-The K Zone-
January 19th, 2016
Kansas City’s Royal Mistake, by Ian Joffe
Note: When this article was just gaining traction, the baseball community learned about the tragic death of Yordano Ventura. I strongly considered taking this article down, which was written multiple days before the event. However, because this article does not directly pertain to Ventura, I decided to leave it up. The K Zone’s and my personal condolences go out to the family, friends, and fans of the current and should-have-been future ace.
My personal condolences also go out to the family, friends, and fans of the Yordano Ventura. – Mike Duffy; CEO/Creator of The K Zone .
Fans of the Kansas City Royals have been lucky enough to appear in two consecutive World Series, winning one (2015). But now, it appear their demise is near. Following the 2017 season, many lineup mainstays are scheduled to leave the team via free agency, including Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar. That makes up about half of their lineup, including arguably their two best hitters. It is difficult to argue that KC, already with weak starting pitching, will have any chance at contending past the coming season. However, the Royals have been given a rare opportunity that I only dream my teams had, and I constantly try to create on my fake Out Of the Park simulation teams.
Danny Duffy, only 28 years old, has just completed his first season both as a full-time starter, and a good baseball player. Scouts have long said that Duffy has high potential, and it appears he is finally beginning to reach it. In 2016, the southpaw put up a very respectable 3.51 ERA and 3.79 xFIP (a more accurate version of earned run average), along with over a strikeout per inning and a K/BB ratio of 4.48. Duffy put together a messy 2015, with an ERA and xFIP over 4.00, and a K/BB ratio of only 1.92.However, the season before that Danny excelled in a split role between starter and bullpen, at least according to ERA, putting up a 2.53 mark. The more advanced metrics didn’t love that season nearly as much as the simple ERA, but you get the picture. Danny Duffy, while inconsistent, has the potential to use his fiery fastball and powerful stuff to get outs. He may very well continue on his 2016 trend, improving to a solid #2 starter on any team. Other teams have also come to realize this arm’s potential. Among teams reportedly interested in trading for Duffy have been the Houston Astros, who have been casting a wide net in their hopes of adding a starter.
However, as of January 16th, it appears highly unlikely that Houston or a similar team will get their hands on the blossoming pitcher. Kansas City has signed Duffy to a 5-year arrangement, reportedly worth around $65MM. This $13MM average annual value (although, to be fair, the deal is very back-loaded) appears to be a relative bargain for a pitcher who seems to just be figuring things out. The Royals are buying a potential all-star (last year Duffy put up a 2.8 WAR, so improving by about one win, which he could very well do, would make him all-star level), at a very average price for a 28-year-old in today’s game. The extension looks good on paper, but it is, in fact, a terrible mistake.
The “opportunity” I discussed earlier is in reference to, well, a total sell-out. Or, we could instead call it, a rebuild. Having nearly every player leave the team in the same year may seem like curse, but it really means like the team does not have to worry about when they should sell out. The answer is, of course, one year before everyone leaves. There are some teams in terrible positions right now, because they do not have a very a competitive team, and have little to no talent in their farm system. Teams like the Marlins and Angels are arguably part of this group. The Phillies of a few years ago, stuck with their aging veterans, would be another good example (sorry Mike). On the other hand, there are amazing success stories for teams that did face the music and rebuild, like the Astros and World Series champion Cubs. KC’s goal must be to not end up stuck like the Angels, but to end up with too many prospects to count, like the Cubs. It does not matter if GM Dayton Moore thinks they can win the World Series in 2017. Now is the time to sell, when there are still pieces. Duffy could have been a valuable piece, with his stats trending in the right direction. But, instead of getting prospects for the future, KC will get a good starter for a bad team. The Royals organization, and I don’t want to attack the fans, but them too, must realize that their team’s run is nearing an end. Now is the time to sell, and to hopefully build a good future. Based on what the White Sox got for two men, which brought their farm system from one of the worst to one of the best, the Royals could be in store for a crazy future. But for that to happen, they must learn to let go of their players. It is time for Kansas City to end their run, and use their unique blessing. This winter, or at least this trade deadline, is the time that KC must go into fire-sale mode. Even if they want to compete this year, they are trading a long shot now for years and years of suffering in the future. Duffy should have been traded for prospects, not extended, and the team must do the same for all other players entering free agency. And, they cannot look to trade for current contributors, like they did trading Wade Davis for Jorge Soler. It is okay to lose games in the next few years, if it means victories for years to come. It is time for Dayton Moore to take advantage of the blessing his team has, and to start selling.
The cost of the win is the loss. The rebuild must begin.
You may also enjoy reading my piece about the statistic Wins Above Replacement, or Mike Duffy’s outstanding interview with Phillie Zach Eflin
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