A couple years ago, people assumed the Royals would not be able to re-sign Alex Gordon. But as Royals GM Dayton Moore pointed out in his Wednesday news conference, the market came back to them and the Royals were able to work out a deal to keep Gordon in Kansas City.
Nobody knows which way the free-agent market is going to move this offseason, so just like everybody else the Royals have to wait to find out if they have any chance of re-signing a player like Eric Hosmer.
If the market allows them to re-sign some of their free agents, the Royals will go one direction; if those free agents become too expensive, the Royals might decide it’s time to let their young players play.
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Royals offseason talk: Dayton Moore’s plan, Eric Hosmer’s future
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The difference between coaching veterans and rookies
When GMs or field managers give press conferences, what they say might be less informative than what they don’t say, so it helps if you know enough to read between the lines.
During his news conference Dayton talked about the importance of getting the right mix of coaches to work with certain types of players and here’s at least part of what that means:
If you’re coaching Alex Gordon, there’s probably not a lot you can teach him about playing left field. Gordon has played 1,035 games in left field and won four Gold Gloves. The coaching challenge with a veteran like Gordon is helping him maintain his routine and approach and getting him back on track when he goes off the rails.
Coaching Jorge Bonifacio is a different story.
Bonifacio has played 88 big-league games as a right fielder and that means he still has a lot to learn. The same goes for young players like Raul Mondesi, Cheslor Cuthbert, Jorge Soler and, should he get his chance to play in the big leagues in 2018, Bubba Starling.
If the Royals give their young players a chance to step up and prove they belong in the big leagues, the coaching staff will have to do more teaching than they would with a team of veterans. And if a coach doesn’t like having to teach the basics at the big league level or doesn’t want to hold a rookie’s hand while he figures things out, he’d probably be a bad match for a young team.
That doesn’t make him a bad coach, it just means he might be a better coach with a different set of players.
If the Royals go young, how long will it take them to win?
When Eric Hosmer was a rookie, he failed to take an extra base when he could have. A veteran player pulled Hosmer aside and told him he needed to know if the opposing outfielders were right- or left-handed. If an outfielder caught the ball on his glove side while moving away from third base, he’d have to re-set his feet to make a throw and while that was happening Hosmer could go first-to-third.
If a player didn’t pick it up in the minors, that’s the kind of stuff rookies have to learn when they get to the big leagues. Making mistakes and learning what to do differently next time is how rookies become solid major-leaguers and that takes time.
There are always exceptions and once in a while a rookie gets it right away, but when I asked players and coaches how long it took to learn what it takes to win in the big leagues, the most common answer was three to four years. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez made their big-league debuts in 2011 and made it to the World Series in 2014.
So if the Royals play the kids, don’t be surprised if they take a step back for a few seasons and then become more competitive in 2021.
The quality control coach
Like just about every other business, baseball teams like to present themselves to the public as one happy family. But in reality, there are always conflicts and sometimes those conflicts are between coaches.
Ned Yost is known as a manager who sits back and lets his coaches coach, but that can mean one coach is approaching a game from one direction and another coach is thinking along different lines.
What a team does on defense has to match what that team does on the mound. What a team does on the base paths has to match what that team is doing at the plate. And if coaches can’t agree on an approach, that can mean conflict.
On Wednesday, Moore announced the creation of a quality-control coach who will make sure everybody on staff is pulling on the same end of the rope. The need to create that position might lead reasonable people to believe that wasn’t happening in 2017.
If the coaching moves the Royals have made so far are any indication, the team might hope they’re getting some of their veteran players to re-sign, but they’re preparing a coaching staff to work with younger players.
And now we all get to sit back and see what happens in the offseason.
One way or another, it should be interesting.