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Royals fail to sign Eric Hosmer, will be very bad in 2018

The Royals are probably better off without Hosmer long-term, but man this 2018 roster looks rough.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Kansas City Royals Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

By now, you’ve probably heard that the San Diego Padres have agreed to sign Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million contract. Pundits seem a bit gunshy about laughing at the deal given baseball’s current economic landscape — if anything, the Padres have earned some praise for actually paying a free agent real money. I’ll say this: if Hosmer provides value off the field like Jayson Werth did when he signed with the Washington Nationals, it’s a win for San Diego.

But the Padres are as irrelevant as MLB teams get for us Detroit Tigers fans. The two teams won’t even meet again until 2020. The last time they played a game of any real consequence, Goose Gossage didn’t want to walk Kirk Gibson.

So let’s focus on something closer to home: the Kansas City Royals.

Given how the dollars per WAR work out on this deal, it’s probably a blessing in (thinly-veiled) disguise that the Royals missed out on re-signing their star first baseman. However, they’re going to be bad in 2018. Their roster is already down a Hosmer, a Lorenzo Cain, and a Jason Vargas from last season, and they will also likely lose third baseman Mike Moustakas. That’s 14.9 rWAR gone from a team that should have gone 72-90 last year, according to pythagorean win expectations. Worse yet, they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and can’t fill these holes from within.

That leaves us with a lineup that looks something like this.

Royals 2018 projected lineup

Position Player Projected WAR (FanGraphs)
Position Player Projected WAR (FanGraphs)
C Salvador Perez 3.1
1B Hunter Dozier -0.8
2B Whit Merrifield 1.9
SS Alcides Escobar 0.4
3B Chelsor Cuthbert 1.4
LF Alex Gordon 1.7
CF Paulo Orlando 0.2
RF Jorge Bonifacio 0.7
DH Jorge Soler 0.8
Total - 9.4

For reference, that 9.4 fWAR would have ranked second-to-last among all MLB teams last year. You would have to add a generous four wins to the bench to get out of the bottom five alone, and basically double that total to get into the top half.

The pitching staff isn’t much better.

Royals 2018 projected pitching staff

Position Player Projected WAR (FanGraphs)
Position Player Projected WAR (FanGraphs)
SP Danny Duffy 2.1
SP Ian Kennedy 0.6
SP Jason Hammel 0.9
SP Jake Junis 1.4
SP Nathan Karns 0.9
CL Kelvin Herrera 0.9
Total - 6.8

I’d consider Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera near-locks to basically double their projected WAR totals, and Junis might take a step forward. Karns is also an interesting piece, and missed most of 2017 due to injury. But Hammel benefitted from some home run luck, Kennedy was just plain awful, and they no longer have the bullpen talent or depth to make up for their iffy starting rotation.

With both a lineup and rotation that look to be among the worst in baseball, it’s no surprise that projection systems think they will be a bottom-feeder in 2018. FanGraphs has them projected for 69 wins, just ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central standings. Baseball Prospectus has Kansas City at just 66 wins, tied for the Miami Marlins for the worst record in baseball.

Sure, we Tigers fans don’t have much to gloat about. Our lineup is only projected for 12.3 WAR, but at least we have the “hey maybe Miguel Cabrera bounces back big-time” crutch to lean on. Our team probably won’t be much better — FanGraphs actually has them tied with Kansas City at 69-93 — and we don’t have the warm World Series fuzzies to hold onto for the next half-decade.

But right now? Hey, at least the Tigers look a little better moving forward.