The Kansas City Royals were one of the best teams in baseball in April, even having the league’s best record at one point late in the month.
Predictably, the team fell off and is now last in the American League Central division with a 52-68 record.
That’s precisely why seasons last 162 games and not 25 or 30.
By June, it was evident the team wasn’t going to contend in 2021.
The problem is that the ownership and front office didn’t do much at the trade deadline to either acquire talent to make a run at a Wild Card berth, or sell veteran assets with tomorrow’s success in mind.
You could say that the Royals are not committing to contention, but they are also ignoring a full rebuild.
They are in an uncomfortable limbo, a grey area that requires some action by the team.
Can The Royals Contend In 2022?
Right now, it’s evidently clear that the Royals aren’t a particularly good team.
However, it’s fair to wonder whether they can compete next year.
The AL Central is obviously not the best division in baseball: except for the Chicago White Sox, every other team could be comparable with the Royals’ roster in 2022.
The Royals could theoretically make things interesting in 2022: they have the newly extended Salvador Perez, and will also have Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, Adalberto Mondesi, Nicky Lopez, Edward Olivares, and several talented young pitchers under contract, such as Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Daniel Lynch, with more on the way (Asa Lacy comes to mind).
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, they will have shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., the third-best prospect in the majors, ready to make an impact.
Dayton Moore expanded on his comments from Monday, shining the light on seasons of Nicky Lopez & Bobby Witt Jr., and their opportunity in 2022.
— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) August 8, 2021
But one has to wonder if that’s enough to compete with the White Sox and the AL East and West teams vying for a Wild Card spot.
Perhaps 2023 would be a better target date for the Royals to contend.
They Failed To Capitalize On Potential Trades
Yes, they traded Jorge Soler to the Atlanta Braves and Danny Duffy to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the Royals could have also flipped Santana or Merrifield, as they are both old enough that it’s fair to wonder if they will be good the next time the Royals are decent.
In addition, Santana will be a free agent after 2022 and is already 35.
Keeping him for 2022 doesn’t make much sense.
They also have several old relievers they should have traded, even for lottery tickets.
One can understand why they held onto Merrifield: he is a complete player who is still a top baserunning threat.
However, they missed a golden opportunity to cash in some great prospects by trading him and his projected $2.75 million salary in 2022 (plus a cheap option for 2023).
Merrifield is already 32 and probably won’t be an above-average hitter when the Royals are truly ready to hang with the best of the AL again.
Whit Merrifield has an OPS under .700. Royals should have traded him years ago.
— Max Greenfield (@GreenfieldMax18) August 10, 2021
In fact, despite his 35 stolen bases, .his 273/.318/.385 line suggests he is already a below-average hitter.
His perceived, or name value, is considerable right now, but it probably won’t be the same next year if they try to trade him because he will be a year older and closer to free agency.
All in all, the Royals made some trades thinking about the future, but they failed to fully embrace a rebuild that could eventually move them closer to a sustainable contender down the road.