The 2019 Kansas City Royals have been plagued with lots of holes. For one, they are an honestly terrible team, one deserving of any number of Shakespearean insults; apt insults that could be said by Royals fans include “I am sick when I doth look on thee” and “ The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril.” After jettisoning their squadron of useless veterans the Royals have been somewhat less awful since the All Star Break, but the same feat happened last year and the 2018 Royals lost 104 games. This year’s squad seems destined for another 100+ loss season and another top-three pick. It bad, yo.
While it could be said that we should wait until the offseason to discuss offseason moves, let’s face it—many who haven’t stopped watching the Royals have at the very least moved on emotionally to the Royals’ offseason and the upcoming Kansas City Chiefs season.
So, let’s get to it: the Royals should bring back Mike Moustakas in free agency.
Moustakas is a third baseman by trade, but he’s played quite a bit of second base this year for the Milwaukee Brewers, and he’s handled the position more than adequately. First base is also an option. In addition, Moose has maintained offensive production; over the last five years, Moose has posted an OPS+ of 115. With the current juiced ball, the three-time All-Star is a reliable source of 30+ home runs and 30+ doubles a year. Next year is his age-31 season, but he should be able to maintain his approach for another few seasons and remain productive.
Furthermore, the Royals have the money for such a move. At the moment, they’re on the hook for only $59 million in payroll next year, and can functionally field a payroll as low as $75 million or so without any free agent acquisitions. That’s $21 million below 2019’s initial payroll. It’s not particularly likely that Moose gets any more than 4 years and $60 million or so, and it could be backloaded so the majority of it falls when the salaries of Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez come off the books in 2022. And this doesn’t take into account the additional revenue from a new TV deal, which will bump from a previous average of $20 million a year to $50 million a year.
What are these problems that Moustakas would solve? Let’s take a look.
Problem 1: Minor League infield candidates are underwhelming
When you’re rebuilding, you don’t want anybody you sign for a multi-year deal to block anybody in the minor leagues. Giving playing time to veterans when a deserving minor leaguer waits in the wings is a cardinal sin for rebuilding teams.
Fortunately for Moose—and unfortunately for the Royals—there isn’t a whole lot of infield talent in the organization right now. Kansas City’s “best” infield options above rookie ball include:
- Gabriel Cancel, 22, AA Northwest Arkansas: A likely bench infielder, Cancel followed a 97 wRC+ in A+ Wilmington last year with a 102 wRC+ this year. Potential ETA of 2021, if at all.
- Emmanuel Rivera, 23, AA Northwest Arkansas: Another likely bench infielder, the 579th overall selection in the 2015 draft has an 84 wRC+ this year. Potential ETA of 2021, if at all.
- Travis Jones, 23 AA Northwest Arkansas: The 870th overall pick in the 2017 draft has nevertheless hit at every level, but has slowed at AA this year with a 106 wRC+. Potential ETA of 2021, if at all.
- Nick Pratto, 20, A+ Wilmington: With a 74 wRC+ in the hitter’s hell that is Wilmington, Pratto’s star has fallen awfully quickly. Another such season will likely mean the end of Pratto as a legitimate prospect—if you don’t already think that. Potential ETA of 2022, if at all.
None of these guys are can’t-miss prospects, and none are even remotely close to the top 100 prospect lists that compromise that and the next tier of talent. Cancel, Rivera, and Jones are the type of guys that every organization has, and aren’t the type of guys you’d give big league playing time to for 2020 and probably most of 2021, either.
Problem 2: Major League infield candidates are underwhelming
The current infield candidates that have played for the Royals themselves this year have also been underwhelming. None of these guys have performed to the level where you would clamor for them to get more playing time.
- Kelvin Gutierrez, 24: In 20 games for Kansas City, Gutierrez’s much lauded defense was disappointing, as was his bat (he posted a wRC+ of 72 in 79 plate appearances). In AAA Omaha, Gutierrez was also below average, with a 96 wRC+.
- Cheslor Cuthbert, 26: He’s bad. We have 300 games of evidence that he’s bad. It happens sometimes.
- Nicky Lopez, 24: Lopez has been the worst hitter in baseball as a regular this year. Could he improve? Absolutely, and it wouldn’t surprise anybody. Unfortunately, Lopez has to improve a huge amount to be reasonably serviceable. He’s a short leash candidate.
- Ryan O’Hearn, 26: Neither O’Hearn’s fantastic 2018 nor his very not-fantastic 2019 are probably indicative of his talent level, but his composite stats just might: 89 wRC+, bad defense, and -0.8 Wins Above Replacement in 122 games. Dude has a 15 wRC+ against lefties over his career. Fifteen!
Problem 3: Kansas City’s big league lineup is righty-heavy
This one’s really simple: we know how much Ned Yost likes interpolating left-handed and right-handed hitters in a lineup. Unfortunately, the Royals are extremely lefty-heavy. Their best hitters—Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield, and Jorge Soler—are all right-handed, and their best left-handed hitter, Alex Gordon, is still a below average hitter and might not be on the team next year.
Brett Phillips, Nicky Lopez, Nick Heath, and Khalil Lee are all left-handed, but none profile as a top-of-the-order bat (at least, at the moment). Adalberto Mondesi is a switch hitter, which will help, but Kansas City doesn’t have that left-handed bat to keep other managers honest.
Problem 4: A perceived lack of veteran leadership
Maybe this isn’t really a problem, but for the Royals—who were hell-bent on signing Lucas Duda to offer some #veteran #leadership for a few months in 2019 for some reason—it seems like it would matter. Most of the guys from the 2013-2015 playoff run are gone. Even if the Royals re-sign Gordon to a deal next year, only three guys from those teams will still be here: Gordon, Danny Duffy, and Salvador Perez.
I don’t think the Royals lack leadership, for what it’s worth, but I’m also not running the Royals. Moose is a leader, that much is certain, and his voice would be welcome in helping to groom the next generation of Royals hitters.
Problem 5: The Royals are too boring
If the Royals are gonna lose 100 a year, the very least they could do is let me watch a home run race between Moustakas and Soler. The least they could do is let me watch Moose hit glorious dongs and relive the good old days. I do not want to watch Humberto Arteaga, Cheslor Cuthbert, Chris Owings, or Lucas Duda. Please. I beg you.