Over the past five offseasons, the Royals' mouths have frequently said that they expected the team to be competitive in the coming year. Then the biggest, and sometimes only, move they would make to prepare for the season would be a one-year deal to 38-year-old Zack Greinke or a two-year deal to 35-year-old Carlos Santana. The last time there was what I would consider to be a large move in the winter was the Ian Kennedy signing (oops!) going into 2016. Actions speak louder than words, and no big trades or signings says that they did not actually believe they were ready to compete. This year needs to be different.
I am assuming that JJ Picollo remaining in the organization means that there is no full rebuild coming, otherwise it would be weird to keep him and not just clean out the entire front office. Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino, Michael Massey, Nick Pratto, Nate Eaton, and Drew Waters all debuted and played a significant amount. All of them showed at least some signs of promise, though Pratto had to be sent down with some dismal numbers and Melendez struggled the last two months of the season. Most of them are going to improve, as young players tend to do, and if you also throw in Salvador Perez and Edward Oliveras, it seems like the lineup should improve and have at least 6 or more spots covered over the next several years.
The pitching has much farther to go since Brady Singer is the lone solid starter and the bullpen is a bit of a hodgepodge. On the plus side, adding just two starting pitchers could make a world of difference. I also still think Daniel Lynch is going to be at least a middle of the rotation arm, hopefully sooner rather than later as we all expect a lot of changes to the pitching development staff in the very near future.
If the Royals go out and make two or three big moves between now and opening day, contention would not be a complete pipe dream, especially in the AL Central. They should have plenty of space in the payroll to add a big free agent or two. It is also time for their team to evaluate the rookies and decide who is the core, and who could be traded to fill in the weaknesses. For instance, I like MJ Melendez, but if they are still not sure what position he can play I think I would rather trade him for a starting pitcher. I am not saying he should go, but someone when evaluated is likely to fit something like that, and they need to move them for actual long-term pieces. When the Royals were actually going for it, we saw these types of moves. The James Shields trade is the obvious one, but most of the other big trades were deadline deals to fill in-season needs. In that time period there were also a lot of free agent signings like Kendrys Morales and Edinson Voquez and Jason Vargas along with quite a few more. They still stuck to a lot of smallish deals, but they were making several each year to patch holes in the team.
We are about to embark on a very interesting offseason, and I am not going to start prescribing particular free agent or trade targets. Can’t burn up all the writing fodder, it is a long time until spring training. All I know is that teams that believe they are close back it up with money and trades to add real talent. Do I hope that one of those moves is adding Carlos Rodon, absolutely, but I don’t need them to go that big. I just need to see them do things that a team that really believes its window is opening would do. I want to see that JJ Picollo has a plan, and that he thinks the team is close enough to start pushing the chips into the center of the table. I want to see that John Sherman will back up the rookies by spending some money so that they can develop on a winning team rather than waiting for the development to be complete to spend, and then never having everything line up right.
Royals fans have been waiting for a return to winning for long enough. We saw the rookies come up and mostly not fall on their face. It is time to start building something around them. And don’t sign Greinke back for next year and tell me to expect a team that is playing meaningful games in September. That’s lip service, and I’m tired of it. No more telling, it’s time for this front office to show us something.