After lengthy run, the Royals will probably lose core players due to free agency

There is a Neil Sedaka classic song, which Clay Aiken of America Idol fame redid, called “breaking up is hard to do.” That should have been the Kansas City Royals theme song for the final weekend of a disappointing 2017 season.

Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar made their Royals’ debuts in 2011, along with Salvador Perez. The first four are about to test the free agent market for the first time. They all played together the last time on October 1.

“There are memories from the beginning, up until now, just flashing before them,” said 18-game winner left-hander Jason Vargas. “So, I understand where they’re coming from as far as kind of leaving the nest and going out and going their separate ways.

“You just really don’t know how things are going to work out.  Everybody wants things to work out in a perfect fashion, but they usually don’t. It’s like family getting broken up and having to go make their own way.”

Vargas, who joined the Royals’ party as a free agent in 2013, too can become a free agent.

They brought the Royals back to relevancy, taking the 2014 World Series to the seventh game before losing to the Madison Bumgarner-led San Francisco Giants with Alex Gordon stranded at third base and trailing by a run. In 2015, they were on a team on a mission and won it all, beating the New York Mets in five pressure packed games.

The adoring fans turned out 800,000 strong for a parade and celebration that the likes have never been seen before in Kansas City.

But we all knew in 2011 that in 2017 they could become free agents and the era would be over.

From 1976-1985, the George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson and Hal McRae led Royals went to the playoffs seven times. Read that again, seven post-season appearances in a decade, two American League pennants and a 1985 World Series championship. That 1985 team included talented young starting pitchers – Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Danny Jackson, Buddy Black and Charlie Leibrandt – plus the best closer of that era, Dan Quisenberry.

Surely, the Royals would be back in the postseason several years after that. But the Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco-led Oakland Athletics soon took over the division and there was no wildcard.

The Royals endured a 29-year-old playoff drought, the longest for any team in the four major North American sports.

They ended that in 2014 and won the wildest wildcard game ever over the A’s. And then they swept the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles in the American League playoffs. If not for Bumgarner’s historical postseason, the Royals would have won back-to-back World Series.

Royals pitching ace Zack Greinke asked to be traded after the 2010 season as he was tired of the losing seasons. Manager Ned Yost said Greinke did not see the vision he had that these young players were going to be good. The Royals shipped Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers and in the return haul picked up Cain, a starting center fielder and future All-Star, and Escobar, a future Gold Glove shortstop and All-Star.

“This team, we played together for seven years,” Escobar said. “Coming here, seeing a new team, new faces, working for a year and a half.  I played with Lorenzo Cain at Low-A in 2005, twelve years ago.  Right now he’s my brother here.  I’m happy to be part of the Kansas City Royals.”

It is doubtful Cain and Escobar will be 2018 teammates.

“Six years here have been amazing,” Cain said. “It’s given me a chance to play with these guys and go to back-to-back World Series.  Coming back the next year and winning one.  It was really tough.  Find a way to get it done.  It showed some character and the fight with these guys.  I’ll fight with these guys any day.”

None of the four has ever been a free agent.

“You hear it and talk about it all year long,” Cain said. “When the season comes to an end, we don’t know where we’re going to be, but it got to the point where it was real.  That’s when the emotions run through our bodies. “Just we don’t know what to expect.  Maybe not being able to play with these guys again, that’s certainly a possibility. Things like that after being around them for so long, just don’t want to get used to new faces, I guess.  If it does happen, I’ll definitely miss these guys a whole lot.  We’ll see what happens this off-season.  It’s a wait-and-see type process.”

Moustakas set the California high school record with 24 home runs in 2007, the year the Royals drafted him second overall. In 2017, he set the Royals home run record with 38, breaking the Steve Balboni record of 36 in 1985.

“They drafted me and Hoz, and they gave me an opportunity to live my dream,” Moustakas said. “And for that I’m always going to be thankful to Dayton (Moore, general manager).  But, he said that we’re going to be the group that turns this around.  He believed in us from day one, drafting me, drafting him (Hosmer), trading for those two guys (Escobar and Cain), making all the right moves that we needed to make to be where we wanted to be.  And, he said it was going to take some time, and it did.”

And it may take some time for the Royals to assemble an ensemble like that again.

Become a fan of KC Sports & Fitness today and receive FREE digital copies of our new issues by subscribing on our home page and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for everything about all our local teams!

And for more coverage of the KC Royals, visit http://kcsportspaper.com/category/pro-teams/

Article by Alan Eskew

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *