The offseason is a time for looking ahead, but it’s also a time for reflection. The last several seasons of Royals baseball have been hard to watch, and I often times find myself thinking back to the heyday of modern Royals baseball, otherwise known as the 2014-15 seasons.
The only Royals from 2015 who were on the squad in 2020 were Adalberto Mondesi, Danny Duffy, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, and Greg Holland, who just re-joined the team. There were a total of 30 players who the Royals fielded during the regular season, so this will just be a quick check-in.
To start with, the players who were on the Royals in 2015 who have not played since 2018 or officially retired: Louis Coleman, Yohan Pino, Luke Hochevar, Franklin Morales, Joba Chamberlain, Jason Frasor, Ryan Madson, Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Young, Kendrys Morales and Paulo Orlando.
Scott Alexander - Alexander was part of the three-team trade to dump Joakim Soria’s salary after the 2017 season. He has pitched for the Dodgers since, mostly in relief, and has been about replacement level.
Aaron Brooks - Brooks appeared in two games for the Royals in 2015 before being traded to Oakland as part of the package for Ben Zobrist. He appeared in 30 games for Oakland and the Orioles since, and was signed by Kia Tigers in Korea in November of this year.
Wade Davis - Davis was part of the three-headed monster known as HDH for the 2014 season, and was the closer for the latter half of 2014, and 2015-2017. He was traded after the 2017 season to the Cubs straight-up for Jorge Soler. He posted above-average numbers in 2017, and continued to pitch well into 2018 with the Rockies. In 2019 he posted an ERA over 8, and in last years shortened season had an ERA of 20+. He was released by the Rockies in September and is currently a free agent.
Kelvin Herrera - Herrera was another part of HDH, though generally used as a setup man for the Royals. He was traded to the Nationals mid-season in 2018, where he promptly fell apart. In 72.1 IP since leaving the Royals, he has been worth exactly 0 fWAR and posted an ERA of 5.97. He spent 2019 and 2020 with the White Sox, who released him in early August. He then signed a minor league deal with the Cubs, but has since been released and is currently a free agent.
Michael Mariot - Mariot appeared in two games with the Royals in 2015, and has shuffled around in the minors since. In 2019 he played in the Mexican AAA (unaffiliated) league, he did not play in 2020.
The starting pitchers
Johnny Cueto - Johnny Cueto was the ace the Royals traded for in 2015 to shore up their rotation. He had some ups and downs during the regular season, but pitched magnificently in the post season for the Royals when it really mattered. He signed with the Giants after 2015 and put up one great season in 2016, but has largely struggled since. He has one season left on his contract.
Jason Vargas - Oh, Vargy (he once pitched a great game). Vargas pitched for the Mets and Phillies in 2018/2019, posting a 4.51 ERA in 2019 for 1.8 fWAR. He did not play in 2020, but has not announced retirement and is officially a free agent, but given his age (he turns 38 in February) it is unclear if he is just unofficially retired or not.
The bench guys
Christian Colon - Colon was with the Royals from 2014 through 2017, but his bat seemed to regress year over year. He was claimed off waivers by Miami in 2017, spent 2018 in the Mets minor league organization, and appeared in 19 games with the Reds the last two seasons. He was outrighted off the Reds roster in August and is currently a free agent.
Cheslor Cuthbert - Cuthbert appeared in 322 games for the Royals from 2015 to 2019. Cuthbert was nontendered after the 2019 season and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. He appeared in on game (with one at bat) for the White Sox in 2020 before being released. He recently signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati.
Jarrod Dyson - Dyson... perhaps the most underrated outfielder in baseball for many years (in this writer’s opinion). He was held to limited use with the Royals despite being one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball. He was made a starter by the Mariners in 2017, where he hit .251/.342/.350 and stole 28 bases in 111 games (390 PAs). He spent two years with the Diamondbacks and split time between Pittsburgh and the White Sox in 2020. He is currently a free agent.
Lorenzo Cain - I consider it a crime that Cain only has one Gold Glove, and didn’t win it until 2019. From 2012 through 2017, Cain was the most valuable position player for the Royals, posting 20.3 fWAR (next was Gordon at 17.9). He hit .289/.342/.422 with a 108 wRC+ and 120 stolen bases. Following his 2017 season with the Royals, he signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Brewers. Since signing with the Brewers he has seen some ups and downs, but has hit .284/.361/.394 while walking 9.8% of the time and only striking out 16% of the time. At 34 he is likely going to start declining, but expect to see him making highlight catches for the next few years anyways.
Alcides Escobar - Esky spent the majority of his career with the Royals, from 2011-2018. After leaving the Royals in 2018, he spent 2019 with the White Sox AAA affiliate, before signing with the Toyko Yakult Swallows for the 2020 season.
Eric Hosmer - Hosmer was always an enigma of a player, alternating good years with bad years. In 2016 he hit .266/.328/.433, good for a 102 wRC+ and 0.2 fWAR. In 2017 he was a monster, hitting .318/.385/.498, good for a 135 wRC+ and 4 fWAR. He signed with the Padres that offseason, after they outbid the Royals for his services. In 2018 and 2019 he was a below average hitter, and it looked like his contract (eight years, $144 million) would be a bust. He resurrected his career in the shortened 2020 season hitting .287/.333/.517 in 38 games, good for a 127 wRC+. He is under contract until 2025 so look to see him on lists such as this for many years to come.
Mike Moustakas - Moose! Moose had a return appearance with the Royals upon entering free agency after the 2017 season. The terminally underrated player failed to secure a multi-year deal and signed with the Royals for $6.5 million after declining a $17.4 million Qualifying Offer. He was traded to Milwaukee where he re-signed with another one-year deal, splitting time between second base and third base. He finally got his big payday after the 2019 season, signing a four year, $64 million contract with the Reds. In 2020 he posted a 109 wRC+, and continued to split time between the two positions.
Ben Zobrist - Zobrist was traded for mid-season in 2015 to solidify the lineup, and solidify it he did. He hit .284/.364/.453 with the Royals in the regular season, and in 16 post-season games hit .303/.365/.515. Following the 2015 season he signed a four year, $56 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. He missed time in 2019 due to personal reasons, and while he has not announced his retirement he did opt to sit out the 2020 season. He is currently 39 years old so any future contracts are likely to be one-year deals.