A little over five years ago, former Royals owner David Glass made a statement that was simple — yet powerful.
“Losing is for losers,” Glass said in the aftermath of Game 5 of the 2015 American League Divisional series.
For the last three years, Kansas City has been a losing baseball team — and that’s putting it lightly. In 2018, the club lost 104 games. The following year, the Royals lost 103 games. Last season, Kansas City was on pace to lose 92 games. By most standards, the Royals weren’t entering the 2020-21 offseason on the verge of taking the league by storm. However, Dayton Moore made it very clear of his club’s intentions in 2021.
The rebuild was over.
“We expect to win next year,” Moore said. “What does that look like? Is it going to be enough wins to make the playoffs? We’ll find out.”
This offseason, Kansas City made multiple upgrades around the diamond. Moore opened eyes by adding veteran left-hander Mike Minor to a two-year, $18M deal. Minor, who pitched for the Royals in 2017, was an All-Star in 2019 with the Rangers — striking out 200 batters in 208 1⁄3 innings.
One day later, Kansas inked Michael A. Taylor to a one-year, $1.75M deal. Though Taylor isn’t known for his offense with a career .686 OPS, he’s an above-average defender. He ranks in the 91st percentile in outfielder jump and the 82nd percentile in sprint speed. With his combination of size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and speed, Taylor appeared to be a good match for the endless outfield in Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals began garnering the attention of the rest of the league when they added 34-year-old Carlos Santana to a two-year, $17.5 million deal in December. Santana spent the last decade with Cleveland tormenting Royals pitching, especially in the confines of the K. In 74 career games at Kauffman Stadium, he slashed .327/.449/.628 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs. Santana had a down year in 2020, but is just two years removed from a season in which he won the AL Silver Slugger award for first base with 34 home runs and hit clean up for the American League in the 2019 All-Star game.
None of those moves, however, made as much noise as the deal on Wednesday night. The Royals, who had been searching for a left-handed bat, acquired Andrew Benintendi and cash from the Boston Red Sox in a three-team trade involving the New York Mets. As a result, Kansas City sent the eighth-ranked prospect in its system, Khalil Lee, to the Mets, and Franchy Cordero and two PTBNL to Boston.
Like Santana, Benintendi struggled in 2020. However, he was hindered by a ribcage injury and saw action in just 14 games. Outside of that, he’s posted a career on-base percentage of .353 and was a five-win player two years ago. In 2018 and 2019, he smacked over 80 doubles with the Red Sox.
Benintendi’s also returning to a stadium where he’s put up numbers that would be unrealistic in MLB the Show. In 39 plate appearances at Kauffman Stadium, Benintendi slashed .485/.564/.848 with four doubles and two home runs. Not to mention, he is 26 years old — making him the third-youngest player in Kansas City’s starting lineup (behind Mondesi, Lopez).
With the addition of Benintendi, the Royals’ potential 2021 Opening Day lineup looks something like this (barring injury, of course).
Whit Merrifield RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Carlos Santana 1B
Jorge Soler DH
Salvador Perez C
Hunter Dozier 3B
Adalberto Mondesi SS
Nicky Lopez/Hanser Alberto 2B
Michael A. Taylor CF
The move to acquire Benintendi feels like a message of its own. The Royals want to win now and they’re actively making sure their divisional opponents know it. This is not to say Kansas City should be expected to take the division over Chicago or Minnesota, but the Royals have become increasingly visible in the rearview mirror. They’re not the only ones that believe it, either.
Really like what KC is doing this winter. Small market team aims to win.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 11, 2021
We need more teams like the Royals. Nobody really had them close to contention when the offseason began, but they signed a bunch of dudes early — Santana, Minor, Michael Taylor — then traded for Andrew Benintendi & have given themselves a chance with several promising young arms.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) February 11, 2021
With the #Royals acquisition of Andrew Benintendi, expectations now change for 2021 because A. He’s a good player and B. KC is sending a message they expect to compete. Anything less than .500 is a disappointment and we should expect the club to compete well into September.— Clubhouse Convo (@royalsclubhouse) February 11, 2021
The #Royals have bought real low on Carlos Santana, Mike Minor, Michael Taylor and now Andrew Benintendi. If any of them can replicate the level success they had in the 2017-2019 range, it’s a big steal. That’s how small market teams start to climb the standings, I like it.— Jared Koller (@JaredKCTV5) February 11, 2021
Moore and owner John Sherman are sending a message to the Royals’ players, as well. Despite three consecutive seasons of finishing fourth or worse in the AL Central, the front office is letting the current group know they’re good enough to win now. A similar comparison can be made to the 2013 Royals. After losing 90+ games three years in a row from 2010-12, Moore went out and made the following moves:
- Traded OF Wil Myers, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Mike Montgomery and 3B Patrick Leonard to Rays for James Shields, Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson
- Traded SP Brandon Sisk to Angels for SP Ervin Santana
- Signed 2B Omar Infante to a four-year, $30M deal
- Signed SP Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year, $25M deal
- Signed IF Miguel Tejada to a minor-league deal
At the time, Moore felt Kansas City could contend by pairing those additions with Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. For the most part, he was right. The Royals missed the playoffs but finished 86-76 in 2013 — the franchise’s first winning season in 10 years.
With the moves this offseason, Moore apparently feels that the team can win around players such as Adalberto Mondesi, Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Perez and Hunter Dozier. Not to mention a collection of young arms like Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, Tyler Zuber, and more rising through the farm system.
The reality of contending is far more complex than believing you can. But for the first time in a while, Kansas City has given itself a shot to make it a reality.
How many wins do you predict for the Royals right now?
This poll is closed
Less than 70 wins