The Royals' run of success seems to be coming to a halt. After emerging as a contender with an 86-win season in 2013, reaching Game 7 of the World Series in '14 and winning their second-ever world championship in '15, Kansas City finished just .500 in '16, missing out on the playoffs entirely. That lost season is all the more problematic given that the majority of the team’s core—including centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar—will hit free agency after this season, as will burgeoning staff ace Danny Duffy and speedy reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson.

Given the Royals’ small-market status, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to retain all or even most of that group. This year will be the time, then, for Kansas City to make one last run at a title with those players. If Kansas City looks to be falling short of a return to the playoffs at mid-season, it will have to be willing to make whatever moves are necessary to ensure they avoid another two-decade long stay in baseball's wilderness like the one they endured until just a few years ago.

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