Small-market baseball franchises are often pigeon-holed into a compulsory allegiance to mediocre (at best) talent when it comes to filling out rosters. Second-rate ballplayers are relied on to be the leaders of teams that annually inhabit the bottom portion of the standings.
The Kansas City Royals are no strangers to doing business in this manner, ultimately leading to the poor quality of baseball that has haunted this organization and its fanbase for upwards of two decades.
Though the Royals are finally starting to see the fruits of their minor league system blossom in Kansas City, guys like Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Jeff Francoeur still play fundamental roles in the success of this team.
For Kansas City to start to creeping up the MLB hierarchy—and to eventually become legitimate contenders—the franchise must jettison its imprudent attachment to certain players that have shown little to no value to the success of this organization.
The fear that Hochevar will go on to become the pitcher that warranted first-round ability should have already vanished. And the notion that Chen and Francoeur are any more than your average stop-gaps at this point is foolish.
These guys are exactly who they have proven themselves to be over the course of their careers. Instead, the Royals have just over $15.8 million tied up amongst them for the 2013 season.
While Francoeur looks to be the starter in right field, there is no guarantee where Hochevar and Chen will end up on the Royals’ pitching staff—making this a very unsteady and expensive trio.
Though Kansas City set out to right their starting rotation woes this offseason—re-signing Jeremy Guthrie and trading for James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana—having close to $16 million to spend on more stable contributors would have accelerated the organization’s plans to compete.
It has proven difficult to lure the big fish on the free-agent market to Kansas City, so having more money available isn’t always the direct link to landing the more recognizable names—though it certainly plays a part. This organization distancing itself from the prior way of doing business will also make an impact on the decisions of the top targets in the offseason as well.
Luckily for the Royals, Hochevar, Chen and Francoeur are off the books after this season. The question is whether or not Kansas City has learned its lesson and will make better decisions moving forward.
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