Twins Daily: The Royals problem: Just how much are you willing to give up to win a World Series?

Twins Daily uses the Royals' title in 2015 as an example of what can happen.
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In 2015, the Kansas City Royals mortgaged away their future in order to win their first World Series in 30 years. Heading into 2020, the Minnesota Twins have to face a similar question. Is it worth selling away the future in order to capitalize on the present?

After coming off of a Cinderella season in 2014 which saw them come one game shy of winning the World Series, the Royals made the conscious decision to push all of their chips to the middle of the table in 2015 and gun for a title. Let’s dive into how the Royals were aggressive in pushing for short-term success and how it impacted them in the long run.

The first way that the Royals were extremely aggressive in pushing for short-term success was through their free agency spending. The Royals upped their opening day payroll from 2014 to 2015 by $21.6MM after signing the likes of 34-year-old Álex Ríos, 32-year-old Kendrys Morales and 31-year-old Edinson Vólquez to sizable contracts. 

While Morales and Vólquez were instrumental in their championship run, all three players aged quickly and did not contribute to the club past 2015. The jump in short-term spending also hampered their ability to keep some of their young stars like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, who all left in free agency just two years later.

Additionally, the Royals mortgaged away much of their long-term success via the trade route at the deadline in 2015. If you’ll remember, this is the deadline where the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, who were both rentals and left in free agency at the end of that season. In both of these moves the Royals gave up blue-chip prospects in Brandon Finnegan and Sean Manaea.

While they were successful in their goal of winning a championship, it’s fair to ask if it was worth it for the Royals. Just four short years later, the Royals now find themselves in one of the worst situations in baseball. They are coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons with little room for optimism as they have the fifth-worst farm system in baseball, per FanGraphs.

But winning the World Series reinvigorated the Kansas City fanbase and they’re all about this team that won a title just four years ago, right? Well, not exactly. After winning the World Series in 2015, the Royals’ attendance numbers have dropped each season, culminating in the fifth-lowest attendance in baseball in 2019, averaging just 18,500 fans/game.

Heading into the 2020 season, the Minnesota Twins are at a crossroads. Do they go all in now like the Royals and throw big money at aging stars like Josh Donaldson, who may hamper their cap situation down the line? 

Do they trade away their top prospects in order to get an ace pitcher? Doing this might get them to the ALCS or World Series in the next year or two, but could put their long-term future in jeopardy. 

Or do they make some savvy mid-tier free agency moves and trade for a low-cost high-upside player who won’t require the prospect capital of an ace pitcher? Doing so might put a title more in doubt but will extend this window that is just opening for the Twins and provide five to ten more years of excitement like was provided by the Bomba Squad in 2019.

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