Playoff chase ends, but Royals took a crucial step forward in 2013
Royals' winning season reflects a culture change and shift in mentality that can only help in 2014
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Five observations on the current state of the Royals.
When general manager Dayton Moore made the blockbuster James Shields-Wil Myers deal last December, he was adamant that it was time for the Royals to change the losing culture of the franchise.
Moore wasn't promising playoffs this season. He was promising a competitive, winning team. And that's what the Royals have been.
That they fell short in their quest for the postseason, a journey that ended flatly with back-to-back shutouts in Seattle, shouldn't be distressing for Royals fans.
The Royals took the first step toward relevancy and provided a ton of excitement for their fans in 2013.
A winning season -- the Royals' first in 10 years -- is a required building block. And the Royals' core players -- Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Sal Perez, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Greg Holland and so forth -- now know what it's like to play meaningful games in September.
That experience cannot be overvalued as the Royals move forward in constructing a team to compete season after season.
Outfielder Justin Maxwell, who has been here only two months and figures to be part of the equation next year, perhaps said it best after Wednesday's 6-0 loss.
"(This season) shows us how close we are," he told The
Kansas City Star. "Another thing, too, it shows you that every game counts. ... It shows you that you can't give any game away throughout the season.
"Hopefully, we can use that for motivation come spring training and, come the start of next season, we'll be ready to go from Day 1."
That every-game-counts philosophy should help in 2014, and should perhaps serve as a deterrent to falling into such season-crippling slumps as the Royals did in May, when they went 8-20, their only losing month of the season.
Moore indicated on Wednesday that he is hoping to bring manager Ned Yost back in 2014, though he has told me several times that he truly believes Yost will get other offers.
But what kind of contract will Yost be offered here? Moore himself is signed only through 2014, and it's rare when a general manager signs a manager to a deal longer than his own contract.
The guess here is that owner David Glass will also re-up Moore's deal this off-season before the Yost matter is addressed.
ANY MORE MAGIC?
Royals fans may have seen Ervin "Magic" Santana for the last time in a Royals uniform Wednesday night. He finished the season with a 9-10 record and a 3.24 ERA.
Obviously, the hope is that the Royals can compete with the open market and somehow find a way to keep Santana in Kansas City. He, along with James Shields, provided the Royals a 1-2 punch in the rotation that was virtually irreplaceable.
And Moore knows it was his rotation that drove the Royals to a winning season, and he also knows that keeping that rotation intact is priority No. 1.
The Royals almost surely will extend a qualifying offer to Santana this fall, expected to be in the $14 million range. That will guarantee that the Royals will get a first-round compensatory pick if Santana signs elsewhere.
But if Glass were to OK a competitive deal for Santana, the feeling here is that Santana loves Kansas City, the organization and pitching at The K enough that he would come back.
That would create the potential for a terrific rotation of Shields, Santana, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura.
NO BIG FINISH
I kept thinking designated hitter Billy Butler would get hot in September and carry the Royals on a long winning streak. It never happened.
Butler now has gone 27 games without a home run, and in that span he had just two doubles and nine RBIs.
Butler is hitting .287 with 14 homers and 78 RBIs, and this will be his worst season since 2008, when he hit .275 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs.
I would wager that Butler comes back strong in 2014.
GO FOR 87
Maybe it's just me, but I'd still like to see the Royals finish strong and take at least three from the White Sox, though Yost already has indicated he will play some of the minor league call-ups.
If the Royals at least split with the White Sox, they will finish 85-77, which would be their best record since 1989, when they went 92-70.
Fielding a team that had the organization's best record in 24 years would be a terrific addition to Moore's resume.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.