"I had a dream my life could be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now than what it seems
But life has killed the dream I dream."
If there is one thing you can say about David Glass and his ownership of the Kansas City Royals, it is that he consistently keeps himself at arms length of the goings on. Over the past six years, the team has seen a drastic improvement organizationally from top to bottom; the farm system is in a much better, more stable position than it ever was.
How that correlates to success at the major league level is yet to be seen. Though the organization has had a tempered approach to the 2014 season as a whole, it is clear that there has been an effort to at least shore up the major deficiencies from a season ago, though there has not been the drastic improvement that you might want from a team that is supposedly entering a "Win now" season, with James Shields less than eight months from walking away from the organization and into free agency.
The team has a lot to look forward to, and perhaps the long-term outlook will reward the faithful, though it makes you wonder what the sacrifice of a player like Wil Myers was really for, when it hasn't exactly translated to a vast improvement in the team's immediate outlook or perception.
OF David Lough, 2B Chris Getz, SP Ervin Santana, RP Will Smith, RP Luke Hochevar (Injured, out for season)
With the exception of Ervin Santana, most of these departures can be considered addition by subtraction. David Lough was traded to bring in a platoon backup for Mike Moustakas, Will Smith netted an outfielder to replace Lough, and Chris Getz is just awful.
3B Danny Valencia, 2B Omar Infante, OF Norichika Aoki, SP Jason Vargas, SP Bruce Chen (resigned), RP Patrick Schuster (Waiver claim, Rule 5 applicable)
Kansas City has at least given themselves a perfectly cromulent player at each position around the diamond. Infante is a good defender and a decent offensive option (though probably fits better hitting 7th instead of 2nd), Aoki makes contact and gets on base, and Valencia absolutely destroys left-handed pitching, which might come handy if Moustakas' spring performance doesn't translate to in-season performance (or, exactly the same thing that happened last year). Vargas doesn't have the upside of Santana, but he is also very likely to not turn into a pumpkin either.
Bruce Chen, on the other hand, created more problems than it solved; the Royals have had to shift Danny Duffy back to Triple-A, have a huge question mark regarding the effectiveness of Chen's ancient, soft-tossing shoulder, and will now conceivably have to carry him if/when he becomes ineffective as a starting pitcher.
Adding more confusion to the mix, the Royals also claimed relief pitcher Patrick Schuster off waivers, and will have to carry him all season or send him back to Arizona.
So, the Royals will now have a seven-man bullpen, one of whom (Schuster) can't be sent down, they are likely to break camp with two backup outfielders in Maxwell and Dyson, and corner infielder Danny Valencia. Along with their backup catcher, they look like they are coming out of spring training with no backup middle infielder, despite the fact that Alcides Escobar and Omar Infante have been dealing with various injuries all throughout camp.
Roster construction is not one of Dayton Moore's love languages.
Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura takes the spotlight, since he will be breaking camp with the club as their third starter. He consistently touches triple digits on his fastball and has a curveball that is just bonkers. It's insane. His success will, in many ways, determine the Royals' success this year.
Starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer is also another one to keep your eye on; he will be eased into the season, but could theoretically make an impact in the second half of the season, when Kansas City hopes to be on a playoff run.
Other notable prospects include Hunter Dozier, whose advancement in the system may portend a smooth transition if Mike Moustakas doesn't start performing. Jorge Bonifacio has a chance to make some sort of impact as an outfielder in the second half, and Sean Manaea will make his professional debut early this season after being taken in last year's draft. The reviews of him from spring training have been, in a word, spicy.
Adalberto Mondesi and Elier Hernandez improving would bode well, albeit in the long-term, and seeing anything from Bubba Starling would be a welcome change.
Moustakas hits 25+ home runs, Hosmer continues his ascension, Butler returns to 2012 form, as does Alex Gordon, and Yordano Ventura seamlessly replaces Ervin Santana's production. That, coupled with the stabilizing forces of Infante and Aoki, combined with a healthy Lorenzo Cain, lead the Royals to a 90-plus win season and they challenge for the first wild card spot.
Moustakas doesn't improve, Gordon and Butler continue their slide in production, Bruce Chen breaks down, Ventura is overwhelmed, and injuries continue to plague the middle of the diamond from spring through the early part of the season, leading to an early season slide that the team is ill-equipped to dig its way out of. They finish around 80 wins, which would be about 17 games back of first place Detroit. There's a lot that can go wrong with this team.
It could be a very good season for the Royals. It could have been a great season with a little more financial flexibility from the owner, and a little more savvy expenditure from the general manager controlling the purse strings. Instead, they spent nearly $20 million on Vargas, Chen, and Hochevar, one of whom won't pitch this season due to Tommy John surgery.
It's a good team, but it could have been better. And I think that's the most frustrating thing about it.