KANSAS CITY, MO (HOMERUN KC) – Since 2011, the core of the Kansas City Royals has consisted of many of the same players.
Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Kelvin Herrera and Danny Duffy all made their Royals debuts in 2011, and it was Ned Yost’s first full year as Manager.
With the help of short term additions like James Shields, Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, Kendrys Morales and veteran hold overs like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Greg Holland, this core has brought Kansas City four seasons of 81 wins or more, two American League pennants and one World Series trophy.
Now, as the Royals head to Spring Training with Yost at the helm and those same core players intact, the team aims to recreate that playoff magic for three pennants in four years.
Still, it’s hard for fans not to look ahead at the impending free agent class and wonder what’s on the horizon. It wasn’t all that long ago when the Royals had to trade top players like Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran and Zack Grienke, in hopes of getting something in return.
The Royals will face tough decisions this year, living on the fine line between trading pending free agents, keeping them in hopes of resigning or just living out the final year. They have already parted with would be free agents Jarrod Dyson and Wade Davis, a sign of what could be on the way.
As of now, Hosmer, Cain, Moustakas, Escobar and Jason Vargas are not under contract for 2018. After the large contracts given out to Duffy, Gordon and Ian Kennedy, there’s a decent chance that the 2018 Royals could look like this.
Players below are under contract for 2018 with listed age for majority ’18 season.
Royals fans will see almost all of these players in some capacity throughout 2017, and how they perform this year, either in the minors or majors, will heavily dictate the long term state of the Royals.
The most important starting pitchers to watch for are Danny Duffy and Matt Strahm. Duffy is now signed long term and counted on to be the ace, so putting together a complete season in the rotation will do a lot for the Royals confidence down the road. Strahm is a wild card, as his role is unknown for this year. As he enters the prime of his career, the Royals will likely count on the lefty to hold down a rotation spot instead of vying for another free agent.
Raul Mondesi Jr. and Jorge Soler will be the key position players to watch. Of current Royals with major league experience, those are the only two with the potential to fill the shoes of lost free agents.
Soler has shown big league power, but whether or not he can maintain it for a whole season in a new league will play a big part in building for the post-2018 Royals. Mondesi Jr. burst on the scene last year after just turning 21, but if he can find his plate presence in 2017, to go along with the exceptional speed and defense, he can easily fill Escobar’s shoes.
A lot of the Royals’ decision making come trade deadline time will be based on the performances of these key players in 2017. If the likes of Soler and Strahm show there is a solid core to build on, the Royals are more likely to trade off future free agents for more long-term pieces.
If they disappoint, Dayton Moore may opt to just go all in for 2017.
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