The Royals are moving toward an uncertain future. Manager Ned Yost is trying to embrace the coming change.
Speaking Monday on the first floor of Kauffman Stadium, Yost reflected on the emotional end to the 2017 season, the possible departure of a championship core, and a reality that has come into focus over the last month. The Royals, in some form or fashion, are headed for another rebuilding phase.
“This is going to be different,” Yost said. “It’s a whole different approach again.”
As the offseason begins, the club is bracing for the possible defections of first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar. All will be free agents following the World Series. Royals general manager Dayton Moore has said the team will be aggressive in trying to retain its homegrown talent. But Yost spent much of Monday hinting at the coming youth movement, a process that could include more playing time and bigger roles for shortstop Raul Mondesi, third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert and outfielders Jorge Bonifacio and Jorge Soler.
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Two years after winning the World Series, the Royals could be headed for a significant step back on the field in 2018. Yost did not hide from this fact.
“I imagine it will probably be a little bit of a step back,” Yost said. “But again, it’s like everybody that goes to spring training. They all feel like they got a chance to win. They all do. But going through it, as many times as we’ve gone through it, I understand there’s going to be ups and downs next year.”
The process will be a familiar one. Yost spoke of developing players at the major-league level and teaching young talent how to win. He compared the process to 2011 and 2012, when the franchise suffered through two losing seasons with a core of young players before taking a step forward in 2013.
This time, the cupboard is not totally bare. The Royals will enter next season with All-Star catcher Salvador Perez behind the plate and Danny Duffy headlining a rotation that could feature Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Nathan Karns and Jakob Junis. But the vibe inside the clubhouse will be different. The club will say goodbye to a number of pending free agents. The process of development will return to the forefront.
“This has been very emotional.” Yost said. “Knowing that we wanted to give these players one last chance to achieve something special. It didn’t work out. That was hard for all of us. We all wanted to give them that chance.”