Yet the Royals acted swiftly to improve. In the first week or so of December — very early for baseball’s famously slow-moving free-agent market — they signed starting pitcher Mike Minor (two years, $18 million) and first baseman Carlos Santana (two years, $17.5 million). Last month they engineered a three-way trade with the Mets and the Red Sox in which Kansas City acquired outfielder Andrew Benintendi, a pillar of Boston’s title team in 2018.
“Dayton’s not there to sit around and wait,” said Minor, an All-Star for Texas in 2019. “They didn’t have a whole lot to work with, but they went after guys and made their best offers right away — and when you look at it, it’s a sneaky strong team. I think we’re going to compete, and that’s what Dayton’s there for. The rebuilding thing, I don’t think Dayton buys into that. He wants to put a good product on the field.”
Benintendi, Minor and Santana were steady, established performers before struggling in the shortened pandemic season. The Royals liked what they saw from the rookie starters Brady Singer and Kris Bubic last season, and believe they have a well-rounded offense: power from Jorge Soler, Salvador Perez and Hunter Dozier, speed from Adalberto Mondesi, Whit Merrifield and the new center fielder Michael A. Taylor.
Are they ready to win? Maybe, maybe not. But Moore wants to give them the chance.
“I don’t have 100 percent security on what the result is going to be — but I think it’s got a chance to be a lot better,” he said. “And if we don’t do anything, I’ve got a pretty good idea what the outcome is going to be.”
Incentivizing teams to win, which would theoretically raise the demand for free agents, is a major priority for the union, whose collective bargaining agreement with owners expires in nine months. Players contend there is plenty of money to share — the Royals sold for $1 billion in 2019 to John Sherman, a businessman who added Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to the ownership team last summer — and spending to win should be standard procedure.
“We’re very fortunate here to have a front office and ownership that understands this is a very small window players get to play in the big leagues,” said Merrifield, who has twice led the majors in hits. “Why not go out every year and put out the best team you can? Obviously teams are going to have their budgets or whatever you want to call it, but there’s no reason to not go out and try to win every year. The fact that people were surprised that we’re doing that is a problem.”