No two rebuilds are exactly the same. Every player’s production and path to success, or lack thereof, is unique, and this is amplified over a group of prospects. Furthermore, it’s impossible to fully replicate the financial situations of clubs. But while no rebuild is the some, you can draw some parallels from rebuild to rebuild, especially when you’re comparing rebuilds within the same organization and by the same front office.
Dayton Moore and the rest of the Kansas City front office are emerging from a second rebuild. The first rebuild took from 2007 through 2012 and featured an awful lot of losing without much reprieve. This rebuild, hopefully, is much quicker. Still: where are we on the rebuild spectrum as compared to last time? Let’s take a look.
- Extremely low payroll
- Many big league debuts
- Best Farm System in the History of Whatever
There are, I think, two key factors that made 2011 what it was. The first factor was evident before the season, when the Royals featured nine players on the preseason Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, and five among the top 25. Quite simply, the Royals had the best farm system in baseball.
The other thing to glean from 2011 can be found in the box score of Salvador Perez’s big league debut on August 10. The average age of the Royals position players was 24 years, and no Royal stepped up to the plate who was above their age-27 season. That team was young, and they continually saw debut after debut after debut.
Were the 2020 Royals the new version of the 2011 Royals? Like the team from a decade ago, last year’s squad featured many high profile debuts (Brady Singer and Kris Bubic, for example) and a bottom-five payroll. But it’s not a clear fit, as we may see even more debuts in 2021.
- Toe dips into free agency
- Maturation of prospects
- Lingering poor on-field performance
The 2011 team was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t good. The 2012 team was less fun, and they still weren’t good. Looking back, 2012 was bleak. Eric Hosmer regressed, Mike Moustakas continued to struggle at the plate, and injuries limited promising players Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez from playing even half the year’s games. And on the pitching side, the non-Danny Duffy members of the Fab Four lefties found themselves dashed on the rocks of the upper minors.
Unlike 2011, when Moore knew that he had internal prospects to fill many of the team’s open positions, Kansas City went out and signed a few guys at moderate prices to fill some holes. Jeff Francoeur and Bruce Chen both returned on two-year deals, and Jonathan Broxton became the veteran FA in the bullpen. As a result, the payroll increased significantly from the league low from the previous year.
The 2021 Royals share the most similarities with 2012 in regard to payroll. Like back then, the Royals have sought veteran guys on modest two-year deals, simultaneously plugging some open spaces on the roster and maintaining future payroll flexibility.
- The James Shields Trade
- Free agent restraint
You can’t talk about 2013 without talking about the James Shields Trade. The blockbuster move sent out Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi for James Shields and Wade Davis (among others). It was Moore pushing the chips to the center of the table and declaring that he was all in. At the time, it was derided heavily, both here at Royals Review and throughout the internet; it was seen as a panic move that reeked of desperation.
But in hindsight, the Wade Davis Trade was a hit. Per Baseball Reference, Odorizzi and Myers combined for 2.9 Wins Above Replacement over the next two seasons. Meanwhile, Shields and Davis combined for 10.3 WAR, and Davis was nothing short of the most dominant reliever in baseball over a three-year period from 2014 through 2016.
It was a gutsy move, and as the Royals’ young hitters started to blossom, Kansas City’s pitching reinforcements helped shore up a staff and propelled the Royals to legit contention—the Royals were fighting for a Wild Card spot through mid-August.
Regardless of what the team looks like, the 2021 Royals will be compared to the 2013 Royals if they post a winning record and compete for a playoff spot late in the year. Still, we are waiting for a blockbuster offseason move that will define this rebuild. Perhaps it is coming. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Where stage are we in the current rebuild in 2021?
This poll is closed
2011 - many debuts, still a ways away
2012 - bad, but young guys getting crucial experience
2013 - things finally clicking, winning baseball
2014 - it’s playoff time, baby!
NONE - somewhere in between