Kansas City are a long way from having a competitive roster. It’s a rebuild in the sense they won’t be winning, though they have not torn the roster apart like other franchises have done in a similar spot.
It was the sort of offseason you would expect for a small-market team that lost 104 games last season. Signing Billy Hamilton on a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2020 was the highlight.
Hamilton was non-tendered by the Reds as Cincinnati head in a different direction. Kansas City know what they’re getting from the speedster and he could be traded as a defensive specialist and pinch-runner at the deadline.
Another speedster, Terrance Gore, was added on a one-year contract. He faces an uphill battle to make the roster.
Pitchers Sam McWilliams and Chris Ellis were added in the Rule 5 Draft. Brad Keller was a success story of last year’s Rule 5 and the Royals will be hoping to strike gold again. Both are starters and will get opportunity to impress in Spring Training.
Kyle Zimmer, Kansas City’s 2012 first-round pick, is the most interesting move of the bunch. His career has been held back by injuries, but he signed on a Major League deal and could come out of the bullpen in 2019. He’s one to watch in Spring Training, though he has an option remaining and could go to the minors.
What to watch
Merrifield’s bargain extension was great news for Royals fans looking for a short-term positive. He was a trade candidate before that – this makes it more likely they try to hold onto him through their rebuild. Merrifield posted a .806 OPS in 2018 and is one of MLB’s most underrated players – he makes the Royals slightly more watchable.
Ryan O’Hearn sprung on to the scene last season, hitting 12 homers for a .950 OPS in 170 PAs. He’s an unknown quantity this year, though, having struggled in AAA. O’Hearn will get ample opportunity to impress at first base this season. Projections don’t like him, but an above-league-average year would be a welcome boost.
Former highly regarded prospect Mondesi had a .804 OPS last year and provides pop from short. He could be a key member of the next good Royals team. Kansas City need him to keep up his 2018 power as he’s never going to walk much and looks destined for a .320 OBP at best.
Keller and Danny Duffy are the basis of a not-completely-terrible rotation. Brett Phillips, O’Hearn and Mondesi provide intrigue. It’s still going to be a painful season for the 2015 champions, who are candidates to bring the century up in the loss column again.
Salvador Perez and Merrifield should have been traded away already. The current halfway house between a full rebuild and trying to win 70 games rather than accept a three-figure loss total is not achieving anything.