HomeTrending MLB NewsWhat are realistic expectations for Royals after busy offseason?

What are realistic expectations for Royals after busy offseason?

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The Kansas City Royals made waves this offseason by committing more future dollars to players than any team other than the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Royals signed a bevy of free agents for a total of more than $100 million and extended star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to a franchise-record 11-year, $288 million deal. 

It’s the first time in a long time the Royals have shown interest in being a major player in free agency.

With the exception of the Witt signing, most of the deals were shorter, with lots of opt-outs made to veteran players who aren’t considered stars. Cynically speaking, these deals could have been a ploy by ownership to convince local voters to approve a plan for a new downtown stadium. Or it could be a true effort to improve the team enough to be competitive this season. 

Individually, none of the signings are impressive, but taken as a whole, the group makes the Royals better immediately. Starting pitchers Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, relievers Will Smith and Chris Stratton, outfielder Hunter Renfroe and utilitymen Garrett Hampson and Adam Frazier fill holes in Kansas City’s young, underachieving roster. 

The key question is: Will these additions, plus a couple of others made via trade, be enough for the Royals to challenge in the weak AL Central? Considering the strength of the AL East, plus Texas and Houston in the West, winning the division is the only way a Central team can make it to the playoffs. 

The Twins and Guardians have stronger pitching staffs. The Royals should be at least on par with the Tigers and better than the White Sox in this area. 

Offensively, the Royals are counting on, among other things, Witt being at least as good as last year, when he hit 30 home runs and stole 49 bases. They are looking for improvements from a multitude of other youngsters, such as second baseman Michael Massey, infielder Maikel Garcia, outfielders Kyle Isbel and Nelson Velazquez and outfielder/catcher MJ Melendez. 

Adding Renfroe and Frazier, plus the return of a healthy Vinnie Pasquantino, should improve the depth and batting order. 

The new, balanced schedule allows for only 52 games against divisional rivals as opposed to 76 just a couple of years ago. This makes it more difficult to take advantage of the weaker division. It also puts even more importance on playing well within the AL Central. 

On paper, the Royals are probably battling with the Tigers for third behind the Twins and the Guardians, but games aren’t played on paper. If Kansas City’s pitching can stay healthy and improve over last season and the young hitters can take steps forward, there is a way for Kansas City to be competitive into August and maybe later. 

The Twins are loaded with injury-prone regulars, and the Guardians are somewhat suspect offensively after third baseman Jose Ramirez. Plus, they are relying on unproven, albeit talented, starting pitchers. If the Royals can avoid prolonged losing streaks and get hot a few times, it’s possible they can be in the thick of things come September.

Realistically, it’ difficult to go from 56 wins one season to winning a division the next. The most likely outcome is the Royals will be much improved and might get to 81 wins and be competitive rather than a laughingstock. 

Maybe they can play well enough for the players with options next season to want to stay and build upon the improvements made this season. While it’s possible the Royals can compete in the AL Central, they will most likely finish behind the Twins and Guardians. 

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