Poor Royals fans. The team has managed a .500-plus record only four times in the last 20 seasons (with one of those coming in a strike-shortened 1994 campaign). Kansas City's last playoff appearance was more than 20 years ago, in 1985, though they did manage to win the World Series that year -- the only World Championship in franchise history. And they've finished in 4th or 5th place in the five-team AL Central in 12 of the division's 16 years of existence.
It's kind of hard to fathom that the Kansas City Royals were at one time a competitive baseball team. I don't mean to sound churlish, it's just that I didn't become the raving Yankee fan that I am until 1988, when I was seven years old and managed to complete all 792 cards in the Topps set that year. Given that this was three full years after the Royals had last won the World Series combined with the franchise's relative ineptitude ever since, I've only ever really known the Royals to be mostly mediocre.
As a small market team I'm obviously aware of the Royals' perceived inability to hang with the big spenders, despite the fact that KC does periodically dole out fairly sizable (if questionable) contracts (see Meche, Gil). Still, a smaller budget shouldn't give a team's GM carte blanche to make terrible moves, which is exactly what the Jason Kendall signing is.
This is the same team that just non-tendered John Buck. Now perhaps Buck v. Kendall isn't a fair comparison, given that Buck is a career backup. Even so, Buck gave the Royals a 103 OPS+ in limited duty in 2009. Starting catcher Kendall posted an OPS+ of 72 for the Brewers last year. Buck's 2009 wOBA? For a BUC, a respectable .332. Kendall? .290, down from 2008's .293.
In the afore-linked article, the author notes that Buck made $2.9 million last year, and had he received salary arbitration, likely would have seen his salary rise to $3.5 million. Jason Kendall -- who slugged .305 last year -- is now being given a whopping $500,000 less per year to man catcher for the Royals for the next two seasons. Just what on earth is Royals General Manager Dayton Moore thinking?
There is predictably much hand-wringing from the Royals fanbase. The always entertaining JoePos offers up his disheartened reaction to the Kendall signing. FanGraphs' Matt Klaassen also expresses his frustration, pointing out that Kendall projects to be worth 0.5 WAR next year. And he's receiving $3 million for his services. Furthermore, JoePos also projects the Royals' imposing 2010 starting lineup, featuring a robust two above-average players out of nine.
Fun times to be a Kansas City sports fan. At least the Jayhawks are back on top again?