Posted on November 14, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Kansas City Royals

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This offseason is nothing if not a crossroads for the Kansas City Royals. Several of their most important players are free agents this winter, most notably Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain. All three have been made qualifying offers, and all three are expected to decline them. Despite some initial optimism about keeping at least one or two of those players, there appears to be growing doubt that Kansas City will be able to retain any of them.

Reports in recent days indicated the Royals have little hope of keeping Cain. However, the Royals did remain hopeful that both Hosmer and Moustakas could be re-signed. But now it appears that the Royals may have overestimated their ability to keep those players. Hosmer and Moustakas are arguably among the top five free agents available this winter. As a result, both players could be too expensive for the Royals to afford.

“We’ll see what the market dictates, we’ll stay engaged with our current free agents. But I’m not sure if it’s at the levels that everyone’s talking about. It may be extra challenging for us,” said Royals GM Dayton Moore. “The truth of the matter is it wouldn’t surprise me if some of our players received offers that are beyond our level.”

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That’s a rather bleak assessment from the team’s GM on the chances of Hosmer and Moustakas staying in Kansas City. Early projections have Hosmer signing a deal worth over $100 million and Moustakas receiving offers that are close to 9-figures.

Two years ago, the Royals gave Alex Gordon a $72 million contract, the largest in team history. Kansas City may be willing to break Gordon’s record in order to sign Hosmer or Moustakas. But a willingness doesn’t guarantee success. It’s likely that both Hosmer and Moustakas will have multiple suitors that end up pushing their price tag out of Kansas City’s range.

If the Royals aren’t able to re-sign one of their top free agents, they could be forced into a rebuilding period. They would have money to spend on more modestly-priced free agents to fill the holes on their roster. But it would still be difficult to replace the production of Hosmer, Moustakas, and Cain all at once.

Unfortunately, after being competitive for several seasons and winning a World Series in 2015, the Royals don’t have a strong farm system. There’s no one waiting in the wings to replace a player like Hosmer. Without him and Moustakas in 2018, the middle of Kansas City’s lineup is going to look barren, even if the Royals end up signing second-tier free agents to replace them.

Of course, the Royals are not going to give up keeping their free agents. It’s possible that they could break the bank for one of them, most likely Hosmer. But reality appears to be setting in for Moore and the Royals front office. It was a great run while it lasted, and Kansas City got a World Series title out of it. However, the Royals may need to accept that they can’t keep their top free agents and that it’s once again time to rebuild.

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