Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Kansas City Royals, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
The projection systems were right for once. The Royals’ magic finally ran out. After a couple years at the top, House Kansas City finally saw its downfall. It came at a tough time, too. Many of the players who defined the Royals’ core are now set to depart via free agency. A full rebuild could be in order.
Before that, though, let’s re-live the past one more time. Where did the Royals succeed in 2017? Where did they falter? What will we remember? Let’s take a deeper look at the year that was in Kansas City:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
The Royals flashed some of the resilience that defined them as Worid Series champions in 2015. Despite being average to not good in most areas — aside from defense, where they rank top five — they stayed right around .500 all season and remained in the wild-card race until late September. The middle of the order was excellent with Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas all having strong seasons. In fact, Moustakas set the team record for home runs. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
While the middle of the order was good, the offense was almost non-existent when those guys were struggling. Kansas City scored only 54 runs through its first 21 games this season, and later went through a 45-inning scoreless drought that essentially ended their postseason hopes. The pitching staff wasn’t able to make up for it. In fact, the Royals will finish in the bottom of the league in ERA as well. They were unable to replace the late Yordano Ventura and the lost pieces in their bullpen. (Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
The Royals didn’t spend a single day in first place this season. Their early-season struggles made it an uphill climb. But thanks to a hot June (they were 17-9, including a six-game winning streak), the Royals found themselves in contention again.
As the calendar turned to July, they moved into second place. That made for one of most thrilling games of their season and the closest they’d be to first place.
In their July 5 game against the Mariners, the Royals took a 4-0 lead, then fell behind 6-4. They came back to tie the game and then scored three runs in the 10th inning for the win. Salvador Perez put them ahead with a two-run homer and Alex Gordon added an RBI single.
At the end of that game, the Royals were just a half game out. They couldn’t keep that pace and the Indians would soon light the AL on fire. But for about a month there, the Royals looked like they might have a chance. (Mike Oz)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
The Royals are about to undergo a massive change. They’ve got three big players heading toward free agency: Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer. There’s no way they can afford to keep all three, or even two. But they should be able to keep one. It’s a tough choice, and there’s a decent chance they could get outbid no matter who they choose. GM Dayton Moore may already have made that choice, though. Jon Heyman has said that Moore is targeting Eric Hosmer, and if that’s true, they should go for it with reckless abandon. Losing three huge stars would be a huge blow to the team and their fans, but keeping Hosmer wouldn’t just soften that, it would put them in a decent spot to focus on youth and try to get back to the top of the AL Central. (Liz Roscher)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
We all know the Royals can’t retain every departing player, so things could get rough for a bit. Most of the team’s top prospects are a few years away, though third baseman/outfielder Hunter Dozier and pitchers Miguel Almonte and Eric Skoglund should get extended looks in 2018.
Those players won’t be enough to replace all the departing talent, and the Royals have never been a huge free-agent spender. The club will likely take whatever draft picks it can get from Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain, and really focus on restocking their farm system. (Chris Cwik)
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