The start to the season was nothing short of a miracle for the Kansas City Royals. They never had a losing record during the entire month of April, even topping out at six games above .500 on the last day of that opening month.
However, when the page on the calendar turned, so did the Royals’ fortunes.
A loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday 2 May turned out to be the start of an 11 game losing streak. They dropped from the top of the American League to the middle of the pack and are now five games behind the Chicago White Sox, the new leaders in the AL Central.
First to worst
The Royals went from World Series champions in 2015 to being the worst organisation in all of baseball in a matter of just two years. They lost more than a hundred games in both ’18 and ’19, so they’ve had to make up a lot of ground since then. In that time, they’ve had their share of losing streaks. In those years, the organisation went through two other losing streaks of 10+ games and lost five or more consecutive games on no less than 16 occasions. Even during last year’s shortened season they had a six and seven game losing streak. So you’d think they would’ve become numb to it by now.
This one, however, hurts more, due to the great start of the season. Even without Adalberto Mondesi they seemed to have become an overnight contender. And then, all their expectations came crumbling down in a matter of one and a half weeks.
Signing free agent Carlos Santana and getting Andrew Benintendi via trade this winter showed that management was serious about winning a bit more this year. Nobody expected them to really compete with the likes of the White Sox and Minnesota Twins, but to steer away from those 100-loss seasons seemed absolutely possible.
Don’t be like the Pirates
The organisation has been in full rebuild mode since ’18, and was able to accumulate a lot of good – mainly pitching – prospects. It would be a big mistake to try to hasten that process. Until the team started their losing streak though, people were beginning to talk about the Royals being buyers at the trade deadline. These speculations have thankfully silenced down since then.
Because, let’s not forget what happened when the Pittsburgh Pirates overreached in ‘18. A good start gave them the illusion of contention, which made them decide to speed up the rebuild process and try to solidify their rotation by sending a bunch of talent to Tampa to get Chris Archer. The plan backfired immediately, with Archer not living up to the high expectations from the moment he arrived, until it became even more painful when Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows turned out to be as good as advertised.
In the likes of Asa Lacy, Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer the Royals sport a nice array of highly rated pitching prospects, which they could use to bring in missing links to help the team win. At some point in time they can and should use some of them for trades, but to do that now would be a huge mistake.
Patience is key
At the moment, the Royals simply aren’t one or two players away from contention, but they might be in a couple of years. Especially when a guy named Bobby Witt Jr is major league-ready.
The Royals probably are a little under .500 team this year. That’s not bad for an organisation that won just 143 games in the last three years. Don’t forget that during that span they had a .372 record.
This losing streak puts the Royals where they belong, in the middle of the pack in the AL Central, well behind the more talented White Sox, who have a much deeper roster and can even afford to lose players like Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez and still be one of the best teams in MLB. It should not be a surprise that the Royals still have a long way to go. The strong start to the season is a nice indication of great things ahead, maybe even in the near future, but should not be a reason to hasten the rebuilding process and become buyers at the next trade deadline.
Sander Grasman is covering the Kansas City Royals as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @GrasmanSD
While you’re here… make sure you check out the excellent podcast with White Sox ace Lucas Giolito in conversation with John McGee. Click on the photo below