The Royals failed to make the postseason in 2016 after appearing in the World Series the two previous seasons. A large number of their core players will be up for free agency after the 2017 season. This means that the Royals' championship window is likely closing and they need to look at 2017 aggressively if they want to make another run. One of the Royals' top needs in the offseason was pitching. The rotation as it stands now is largely mediocre without an ace and adding one more guy to support the back end is probably a good idea. The bullpen is another area of focus.
The Royals don't necessarily need an ace and initially their rotation looked to at least have a solid top four behind Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, and Ian Kennedy, but with the death of Ventura in January, 2017, they were down to three. They then signed Jason Hammel to take Ventura's place, but the five spot still remains. On February 15th, 2017, the Royals signed Travis Wood, who is expected to compete for a spot in the rotation along with previous signings Nate Karns and Chris Young.
For relief pitching, the Royals have Joakim Soria, Matt Strahm, Mike Minor, Kelvin Herrera and whoever doesn't make the rotation's fifth spot. Even though their bullpen has been resilient in previous seasons, Soria did not have a great 2016, posting a 4.05 ERA and would need to seriously bounce back in order to be a shutdown pitcher again. Matt Strahm is currently listed in the Royals' bullpen, but as a prospect, there is always the concern that leaving him in a relief role could hamper any future he might have as a starter. Mike Minor also has an ERA over 4.00, which largely leaves Kelvin Herrera as the closer and overall best relief pitcher. Young and Karns could end up in the bullpen if Wood wins the starting role, but they both have high ERAs. In another spot of bad luck for the Royals, a good bullpen piece in Brian Flynn broke his ribs in an off the field incident and is expected to miss at least eight weeks.
Ultimately, the Royals find themselves in a position where they are precariously close to needing a rebuild, but still having enough pieces to contend for at least one more season. They took a loss in their funds last year and depleted their farm system somewhat when they brought in Cueto and Zobrist in 2015. If the Royals start the 2017 season badly, it could mean a big summer sale.
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