The Kansas City Royals will watch the postseason from home for the second consecutive year after being officially eliminated from playoff contention last week. Sitting at the bottom of the American League Central with a 43-91 regular season record, the Royals have the second worst winning percentage in baseball and a roster that is almost unrecognizable from the 2015 squad that captured a World Series victory.
While a poor record may be a good indicator of all that has gone wrong for the ballclub, it certainly does not tell the entire story of the Royals’ 2018 season up to this point.
Trades and other various roster moves have not exactly been few and far between this year for the Royals. Just this past week, the services of catcher Drew Butera were shipped to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Minor League pitcher Jerry Vasto, who has appeared in only one game for the Rockies this season.
Butera was not the only member of the Royals’ 2015 championship roster to be traded in August, as outfielder Terrance Gore was also dealt to the Chicago Cubs for cash considerations. Additionally, first basemen Lucas Duda was sent packing to the National League this week. Duda, once heralded as a quality addition this past offseason, will finish his 2018 season with the Atlanta Braves after being sold for cash considerations.
These recent transactions have more than likely been a little disheartening for Royals fans, but they only add to the list of moves that have shaken up the roster this season.
The most notable deal involving the Royals this season was the trade of third baseman and two-time All-Star Mike Moustakas just prior to the trade deadline. Moustakas was expected by many to leave in free agency this past offseason, but instead inked a one-year deal to stay a member of the Royals for the 2018 season.
The infielder’s future beyond the 2018 season remained uncertain following this deal. Still, many were surprised when Moustakas was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers in late July. The Royals were given minor leaguers Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez by the Brewers in return for Moustakas.
While Moustakas was traded to the Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain, also a member of the Royals’ 2015 championship team, left Kansas City in free agency this past offseason to sign a deal with Milwaukee. Cain signed a five-year, $80 million deal with his new team.
In addition to Cain’s departure last offseason, the Royals also lost first baseman Eric Hosmer to the lure of free agency. Hosmer, who has spent his entire career with the Royals, signed an eight-year, $144 million deal with the San Diego Padres in February.
As the record shows, there have been many low points throughout the course of this year for the Royals. Star players have been shipped out and close games have been lost. Despite the ups and downs of the 2018 season, a poor win total has not been able to hide bright spots that have shown themselves in the form of standout players and key victories.
After sweeping the Detroit Tigers and taking the first game of the series against the Orioles on Friday night, the Royals seem to be hitting a late summer stride. A big part of their late success has been the outstanding play of their offense.
Kansas City has greatly improved upon their batting since the beginning of the season. In fact, the Royals have not scored below five runs in a victory since Aug. 18, when they beat the White Sox by a score of 3-1.
While the Royals’ offense has been on a hot streak, they are still searching for answers in the bullpen. A few starters and relievers have found consistency here and there, but pitching has generally been the Achilles heel of the Royals all season long.
One young player that has been making headlines, however, is rookie Brad Keller. As of late, Keller’s pitching has been phenomenal enough to put him in consideration for AL rookie of the year in some circles. He may not take home this award come season’s end, but Royals fans should be excited about the 23 year-old’s future on the team.
With only 28 games remaining on the schedule, the Royals will again look to the offseason as a time to regroup heading into next season. There is not a postseason bid to compete for, but the play of young prospects and seasoned veterans will be at the forefront of the organization’s focus throughout the rest of the season.
Cover photo courtesy of MLB.