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What will the 2020 decade look like for the Kansas City Royals?

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The times they are a changin’.

We’re wrapping up the first month of the 2020s decade and we’ve seen the Royals continue down this path of rebuilding while trying to contend by adding some new faces along with some old friends. My feelings about this strategy (worried) is for another day. Today I wanted to take a blind guess at what this decade is going to look like for the Royals year by year. Will they open a window of contention at some point? Will new manager Mike Matheny become the new Ned Yost? Will the robo umps turn on us and enslave us all? Let’s find out!

The 2020 Season

End of Season Record: 66-96
Team MVP: Whit Merrifield
Is Whit traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Gordo re-signed to 1 year deal
- Dirty South pitches in Kauffman again
- Rule 5 pick, Stephen Woods, sent back to Tampa Bay
- Brady Singer makes his major league debut
- Salvy is extended 2 years/$29M; free agent in 2024
- Ian Kennedy traded at deadline for lottery tickets

This year is mostly defined by fan frustration towards the direction of the team. Before spring training began, fans are fed the cliches about being tired of winning and this team being special and blah blah blah blah only to be disappointed by a long summer of baseball. Most fans choose to tune into the Summer Olympics during the Dog Days. Thankfully they already signed a shiny and new TV contract.

We do get to see the debut of Brady Singer in August and, despite struggling at first, shows promise in his final five starts. Fans also see the debut of umpires explaining decisions of challenged plays. In protest, the umpires unite to “accidentally” leave their mics on during some heated interactions with managers and over half the league is forced to fire their skippers because of the things they said. Both the league and the Royals head back to the drawing board.

The 2021 Season

End of Season Record: 82-80
Team MVP: Hunter Dozier
Is Whit traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Maikel Franco (2/$16M) and Adalberto Mondesi (6/$90M) are extended
- Jorge Lopez is non-tendered
- Brett Phillips, Kris Bubic, and Kelvin Gutierrez are traded to the Pirates for Josh Bell in offseason
- Duffy and Montgomery are both dealt at deadline as relievers for lottery tickets
- Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, Khalil Lee make their debuts
- Jorge Soler leaves via free agency at the end of the year

Sweet, sweet progress! This is where Dayton plants his flag and makes the pivotal moves that are going to make or break the next contention window. In the offseason, Dayton trades for his first baseman difference maker, Josh Bell. This trade will go on to be Moore’s James Shields trade 2.0. Bell is as advertised but some fans are sad to see Phillips and Bubic go because of their solid 2020 seasons. The blockbuster overshadows the more meaningful move of extending Mondesi, locking him in a Royals uniform until, at least, 2026.

The season looks abysmal at first and they are out of contention by the All-Star break. However, the second half of the year looks completely different and fans are left hopeful by the end of the year.

The umpire situation goes from bad to worse. The league realizes what the umpires were doing in 2020 and decide to go full-bore towards robo umps.

The new robots aren’t calibrated correctly and only get about 64% of the calls right. There are so many in-game reviews that the average game lasts just under seven hours. By the end of the year, Commissioner Manfred assures fans that the robots would be corrected.

The 2022 Season

End of Season Record: N/A
Team MVP: N/A
Is Whit traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
N/A

Right on time, the MLB players go on strike when their demands are not met in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations. The strike lasts through November and a new agreement is agreed to three days before Christmas. Some of the highlights to the new deal:

  • Luxury tax threshold is increased
  • Salaries for minor league players are increased and uniform; salary is dictated by level
  • Players are granted a year of service time for ‘22 season
  • A payroll floor is established for each team
  • Teams are granted a fourth year of arbitration for a player, meaning a player can be controlled for seven total seasons (applies to players who have not begun the arbitration process already)
  • The NL adopts the designated hitter

The bad news about this whole thing is that Josh Bell is not extended and becomes a free agent right as it appeared that the Royals were turning a corner. The good news is that the young core is now controllable for another season in their primes.

The 2023 Season

End of Season Record: 92-70
Team MVP: Adalberto Mondesi
Is Whit traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Hunter Dozier is extended 3/$56M; free agent after 2025
- Club option on Whit Merrifield is exercised
- Tim Hill and Kevin McCarthy are non tendered
- Bobby Witt Jr, MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, Brady McConnell, Nick Heath make their debuts

2023 marked the final ride for Salvy, Whit, and Brad Keller in a Royals uniform. This team is perfectly balanced between veteran leadership and youthful production and that balance is rewarded with the first playoff appearance since 2015. The Royals lose a heart breaker in the AL Divisional Series but, for the most part, fans are left encouraged by where things are trending.

The robo umps are correctly calibrated and are now hitting a 100% correct call rate. The league’s attention moves towards expansion and realignment, and there is legit momentum. Wheels begin turning to land a team in Nashville and Las Vegas by 2025.

The 2024 Season

End of Season Record: 78-84
Team MVP: Daniel Lynch
Is Witt traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Keller is extended a qualifying offer when the two sides can’t agree on an extension but he passes and becomes a free agent
- Sign 27 year old Julio Urias to 8/$160M
- Seuly Matias makes his debut.

A tough, tough injury year. In fact, there isn’t a single game this year where the preseason projected starting lineup was completely healthy. Mondesi, Dozier, Singer, and new Royal Julio Urias spend lengthy amounts of time on the IL and the inconsistency is too much to make a playoff run.

The 2025 Season

End of Season Record: 98-64
Team MVP: Adalberto Mondesi
Is Witt traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Nicky Lopez signs 5/$65M extension
- Wilmin Candelario and Erick Pena make their debuts
- Manager Mike Matheny is given a three-year extension

In big news, the league goes under a large overhaul after officially adding Las Vegas and Nashville and realign both the American and National leagues. They are broken down as follows:
AL East
Red Sox
Yankees
Orioles
Indians

AL South
Rays
Astros
Rangers
Royals

AL North
Twins
Tigers
Blue Jays
White Sox

AL West
Mariners
Athletics
Las Vegas
Angels

NL East
Mets
Phillies
Nationals
Pirates

NL South
Marlins
Braves
Nashville
Cardinals

NL North
Brewers
Cubs
Reds
Rockies

NL West
Giants
Dodgers
Padres
Diamondbacks

The biggest loss in the realignment was the rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals but they will still play season series every year to maintain the rivalry.

For the Royals, it sure felt like this would be the season. Everyone was healthy. There was a great balance of veterans/youth. They got off to the best start in the majors and won the AL South by 3.5 games. They even had the AL MVP on their roster after Adalberto Mondesi’s monster effort. Unfortunately they couldn’t put things together in the Divisonal Series. After two failed attempts to get out of the first round, Royals fans start getting antsy and wonder what they need to get over the hump.

The 2026 Season

End of Season Record: 100-62
Team MVP: Bobby Witt Jr
Is Witt traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- The front office invests over $60M total in revamped bullpen

In 2015 fashion, the Royals have the division lead in June and never look back. Unlike the 2015 team, this team is exactly what Dayton Moore envisioned during that 2018 Draft: built on starting pitching. The quartet of Lynch, Urias, Singer, and Kowar absolutely shove in a way that hasn’t been done since the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies; a rotation that included Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Vance Worley. Pairing that with the all around great play from Bobby Witt and Adalberto Mondesi is extremely potent.

The Royals run through each series during the playoffs, sweeping them both before going up three games to none against the defending champs, Atlanta Braves, in the World Series. The Braves fought back and took it to a Game 6 when the Royals slammed the door and take the ‘ship. The streets run blue for the first time since 2015. At the parade, owner Eric Stonestreet is the MC and makes the huge announcement that the long awaited downtown stadium was approved and construction will begin that following Spring in the East Village.

The 2027 Season

End of Season Record: 94-68
Team MVP: Bobby Witt Jr
Is Witt traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Bobby Witt Jr signs 9/$315M (!!!) extension
- Ryan McBroom and Scott Blewett are nontendered
- Adalberto Mondesi rejects the qualifying offer and becomes a free agent

The Royals’ payroll skyrockets with all of their young pitchers coming to the final year of arbitration. On top of that, the front office plants their flag and signs Bobby Witt Jr. to a huge extension, all but guaranteeing him spending his entire career in Kansas City. It total, the payroll soars to $203M! All of this is done with the guarantee of an influx of income with the new stadium opening the following season as well as the added income of back to back World Series championships.

The recipe for success that Dayton has come up with works again as the Boys in Blue roll through the regular season and, although there’s a bit more resistance in October, they eventually hoist the trophy again behind that monster starting rotation.

The 2028 Season

End of Season Record: 74-88
Team MVP: Bobby Witt Jr
Is Witt traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Dayton Moore take his three world championships to a bigger market in Los Angeles to become the GM for the Dodgers
- Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Khalil Lee are given qualifying offers; they are all rejected (HOLY COMPENSATORY PICKS!!!!)
- Fan favorite, Nick Heath is non-tendered to cut payroll
- Kyle Isbel, Nick Pratto, Gabe Speier, and Carlos Hernandez are traded at the deadline for prospects
- Manager Mike Matheny is given a large extension to ward off any potential larger market suitors as well as attempting to maintain some sort of consistency as the team transitions to a rebuild

Our Royals come crashing back down to Earth after back to back World Series wins. The starting pitcher core hits the free agent market as well as cornerstone center fielder, Khalil Lee. The lineup still has plenty of pop with Witt, Pratto, Matias, and Lopez but the pitching that complemented the lineup is no longer there outside of Julio Urias, who has started to decline himself.

The contention window has closed and the fire sale begins, as pieces destined for free agency are traded away to restock the farm system. And restock they do with six of the first forty-five picks and a lot of new lottery ticket prospects to get excited about. This is good because the product at the major league level will be subpar for a few seasons.

The brightest spot of the season came on Opening Day, when the four world championship flags are raised in the new stadium, Cerner Park, in downtown Kansas City. The new state of the art park is complete with plenty of parking/tailgating, direct access to a thriving street car system, and literal fountain seating. The stadium is opened with a lot of mixed feelings but attendance holds strong from both the team’s performance and pure curiosity of the stadium itself.

The 2029 Season

End of Season Record: 56-106
Team MVP: Bobby Witt Jr
Is Witt traded?: No
Notable Transactions:
- Nick Pratto and MJ Melenzdez reject qualifying offers and become a free agent
- Manager Mike Matheny leaves the team to manage the Cincinatti Reds to be closer to home.

The Dark Ages return to Kansas City as the team struggles from Day 1. Ownership desperately want to clear payroll by moving Urias, Lopez, and even Bobby Witt. Unable to do so, they start selling naming rights to every piece of the new stadium. On Opening Day, Bobby Witt hits a walk-off home run off the Jungle Law Firm left field foul pole and, as he touches Brandon Finnegan Chrysler and Dodge home plate, he points up to the Bob Hamilton Plumbing Suite where his adoring family look on. The team will drop the next fourteen games.

Thankfully, their ex parking lot partner, the Kansas City Chiefs, are raising their tenth straight championship banner and haven’t lost a game since November 10, 2019. Kansas City is Titletown.

There you have it; my guess as to how the next ten seasons go for our Kansas City Royals. I look forward to fondly looking back at this article from the observation deck aboard Bill Gates’ new $644M hydrogen powered yacht.