An excavation of the Royals’ 2016 season begins with body parts, a list of scars and strains that defined a season.
Start with Mike Moustakas’ right knee, which gave out on a May afternoon in Chicago. And then move to Wade Davis’ right forearm, which sidelined the All-Star closer for more than a month. And, yes, there was Lorenzo Cain’s left wrist, which ended his season in September — and, in some ways, ended the club’s long-shot playoff hopes.
There were more, of course. But as the calendar pushes toward November — and the playoffs continue without the defending World Series champions — the Royals can find a measure of relief in one fact: An extra month of rest and healing could help a veteran team re-charge heading into 2017.
“We finished right at .500, not where we wanted to be,” Cain said earlier this month. “But at the same time, we’ll go into the offseason, rest up, get healthy, come back next year and make a run.”
For the Royals’ front office, this offseason could prove to be crucial. But on a micro level, the club has plenty to gain in the winter. Example: Cain and Moustakas are entering their final seasons before reaching free agency, yet they are also entering an important winter after injuries derailed their 2016 seasons.
Moustakas, who had surgery in early June to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, will be 8 1/2 months into his rehab when spring training begins in February. And club officials remain hopeful that he should be fully healthy for the start of the season. Likewise, Cain will spend part of his offseason recovering from a Grade 2 wrist sprain, which surfaced in late August and caused him to miss all but one game in September.
As Cain prepared to return home to Oklahoma for the offseason, he said the injury would not require surgery. He would, however, need close to three months of rest before resuming baseball activities. The clock started in September, meaning Cain will likely not swing a bat until at least sometime in December.
“I got about a month (of recovery) in already,” Cain said. “So I should be ready to go work out with no problems.”
Cain remains confident that the injury won’t affect his usual offseason routine, which includes a detailed workout regimen to strengthen his legs, a constant bugaboo during his career and in 2016.
Cain missed most of July after straining a hamstring. When he returned to the lineup in late July, he transitioned from center field to right field in an effort to take stress off his legs. But as the season concluded, Royals manager Ned Yost remained noncommittal about where Cain would be utilized in 2017.
In general terms, club officials would prefer to use Cain in center field. He has regularly graded out as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. But if more time in right field would keep him healthy, Yost said the team would consider that, too.
As the season finished in early October, Cain said his hamstring was closer to 100 percent. But he was still waiting on the sore wrist, which sapped his power and limited his ability to hold a bat.
“I should be pretty functional with it (this offseason),” Cain said of the wrist. “It’s just holding off on not swinging a bat for three months. That’s the biggest thing. I feel like I’ve gotten all my strength back with the month off right now.
“Another month of it off (and) I don’t see any limitations in my offseason. My hand will be fine. I’ll be ready to go for sure.”
In most offseasons, Cain said, he doesn’t start his main hitting program until January, so the injury should not set him back. But for now, he’s focused on letting his body heal.
The same goes for Davis, who received an extra month to rest after pitching through a forearm issue in September. Davis, 31, is set to make $10 million on a team option in 2017, and the Royals’ recent talk of mixing it up this offseason could thrust him into trade rumors this winter. But after two stints on the disabled list in 2016, Davis and the Royals maintained that the injury issues did not portend any structural problems in his arm or elbow.
In addition to Cain, Moustakas and Davis, right-handers Chris Young and Dillon Gee are both recovering from offseason surgeries. Young underwent a procedure last week to repair muscles in his abdominal area and right groin. Gee, who is entering his final season of arbitration, underwent surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, a neurogenic condition caused by the compression of nerves near the neck and shoulder. Royals pitchers Luke Hochevar and Kyle Zimmer also underwent the same procedure earlier this summer.
Young is expected to be healthy for spring training, while Gee could be ready to go by late February — if the Royals elect to tender him a contract.