The New York Yankees begin their road trip in Kansas City on Friday night to kick off a three-game set with the Royals, a team that fans identified as a viable trade partner these last two seasons.
This is no longer the 2015-2016 KC squad that pestered all of MLB with its aggressive hitting and electrifying pitching. This is largely the punching bag version that existed for about 30 years, with their previous playoff drought lasting from 1986-2013. Brutal stuff.
Perhaps they’re beginning to turn it around, but it was evident the Royals possessed assets that might’ve intrigued a number of contenders to surrender top prospects. Instead, Kansas City largely kept everything intact and a deal with the Yankees never came to fruition.
But maybe that was for the best — at least from New York’s perspective. The Yankees are tops in the American League right now, leading the way in ERA and OPS (second, just behind the Angels). As of now, fans wouldn’t want to change a thing, but, of course, we know that narrative can flip in the blink of an eye.
Then again, don’t you kind of love this team? Outside of Joey Gallo, maybe, since he’s been the sole source of frustration in the early going? Fans would be hard-pressed to imagine a much better scenario than what the Yankees have at the moment.
That’s why everyone should be glad the Yankees didn’t trade for these Royals players many clamored for the past two years … because they would’ve upended the team’s plans one way or another.
3. Nicky Lopez
Most Yankees fans simply wanted a defensive wizard at shortstop with speed and a semblance of a bat. Nope, not Andrelton Simmons. Never.
Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez felt like the necessary (and cooler) step above Simmons, who has done nothing but regress these last few years. Lopez is 27 years old, has a sterling glove, and just registered a career year at the plate in 2021.
He hit .300 with a 103 OPS+ and stole 22 bags in 151 games. That’s even more than what the Yankees needed at the bottom of the lineup. And the Royals had three shortstops (Adalberto Mondesi and Bobby Witt Jr.) on the roster heading into 2022, so why not trade one?
Well, good thing Isiah Kiner-Falefa is in town, because fans would’ve been upset with Lopez’s start to the year (.200 average, .680 OPS, six runs scored, two RBI, zero stolen bases and a -0.3 dWAR). IKF? A beautiful 0.4 dWAR, .298 average, 108 OPS+, 10 runs scored, five RBI and two stolen bags.
Happy with Cashman’s decision to seemingly acquire the right guy for the job.