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Lesky’s Notes: The Royals done good

Everything is terrible, but at least for now, the Royals are the shining light in the sport.

MLB: Spring Training-Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Mar 8, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (right) is greeted at the plate by designated hitter Kyle Isbel (6) and catcher Cam Gallagher (left) after hitting a three-run home run during the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

We’re probably getting closer to baseball. I mean, even if they don’t play in 2020, we’re technically getting closer to them playing again, so I suppose I could strike that “probably” from the first sentence. The latest news of the players proposing a 114-game season with fully prorated salaries being answered officially with a “no” and basically with a non-proposal proposal 50-60 game schedule with fully prorated salaries tells me there’s a middle ground that they can find relatively soon. I did the quick napkin math and if the players are willing to let some of the top earners defer some salary over the next probably three seasons, the difference between the payout for 50 games and 82 games would be pretty negligible for the owners. That seems like the smart conclusion here. Which, of course, means they’ll end up playing something weird like 38 six-inning double headers with each player getting paid half in salary and half in Arby’s coupons.

  • The news of the last week or so that I think is the absolute best is that the Royals aren’t releasing any minor league players, they’re paying them through the end of the season and there aren’t going to be any layoffs in the front office. This is great for so many reasons, and maybe a little bit surprising just because with a new ownership group, they have far less equity built. It’s not surprising, though, because if Dayton Moore has any sway, we all know how he feels about his people. For all of his faults as a general manager (and there are plenty), he clearly cares about his organization and the people who work for and with him and he puts a high level of importance on his minor league system. So they absolutely did the right thing and have set the standard for other organizations through all of this. And the best part about all of it is that an added benefit of doing the right thing is that this should theoretically help the team for years to come. We’ve seen it all over social media with players mentioning that they see which organizations are good and which are bad, maybe not in so many words, but we see it. If players (and staff) are noticing it, that gives the Royals a leg up in both hiring and signing players. No, it’s not going to get them to the front of the line in the Mookie Betts sweepstakes or anything, but I believe it will give them an advantage when going after some minor league free agents and flyers that maybe can make a difference in filling a hole on a future Royals team. Maybe more important than that, though, is I think they’ll be the big beneficiaries of staff that’s been let go. You’d be hard pressed to find a better organization for a scout or someone in a front office capacity than Kansas City. And the Royals have never been known to shy away from a good hire. With all the bad surrounding us, I think this is the story of the week, in my opinion. It’s nice to see the Royals not on the right side of something, but as the leader of that correct side.
  • The other good news stemming from all that’s going on in the organization is that I’ve been told whatever happens with this season will not impact the future in any way from a financial standpoint. They are still forging ahead with their plans and their budgets (on a three or five year window rather than year-to-year) in the same way they were before all of this hit back in March. And that won’t change unless 2021 is severely impacted. In my opinion, this is maybe the only real benefit to a huge ownership group like they have in place right now. More people to absorb the losses mean fewer losses per person. Yes it’s the same on a percentage basis, but I actually do think that’s helped somewhat as organizations have been hit hard by the lack of really any revenue coming in over the first two and a half months of the season. A big part of that is I don’t anticipate the Royals running a huge payroll between now and, say, 2022 or 2023 because if the system starts producing talent, they can remain relatively inexpensive until arbitration raises start to happen. As of right now, if this not a rebuild works, looking at the 2023 payroll sees a lot of guys either in their 0-3 years or in their first year of arbitration. The only truly big earners at that point would be maybe Brad Keller in his final year of arbitration or in the midst of a long-term deal and then anyone else they’d sign between now and then. So at the very least, it’s nice to know that the Royals aren’t going to be hamstrung by this for years to come.
  • I’ve talked about some potential draft picks for the Royals over the last few weeks, and now we’re almost at draft day and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I really hope someone takes Austin Martin ahead of the fourth pick. It probably seems pretty weird that I really don’t have any interest in the Royals picking a guy universally described as a top three pick, but I’m just not feeling him for whatever reason. He doesn’t seem like he can play shortstop, which is fine in itself, but you’d prefer that he can. His only obvious plus tool is his hit tool, which is fine in itself, but you’d really prefer more power. I think there are two things that I’m probably weighing way too heavily in my evaluation of Martin and that’s Dansby Swanson and Christian Colon. Swanson is the obvious Vanderbilt angle, which is beyond not fair and Colon is the obvious high floor angle, which may or may not be fair. I just don’t see the big power developing for Martin that he’ll need unless he can somehow stick in center field. I think left field is more likely for him, which isn’t without value in Kauffman Stadium, but like more than a high average hitter who plays solid defense in left out of the fourth pick in the draft. He’s probably my seventh or eighth choice for the Royals to pick in that fourth spot, which still means he’s a player I like a lot, so I won’t have a huge problem if he falls there and the Royals take him, but I personally hope he doesn’t and if he does that they don’t.
  • It’s easy to forget what we were thinking about and talking about three months ago before everything shut down, so let’s refresh our memories here. Maikel Franco was going to be a big focus this year. He had worked out in Florida with Jorge Soler and after getting released is at a crossroads in his career. A big season could have gotten him a decent longer term deal with the Royals with not a ton in the pipeline at third other than Kelvin Gutierrez. There was a pretty intense spring battle between Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom that had some long-term implications as well without much in the pipeline at first base. If either of those two really break out along with Franco, it could end up making Hunter Dozier a trade piece with some prospects actually working their way through the system in the outfield. We also were following with Nicky Lopez to see if the added muscle he put on during the off-season was going to allow him to be more than a slap hitter this season. The early returns in spring were pretty good on that, but it’s Arizona spring and you really just never know. We were following injury returns of Salvador Perez and Adalberto Mondesi. Perez had caught a couple games if I remember correctly and Mondesi was in the lineup at shortstop for the first time on the game that got canceled when everything hit the fan. In the bullpen, Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont were having amazing springs and Greg Holland had all but locked up a roster spot. Those three with Ian Kennedy and Scott Barlow were a big reason why I was optimistic that the 2020 Royals might be able to win a few more games. There was also a lot of optimism about guys like Kyle Isbel, Tyler Zuber and Khalil Lee. We haven’t gotten to see how any of that plays out, of course, but nice to think back and remember before things get started again this year, if they ever do.