Kansas City Royals fans are smart.
Twenty-nine years of losing baseball have taught even the most casual fans the intricacies of life as a small-market ball club.
Whether that’s knowing everything about the big name prospect, the farm system as a whole, how the team spends every penny at the big league level or going through any and all potential trade scenarios that could land Kansas City an undervalued weapon, the Royals have truly developed a smart, small-market, mindset.
It’s why the situation surrounding World Series hero Eric Hosmer is so complex. The Royals, and Royals fans, are in uncharted water.
Kansas City has never had the chance to sign a free-agent of this caliber. Just 10 years ago, the team’s payroll sat at $58 million total. The idea of even spending anywhere near $100 million for just one player was thought to be impossible.
On Wednesday, the USA Today reported that Hosmer has, in fact, received an offer from the Royals for seven years, $147 million, sending mixed shock waves throughout Kansas City and the baseball industry.
Because Royals fans are trained that paying free agents is not the way to win, there’s a thought from many that the team should not go through with this contract. But much of the anger toward a potential signing is rooted in the scars left from 29 years of losing.
The comparison to Mike Sweeney is a popular one, as both were All-Star first baseman, leaders in the clubhouse, with Sweeney signing a long-term contract in Kansas City as others left around him.
But it’s vital for fans to understand that the Royals were not bad because of Sweeney or his contract, they were bad because there was no one else around him.
The same goes both ways for Hosmer. Just as the Royals won’t be good just because of him, they also are not going to be bad because of him. Kansas City’s overall fate still lies in the hands of the prospects in the farm system and the select few up at the big league level. This signing would not change that key aspect to a short or long-term rebuild.
Sticking with Sweeney, unless the royals trade Danny Duffy, Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield and Raul Mondesi Jr., the team already has a far better foundation than his team’s from 2004 on. After two A.L. pennants, the identity of the organization is also in a very different place.
Unlike Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, Zack Greinke, Johnny Damon, David Cone, this time, owner David Glass is finally willing to pay the price of doing free-agent business in major league baseball. A fact alone that should not go underappreciated after all these years.
Perhaps the best way to evaluate the situation is for fans to take off that 2015 World Championship Royals hat and look at it from an outside perspective.
Kansas City, the second smallest market in all of baseball, has a very real chance of keeping a 28-year old entering the prime of his career, coming off easily his best season as a pro, with a resume that already reads four-time Gold Glove award winner, All-Star game MVP, Rookie of the Year finalist and Silver Slugger award winner.
For good measure, he also has more postseason RBI’s in two years than any other player in Kansas City history, providing, even more, playoff memories to go with it.
The best part?
For the first time in a long time, one of the game’s best players actually wants to play in Kansas City. Whether or not a contract gets signed, Hosmer’s love for the team and city was clear when the tears streamed down his face after the final regular season game.
Now, put that hat back on, and ask yourself, would the Kansas City Royals be better off with or without Hosmer for the next seven years?
The only arguments against bringing such a player back centers around the desire for an all-out rebuild and the small-market mindset that such a deal will cripple the franchise.
This isn’t general manager Dayton Moore’s first rodeo. Assuming that such a contract will force him to trade other fan favorites, not sign any other players over the next five years or raise the parking and food prices at the K is foolish. He wouldn’t place that large of an investment on a team destined for a seven-year tank.
Locking up Hosmer would cement one of the game’s best first baseman in the middle of the order for years to come, a building block for whatever players come and go around him. His signing would also make it more likely other free agents, like his friend Mike Moustakas, would want to come play in Kansas City as well.
Besides, a rebuild to the level of the Astros or the Cubs is not feasible without the plethora of high picks or big market budget to supplement such talent when they eventually surface.
It’s truly a unique situation for a for a unique player, for a franchise that has always had to think outside of the box. But regardless of the hit Glass’ pocket takes when all is said and done, the future of the franchise is in better hands with Hosmer in the clubhouse, in the batter’s box and at McFadden’s buying a round for his adoring fans.
For 30 years, Royals fans have longed for a time when small-market Kansas City could sign one of baseball’s up-and-coming stars. Now, as the Royals open the checkbook for a home-grown hero wanting to stay, it appears that time may finally be rounding third, heading home.
Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.