Every single year, there is a series that shows what level a team is at compared to the rest of the league. It separates the contenders from the pretenders and the pretenders from the scrubs. The Kansas City Royals just found out what their level is, and it’s nowhere near being close to a contender or a pretender. All of the Royals' flaws in roster construction were laid bare for all to see as they were promptly swept aside by the New York Yankees.
Normally, I would try to drum up some things that weren’t completely awful about the series. At this point, though, I don’t feel like repeating the same things over and over again. Everyone knows the starting pitching was probably good enough to win the series, and it’s been that way for the last couple of series.
The bad part is that this is probably not going to get any better this season, as the Royals have constructed a roster where six players are going to be (or should be) gone by the start of next year. However, with MJ Melendez’s possible debut just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at the future and how the Royals can get themselves out of the mess they created by trimming the fat off their roster.
The players who are either free agents (FA) or should be off the Royals' roster next year are:
- Zack Greinke (FA)
- Carlos Santana (FA)
- Andrew Benintendi (FA)
- Whit Merrifield
- Adalberto Mondesi
- Hunter Dozier
Don’t get me wrong: The Royals, at this point, need to bring back Benintendi. The outfield free agent market is incredibly weak, and he figures to give the most value for a four or five-year period at around $12-15 million per year. Benintendi is the only player right now that looks capable of hitting over .250 this season and if the Royals can’t re-sign him, they can kiss next year goodbye as well. Everybody else on that list should consider this their final season with the Royals.
No fan should be mad at Santana for signing the deal he did with the Royals. If you're 35-plus years old, just put up a batting average below the Mendoza line and a team offers you $17.5M, you take it — no questions asked. Greinke is merely just another overpaid veteran on this Royals roster and although his stats are good, a team shouldn’t be signing such an old player to be the "ace" of its staff. Santana and Greinke combined make $23.5M, which would’ve been enough to sign Nick Castellanos this offseason.
As for the players that should be off the roster next year, Merrifield needs no explanation. The man simply can’t hit anymore, which is why his OPS+ has gone down each season for the past three years. Every other team was privy to this info, except seemingly the team that pays him. The Royals, for some reason, decided to pay a declining player more money for more years.
Whatever the Royals said to convince themselves that Mondesi was a future core piece of the team should be acknowledged as over and done with. Any other team in the league would see a career slash line of .244/.280/.408 over seven years and move on from that player. Do the Royals have the guts to let Mondesi walk in the offseason, or is his potential going to keep him around for another year?
Dozier’s hot start has finally evaporated, and he’ll probably never live up to the contract the Royals inexplicably signed him to after a bad 2020 season. Even if Dozier recovers and puts up respectable numbers, he still can’t be a part of the team next year. He has no defensive position and the ones he moonlights at already are either filled or have a more important piece coming up the pipeline. Again, like Santana, you can’t be mad at the player for signing the contract.
How they get rid of these three players is entirely up to the Royals. Whether it’s letting a player like Mondesi walk in the offseason or through trades, these moves have to be made to clear the way for the actual future.
The key for the Royals this offseason will be to re-sign Benintendi to a new deal using the money coming off the books from Santana and Greinke. As for the other positional gaps, first base and designated hitter can be filled by the combo of Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino. Right field can be split or won outright by Kyle Isbel or Edwards Olivares. The middle infield spot can go to Nick Loftin, and Melendez can be the backup catcher and slot in around the rest of the diamond as needed.
The Royals also have a lot of fat in the rotation with too many young pitchers and not enough spaces. If and when Asa Lacy comes up, most likely either Kris Bubic, Brady Singer, or Carlos Hernandez will be headed to the bullpen for good. The problem is that none of these three have shown the type of consistency to be anything other than a fifth starter at the major league level. At this point, the Royals are better off trading two of these players at the deadline to free up future money and roster spots and fill them with proven veterans that aren’t on the decline.
The bullpen is actually something that doesn’t need a lot of tinkering — Kansas City could pretty much leave it alone going into next year and there would be a decent amount of optimism for that unit.
The 26-man roster for next year needs to include all six of the Royals' top prospects (Witt, Melendez, Pratto, Lacy, Loftin and Pasquantino) because the Royals can no longer operate the way they are right now.
Are these proposed moves drastic? Yes.
But ask yourself this question: Are the Royals more likely to have a winning record in the next two years doing this, or by doing business the way they’ve done it for the last few years? Handing out over $30M to the likes of Dozier, Merrifield, Santana and Greinke isn't working. This reality check edition of "Good, Meh & Bad" serves as food for thought.