Baseball’s offseason is only beginning, in what amounts to its adolescent years, but already the best hopes of many inside the Royals have been dashed by the man in charge.
It would be an exaggeration to say the worst fears are confirmed, because the roster is not going to be dismantled, but it’s also not going to be significantly enhanced.
David Glass began the offseason making clear he did not want to increase payroll. The owner momentarily allowed that the stance was negotiable. But as the busy December weeks of free-agent signings and trades approach, it is clear Glass will refuse to spend more than he’s already obligated as the Royals enter the final season with their homegrown championship core intact.
This group gave Glass a World Series trophy and a new reputation in Kansas City and beyond. That’s enough, apparently, because as the offseason begins in earnest with the winter meetings, Glass’ unwillingness to spend means the Royals are a hand-crank bike trying to make its way through the mud.
“We’re simply not in a position to add to our current payroll,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.
Moore has always supported and defended Glass, and is not complaining about the current setup. But around the organization, this is catching some like a punch in the nose.
And, it must be said, for good reason.
Glass has come so far as an owner. The Royals became an industry joke in the first half of the aughts, Glass earning a reputation as a penny pincher hoping for on-field miracles. Public perception didn’t turn until the Royals started winning, but Glass made a clear and obvious change that coincided with Moore’s hiring in 2006.
Glass would never be a big spender, but he did invest in the organization’s infrastructure, and outlay a series of franchise-record free-agent contracts. The two biggest contracts in Royals history were each signed last winter.
But this is the equivalent of not finishing the race. Glass deserves to be criticized for it. The Royals have made efforts to extend their windows beyond 2017, but this was always going to be the last season the Royals had all their best homegrown players together.
Glass’ unwillingness to spend means this season is expected to begin with something less than full commitment from ownership.
Glass has every right to run his business how he wants, and Royals fans are smart enough to understand sensible spending reductions — the way they did in 2011 when Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Danny Duffy made their big-league debuts.
But they’re not dumb enough to believe Glass is at any serious financial risk here, particularly not with the franchise value increasing more than 800 percent from his original investment and one of the worst TV contracts in major professional sports set to be replaced by something more fruitful in 2019 (unless Glass does another terrible deal).
Glass’ stance, articulated through Moore, does not mean the Royals are stuck as spectators this winter. But, barring a drastic change, it does mean a stop sign on any moves that would add to a projected opening day payroll of around $148 million.
That would be an increase from a year ago, when the payroll opened around $140 million, and is enough to cover raises built into existing contracts (like Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy) and through arbitration (like Eric Hosmer and Jarrod Dyson) but not enough to add anyone of substance.