start getting that done before my first training, so I have all my eggs in one basket, one foot in the other basket, so that it’s really no hassle moving from one group to another group.”
Whit Merrifield’s future with the club
On Thursday, the Kansas City Royals traded star player Whit Merrifield for a package that includes two other top prospects (Kendrick Hilliard and Michael Palani).
Merrifield is an impact bat in the top of the order. He can hit for moderate power, can hit for average, and his average and on-base percentages both are right around league average. If you look at his BABIP, it is more likely due to poor luck or bad luck. However, if you combine good defense with outstanding hitting, Merrifield is a top 3 option at catcher.
The Royals are also in on Palani, the 6’5” righty who looks an awful lot like Michael Bourn. He’s a very young, good pitching prospect with one of the highest ceilings in the system. According to Fangraphs, he’s currently projected to end up at 2.00 with a high 50 FV. Unfortunately for those in the Royals organization, PECOTA has him at a mere 0.63 FIP with a 59% strikeout rate on the fast track. He currently owns a 4.42 ERA and a 9.50 K/9 rate, and is the Royals top pitching prospect.
Despite the fact that he has been so successful in Double-A, his ERA is still high (2.83) and he’s been unable to produce anything close to a 3.00 ERA since his promotion to Double-A. That means he’s far from ready to carry the Royals pitching staff. He’s also only made two starts and is on the disabled list with a right foot injury in his pitching vest.
The Royals must now decide whether they want to keep Palani in the minors or keep him in the rotation for the 2020 season. At this moment, Palani has a good chance to be their best pitching prospect in the system. At this point, it appears he’s still a bit more of a longshot than a contender.
BONUS: Why, AI, why?
In creating the above scenarios, I searched for the best results after giving Talk to Transformer a variety of prompts, doing some minor massaging in order to maintain a semblance of consistency when a snippet required multiple prompts. The following prompt is easily the most ridiculous of the results given to me in any scenario.
With new owner John Sherman, speculation that the Kansas City Royals could move downtown intensified.
John Sherman, the city’s new mayor and a former mayor of Los Angeles and Kansas City, Mo., has agreed to sell the struggling Royals baseball team to the San Francisco 49ers.
As part of the deal, the Kansas City Chiefs, which had hoped to gain ownership of the team after its last owners died, must agree to move to Santa Clara County, Calif., and share profits from the property with the San Francisco Raiders.
The 49ers would also share revenues, though there was no indication of how much or for how long. In the agreement, Sherman gives the 49ers sole control of the lease, with the possibility of re-locating if a team moves there.
The deal marks the end for a group of investors led by the billionaire George Parr, who had been trying to secure a team for years. But after a series of delays, the team was not able to relocate after all.