Via a flurry of phone calls, messages and late-night musings, the Royals sought to put an end to the franchise’s bleeding.
The one that changed the course of the Royals’ restoration came in the late evening hours Friday night, when general manager Dayton Moore woke manager Ned Yost to inform him Mike Moustakas was being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Yost would have outfielder Brett Phillips at his disposal the next afternoon and right-handed pitcher Jorge Lopez just one step away at Class AAA Omaha. Major-league ready reinforcements were on their way.
This was how the Royals would take the next step toward remaking their future.
Disenchanted by their 112-loss pace, the Royals were unwilling to settle for prospects who had not yet cracked a major-league roster. They wanted players who could help expedite their rebuild. They believe they accomplished that with the haul they received for Moustakas, a man who exemplified the Royals’ fighting spirit and the gritty, athletic brand of baseball Moore brought to Kansas City in the summer of 2006.
They might still make another transaction in search of those means and parlay other roster pieces, such as first baseman Lucas Duda, into lower-level acquisitions.
But this point remains: If things go the Royals’ way, Kansas City baseball will not plunge into the dark ages of old for long.
“We didn’t want to do a prospect-type deal in this case, because of the nature of where we are at the major-league level and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Moore said on a conference call with reporters. “We don’t like losing games and we don’t like where we are right now with the major-league team, so we wanted to try to seek talent that was going to help us sooner than later.”
The Royals will likely still languish at the bottom of the standings this season and get a crack at drafting Texas high school’s Bobby Witt Jr. or Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with the first or second pick in the MLB draft next summer.
But with the infusion of college talent from this summer’s draft — right-handed pitcher Brady Singer gave the Royals their first top 100 MLB Pipeline prospect since Adalberto Mondesi, Ashe Russell and Kyle Zimmer last graced the list in 2015 — the Royals have committed to cutting time off their return to relevance.
Both in public and private spheres, the Royals had signaled during the offseason they thought their rebuild would take some four years, depending on the progress of the likes of Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias, Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez and others.
Friday’s trade indicates a change in tone.
“In this particular deal, we sought after players that we felt could be on our major-league team, either this year or next year,” Moore said. “That was the main focus. That’s what we were consistent with.”
While the future was what Moore emphasized in his call late Friday to his slumbering manager, Yost first shared thoughts on Saturday about the past that Moustakas had helped construct.
“I had this kid when he was a kid,” he said some 11 hours after the trade was official. “Before he got married, before he became a dad, before he became an All-Star, before he became a world champion. I’ve watched him grow up in front of my very eyes and mature.”
Yost also shared his parting words to Moustakas, whom he ran into at the team’s midtown Manhattan hotel before his former third baseman boarded an early flight to San Francisco.
“They’re a lot like we were back in (2015),” Yost said. “They steal bases, they’re athletic, they’re defensive. It’s gonna be a fun experience for him.”
But Yost was keen to the turn the page, too. The complexion of the Royals’ future had changed overnight. He longed to see what it might bring.
In the short term, it brings Phillips. He is a toolsy outfielder with an 80-grade arm and a goofy, hard-working personality who would immediately be jostled into the Royals’ suddenly crowded outfield. Down the line, it will bring Lopez, who is poised to earn a spot on the Royals’ pitching staff after some evaluation in Omaha.
“I’m happy about Phillips. I’m anxious to see him play,” Yost said. “We’ve been looking at (this trade) for a while, for a week or so.”