After two consecutive World Series trips, including last year’s crown, the Kansas City Royals find themselves at a crossroads in 2016, trying for as many rings as possible before the bill comes due on their boatload of young talent.
Eventually, a large part of Kansas City’s core — Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar — will be looking for monster paydays, and GM Dayton Moore certainly can’t afford all of them. It was surprising enough that the Royals managed to hold on to Alex Gordon this winter, signing him to a four-year, $72-milion deal, and they even reworked the contract of catcher Salvador Perez, ripping up the previously unfair one for a new five-year pact worth $52.5-milion.
Hey, to the victors go the spoils, and Moore made sure a few of his champs stayed happy into 2016. But the Royals’ rotation still isn’t going to scare anyone, despite bringing on board Ian Kennedy (5 yrs, $70M). Moore is still squeezing what he can from Chris Young, and even took a flier on the former Met, Dillon Gee.
Consider the KC mantra as simple as this: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And the Royals will hope their fearsome bullpen, still backed by Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera — with the addition of Joakim Soria — will again get them deep in October.
With one wild-card appearance to show for the past eight seasons, the Indians may be ready for another if they can prove to be greater than just the sum of their young parts. Francisco Lindor, just 21, is developing into the one of the sport’s best shortstops and makes a great DP-combo with Jason Kipnis. Starters Corey Kluber, Danny Salazer and Carlos Carrasco combined for a whopping 656 strikeouts last year.
Kicking Drake LaRoche out of the clubouse, and having Adam, his dad, retire because of it, really can’t sabotage the White Sox this season, can it? Expect Chris Sale to shake off the emotional distress, and be helped by the new additions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie.
New GM Al Avila apparently bid against himself in signing Justin Upton to a six-year, $132.75-million contract. But the bigger impacts should be made by Nats-import Jordan Zimmermann and lefty reliever Justin Wilson, who the Yankees reluctantly parted with for two Detroit pitching prospects.
Could easily do better than last place in a tightly-packed division. Korean slugger Byung Ho Park has power to make Target Field look small after damage he did in Grapefruit League.
ALL THE BEST – AL CENTRAL
Manager: Terry Francona, Clev.
GM: Dayton Moore, K.C.
Everyday player: Lorenzo Cain, K.C.
Hitter: Miguel Cabrera, Det.
Leadoff hitter: Ian Kinsler, Det.
Baserunner: Lorenzo Cain, K.C.
Most exciting: Lorenzo Cain, K.C.
Infielder: Alcides Escobar, K.C.
Outfielder: Lorenzo Cain, K.C.
Catcher: Salvador Perez, K.C.
Starting pitcher: Chris Sale, Chi.
Setup: Wade Davis, K.C.
Closer: Greg Holland, K.C.
Home uniforms: Tigers
Ballpark atmosphere: Kauffman Stadium