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The Royals can fix their roster in one fell swoop before the trade deadline

Play the kids.

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) is congratulated by third baseman Hunter Dozier (17) after hitting a home run against the Cleveland Indians during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium.
Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) is congratulated by third baseman Hunter Dozier (17) after hitting a home run against the Cleveland Indians during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have spent the last three months seemingly in a contest to lose as many games as possible in the widest variety of disappointing ways as possible. It has been a grueling experience, not the least of which because the 2022 Royals roster made no dang sense. The team won 74 games last year, and even if they improved, they weren’t going to make the playoffs or ever truly compete for a playoff spot.

Yet, their Opening Day roster featured five position players over the age of 30, all five of whom were on the team the previous year and didn’t bring them towards competitiveness.

Kansas City’s rookies are not the problem. Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Kyle Isbel have shown skillsets and solid plate approaches that the rest of the roster frankly lacks. All are 25 or under.

Fortunately, the Royals have a golden opportunity to improve their roster. See, it is shaping up to be a sellers’ market at the deadline. And the Royals have have determined that they are going to sell—they’ve already shipped off Carlos Santana, and they’ve got more where that came from.

Look, Kansas City thought they could succeed this year, and they clearly haven’t. Salvador Perez is out for another two ish months. It’s time for a fire sale, and they have four main candidates:

  • Andrew Benintendi, 27—In the last year of his contract, Benintendi is also an extension candidate. But at this point, that seems unlikely. Somebody will trade for him.
  • Michael A. Taylor, 31—Though the Royals extended him in the offseason and they still lack center field options, Taylor’s career offensive year and stellar defensive track record make him attractive to a wide range of teams.
  • Hunter Dozier, 30—Dozier is positionless in Kansas City, but that same versatility makes him a perfect bench bat. The Royals might have to eat some money, but a lot of contenders could use a good, if not great, all around hitter that can fill in all over the place.
  • Whit Merrifield, 33—The Royals have mishandled Merrifield’s career from the beginning, instead turning to a menagerie of mediocre veterans. Merrifield is now one of those mediocre veterans, but he has a strong track record and is versatile. The Royals missed trading Merrifield when he could have brought back the most, but they can still get value from him.

Come August, none of those players should be wearing a Kansas City jersey when they play baseball. In their place, the Royals are teeming with younger prospects and players who they need to figure out if they’ve got it:

  • Nick Pratto, 23—No, he hasn’t replicated 2021. He may never do so. Yes, he has strikeout issues. But he walks a lot and he has to sink or swim at some point.
  • Michael Massey, 24—Massey has mashed his way through Triple-A since getting called up, and he’s succeeded at every level. He plays a solid second base, and he just turned 24. See what he’s got.
  • Nate Eaton, 25—Eaton won’t ever be an offensive powerhouse, but he’s a contact-oriented guy who has played third base, left field, center field, and right field for the Storm Chasers. He’s hit well since being promoted to Triple-A.
  • Kyle Isbel, 25, and Edward Olivares, 26—These dudes need more playing time. It’s that simple.

In the past, Dayton Moore talked about “flipping the switch” when they made the decision to call up Eric Hosmer. It ushered in a new phase of the rebuild: getting as many of their top prospects as much playing time as possible.

The Royals have already been there with their pitching staff this year, and they’ve struggled because of it (and because their pitching coaching stinks, but that’s also fixable if they ever bother to do so). They’ll continue to struggle if they add more rookies to the mix for sure. Major League Baseball is hard.

But you know what? The Royals suck, man. This is inarguable. They suck even though they have tried to win with veteran help. It’s time to flip the switch and see what August and September have in store with a bunch of young, promising players on their upswings. They won’t all work out. That’s ok. After all, what are they gonna do—play at a 100-loss pace for a few months? It’s time to try something else out, independent of the talent the Royals would get back from trading their vets. It’s time to kick the rebuild into the next level.