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Royals need to embrace, not fear, being different

The Royals could—and should—make some lineup changes with an eye toward contending in 2023. That starts with benching two veterans.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s an inarguable fact: through the first eight games of the 2022 season, the Royals are 3-5.

Here’s a pretty solid opinion: it’s way too early to worry about how the Royals will fare this season.

Here’s something to be gleaned from the writers here at Royals Review: in our pre-season predictions, none of us chose the Royals to finish better than third in the American League Central. Only one (yours truly) picked them to finish with a record above .500.

Alright, then. Let’s not fret too much about the early part of the season, but keep in mind that 2022 was never the end-game. The Royals need to show improvement, yes, especially the young pitching staff. But missing out on the playoffs, even though now expanded, will not cost Mike Matheny or Dayton Moore their jobs.

Improvement is the key, and in that regard, the Royals can no longer fear being different. The Royals need to embrace switching it up in order to compete in the years to come.

There are numerous ways for the Royals to be different. One way is to at least bench, perhaps even cut, a veteran making over $10 million this season: Carlos Santana.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The former formidable (say that ten times fast) hitter is no longer getting it done. The Royals signed him to a two-year deal before the 2021 season, and there’s no blame for doing that. With the 2020 minor league season wiped out, there didn’t seem to be a first baseman of the future in the Royals’ system. Thankfully, since then, both Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino have emerged.

And Santana’s cratered.

In 31 plate appearances this season, Santana has two hits. He owns a lifetime .361 OBP, but that’s down to .226 this season and .314 through 166 games with the Royals. He’s twice hit more than 30 home runs in a season, but he’s hit a combined 27 in his last 226 games.

The worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes: the Royals keep playing him while young guys ride the pine. This goes beyond Pratto and Pasquantino—this has more to do with two other young players currently with the Royals and not getting any playing time.

And it also deals with another free-agent signing gobbling up valuable playing time.

That’s centerfielder Michael A. Taylor.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Kansas City Royals Nick Tre. Smith (FLO)-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike Santana, MAT is signed for 2023, yet that’s at a palatable $4.5 million, part of a two-year extension he inked before this season began.

Taylor’s now appeared in 150 games for the Royals, slashing .243/.297/.386 for an OPS that is 23% below the league average. He’s struck out 149 times versus walking 36 times. While he excels on defense, those offensive numbers are too ugly to ignore.

Both Santana and Taylor need to be benched—now. Give that playing time to Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares, two young outfielders on the Major League roster. See what they can do given everyday opportunities.

With Santana getting benched, move either Whit Merrifield or Hunter Dozier to first base. And with MAT alongside Santana on the bench, insert Isbel and Olivares into the outfield while also getting some at-bats as the designated hitter. Right now, Isbel and Olivares have a combined four at-bats this season. What good is that?

Ultimately, benching Santana and Taylor and moving around another piece in the lineup in favor of playing Isbel and Olivares won’t harm the Royals’ long-term goals. In fact, it would improve them.

It’s clear that this team isn’t going to compete with Santana on the roster. Things remain a bit murkier with Taylor due to him being signed for another year, but he’s already 31. He is what he is at the plate by now. That won’t change. If anything, it will get worse.

But it would even more detrimental to the Royals’ long-term plans to continue playing two veterans with nary a future in Kansas City while also refusing to figure out what there’s to be had in two young players who aren’t getting any playing time at all.

Be different.

Swallow the bad signings and bench the veterans, despite that being a tough thing to do, especially for a small-market team.

Shift around the lineup.

Let all the young dudes carry the news.

Poll

Should the Royals bench Carlos Santana AND Michael A. Taylor?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Yes
    (653 votes)
  • 19%
    No
    (159 votes)
812 votes total Vote Now