I subscribe to the MLB Network (Major League Baseball Network) and have tuned in this week for the annual Winter Meetings, also known to us old-timers as the Hot Stove League.
But at the time of this posting, it’s been more like the Cold Stove League.
This is a general managers’ conclave, where deal after deal is expected to be struck. But so far the meetings have been the Giancarlo Stanton bombshell trade from Miami to New York and then mostly fodder.
The St. Louis Cardinals did pick up a much-needed bat in Silver Slugger outfielder Marcell Ozuna as they took advantage of Miami’s salary dump to acquire him at a bargain price. The Cardinals, supposedly, aren’t done as they want to add one more big bat, say Josh Donaldson from Toronto.
I thought these meetings would be a happening. But so far it seems more about laying groundwork for later deals after they wrap up today.
The Kansas City Royals, for bad or worse — mostly worse — have been a topic of conversation.
Kansas City, of course, won the World Series in 2015 and made spirited runs at the AL Central title the last two years. General Manager Dayton Moore had a choice at the trade deadline last July to move all his prized free agents for prospects — and risk enraging the loyal fan base — or ride it out and hope the team had one more big run to make the playoffs.
As it turned out, the Royals were too inconsistent, alternating win streaks with lengthy slumps and wound up being eliminated late in September.
By holding on to their stars, they will only get draft choices as none of them are expected to return. The picture of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas will forever be an indelible image for Royals fans as they took their final bows as a group — which also was a signal of the beginning of the end.
There are numerous reports that Moore is offering anyone and everyone, even catcher and fan favorite Salvador Perez and alleged ace Danny Duffy. The signal is clear the Royals are about to take the path of the Houston Astros, tearing the whole thing down and starting over. That worked out pretty well for the Astros, the current World Champions.
The Royals’ trouble is two-fold though. Not only is free agency taking away most of their stars, but there’s little in the farm system to replace them with. When the Royals had Hosmer, Moustakas and Duffy in the minors, they had the No. 1 farm system in baseball. And sure enough the promise of their young players finally came to fruition in 2014 and 2015 with back-to-back World Series appearances, but success comes at a price. The Royals have broken the bank by their standards and with no playoff appearances the last two years, it’s time to become fiscally responsible.
It will be interesting to see where the free agents land. Hosmer, surprisingly, isn’t getting the play for a star of his ilk. San Diego, of all teams, is said to be making a bid as are St. Louis and Boston. Moustakas, from all reports, will land somewhere on his beloved West Coast. The talk on Cain has been minimal, while there’s barely been a blip about Escobar and Vargas, which means the Royals probably are still in the game for them.
Fortunately for the Royals, division rivals Detroit and Chicago are going down the same path. Cleveland will soon have to ante up if it wants to keep its core together and Minnesota may be the new Kansas City, as all its young players are starting to pay dividends.
This is why I’ve always been a baseball guy. I enjoy the cycles teams go through, but unfortunately for the Royals, their five-year cycle is taking a downturn.