This is part of a series of posts in which we call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
All of a sudden, there seems to be this cloud of optimism surrounding the Kansas City Royals. Sure, they’ve always been a scrappy bunch, looking to spoil the late-season success of many a contending team while reveling in their underachieving basement-dweller reality. But for some reason, this year they have a sense about themselves like they have a purpose.
A Royals fan sent this email to the royals.com mailbag feature:
There’s no question the Royals have improved, but how long will it take for the young players to develop and for fans to reasonably expect the team to contend for a playoff berth?
– Paul E., Platteville, Wis.
Sadly, Paul, for realists (i.e., everyone) the Royals may never contend. Yes, they have tons of young talent; but there’s that nagging market-size conundrum. In this day in age, you need the big bucks to pay the big guys, more so after this offseason. I mean, even your Royals got into it by giving Gil Meche – Gil Meche!! – $55 mil over five years. But you have to keep your core intact, and year after year, the Royals can’t hold on to future superstars, even if it is for two seasons of pre-superstardom. Johnny Damon? Gone. Carlos Beltran? Gone. Jermaine Dye? Gone.
But enough of the past. Royal fans are optimistic about the future! And they should be. General manager Dayton Moore has assembled a squad rich in talent, and they have one potential superstar in hot prospect Alex Gordon. True, they traded away two good bullpen arms last year, Andrew Sisco to the White Sox, and their closer and possibly the major leaguer with the coolest name, Ambiorix Burgos, to the Mets. But they also signed David Riske, Zach Day and Octavio Dotel, among others, to replace them.
A surplus of starting pitchers gives manager Buddy Bell enough arms to mix and match. Gil Meche, Odalis Perez, Luke Hudson, and Jorge de la Rosa (who was throwing well in winter ball) are locks for 1-4. And competing for the fifth starter role are Brian Bannister, Todd Wellemeyer, and former prodigy Zack Greinke.
Greinke was supposed to be the next Greg Maddux, until he hit a giant psychological anxiety wall, en route to 17 losses in 2005; he was then shipped to the minors making a few relief appearances late in 2006. But who knows, maybe with the new video system the Royals have in place, Greinke will be able to turn it around.
Of course, Kansas City baseball talk is not complete without mentioning the pillar to their lineup, Mike Sweeney. The big DH had some back problems last year, but seems to have recovered for a full season. And combined with young hitters like Mark Teahen, David DeJesus, Ryan Shealy, and Emil Brown, along with veterans Mark Grudzielanek, and the ageless Reggie Sanders, the Royals have themselves a solid lineup.
We’ll see, then, what all this optimism is about.
A B (see comments)
Acquisitions: Gill Meche, Octavio Dotel, David Riske, Zach Day, Alex S. Gonzalez, Ross Gload, Brian Bannister, Jason LaRue.
Losses: Donnie Murphy, Andrew Sisco, Runelvys Hernandez, Ambiorix Burgos, Jeff Keppinger.
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
CF David DeJesus .295 / .364 / .446, 56 RBI
2B Mark Grudzielanek .297 / .331 / .409, 52 RBI
3B Mark Teahen .290 / .357 / .517, 69 RBI
DH Mike Sweeney .258/ .349 / .438, 33 RBI
OF Emile Brown .287 /.358 / .457, 81 RBI
SS Angel Berroa .234 / .259 / .333, 54 RBI
1B Ryan Shealy .277 / .333 / .450, 37 RBI
OF Reggie Sanders .246 / .304 / .425, 49 RBI
C Jason LaRue .194/ .317 / .346
SP Gill Meche – 11-8, 4.48
SP Odalis Perez – 6-8. 6.20
SP Luke Hudson – 7-6, 5.12
SP Jorge de la Rosa – 5-6, 6.49
SP Zack Greinke – 5-17, 5.80 (in 2005)
CL Octavio Dotel – 71 career saves