Let’s start here: The Royals rank dead last in the majors in hits, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average (deep breath) ... and runs scored. In games when they’ve allowed more than one run this season, they’re 2–17. Two, and seventeen.
You can find culprits all over the diamond. Second base has been a black hole. DH Brandon Moss is hitting so badly, the Royals might think about just letting pitchers bat. And Alcides Escobar should send thank-you notes to Devon Travis everyday, because Travis is the only guy standing between Escobar and the exalted status of worst hitter in the American League.
If you had to pick the Royals’ biggest disappointment, though, you’d start with Alex Gordon. When the Royals won it all in 2015, Gordon became their biggest dilemma. With their homegrown star hitting free agency that winner, should they sign him to a long-term extension, or let him walk? Flush with added confidence and revenue after their Cinderella run, the Royals chose the former, giving Gordon a four-year, $72 million deal. Few deals for positions have backfired as quickly or as dramatically as that one has. Since suffering a groin injury that knocked him out for two months in the summer of 2015, Gordon’s hit like a utility infielder; this year, he’s at a miserable .175/.267/.223. Even worse, that big contract runs through 2019, when Gordon will be past his 35th birthday.
The Gordon debacle will resonate in GM Dayton Moore’s mind as he figures out how to handle four other core members of that two-time pennant-winning lineup: Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar. Hosmer’s reputation far exceeds his production, as he’s been one of the worst-hitting first basemen in baseball over the past calendar year. Moustakas shows pop when healthy, but he still struggles to control the strike zone. Escobar can’t hit at all. Cain’s arguably the best player in the bunch, but he’ll turn 32 just after Opening Day 2018, making him a big risk to fade with age.
Between the lessons learned from the Gordon deal, the lukewarm credentials of the big four free agents, and the Royals being one of the lowest-grossing teams in MLB, we might be only a couple months away from a deadline purge, one that scatters one of the greatest teams in franchise history to the winds.