One of the oddest stories of this young Kansas City Royals season has centered around Brian Goodwin. The Royals traded for Goodwin last July, and while Goodwin suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for weeks, Goodwin grabbed some more playing time in September and seemed a lock to make the 2019 roster.
But on March 25, the Royals cut Goodwin and simultaneously selected the contract of Lucas Duda.
It was a curious move for numerous reasons. First, it didn’t fit at all with the so-called ‘Process 2.0,’ as the Royals replaced the speed and defense of Goodwin with the plodding, bat-only contribution of Duda. Second, it didn’t fit at all with the youth movement, as the Royals jettisoned a 28-year-old with multiple years of control in favor of a 33-year-old on a one-year deal. Third, it left the 25-man roster in bizarre sorts, with the bench consisting entirely of one backup catcher (Cam Gallagher), two backup first basemen (Duda and Frank Schwindel), one superutility player (Chris Owings), and one pinch runner and emergency fielder (Terrance Gore).
Early returns have been biting. Goodwin has a fantastic triple slash of .333/.385/.500 in 13 games with the Los Angeles Angels, who snatched him up to help fill in for the injured Justin Upton. Meanwhile, Duda has a .340 OPS in seven games with the Royals, and Owings has a .452 OPS in 13 games with the Royals.
Moreover, it sure seems like the Royals screwed over Goodwin—at least that’s what an April 11 article by the Los Angeles Times seems to report.
Goodwin felt a little sucker punched by the Royals...Thinking a roster spot was secured, Goodwin spent this spring experimenting with his swing. The tinkering didn’t help. Goodwin batted .116 (five for 42) in 17 exhibitions and was cut as the Royals broke camp.
“I was shocked,” Goodwin said. “I had plans to find a place to live in Kansas City … not necessarily buying anything, but being there for the year. They told me they were going another way and I wasn’t in the plan. It was short and sweet but to the point. Well … it wasn’t very sweet.”
Baseball is a business. Nobody will blame a front office for making personnel moves that may have negative ramifications for some players. That is simply a result of a variety of factors, some of which—maybe even most of which—are out of a player’s control at any given time.
With that being said, the optics here are awful for both the Kansas City front office and coaching staff. General manager Dayton Moore has a reputation for doing right by his players as humans and earning their loyalty. Letting go of Goodwin is, on its face, reasonable, but really bizarre once you dig in.
First, the Royals traded for Goodwin—not merely picking him off the scrap pile—insinuating that the organization valued him. Then, the Royals led him to believe that he would be a part of the 2019 team, a very reasonable assumption considering how bad the Royals were in 2018 and how thin their farm system was in the upper minors. Goodwin was even comfortable with his roster spot enough that he tinkered with his swing in spring training. None of that mattered. The Royals then cut him, instead turning towards a combination of Duda, Owings, and Gore to fill Goodwin’s spot.
All we can do here is read between the lines. But if Goodwin thought that the Royals might have released him, the LA Times story wouldn’t basically be “Goodwin was surprised at being cut.” And if the Royals thought that they might potentially release Goodwin, you would think they would have told him so he could make a case for himself in spring training rather than playing mad scientist with an important part of his game.
The jury’s still out on whether or not releasing Goodwin was a baseball mistake, as 13 games does not a season make. But it sure seems like it. Either way, it’s hard not to come away from this thinking that the Royals, at the very least, intentionally misled Goodwin here.