Realistically, even if the 2017 Royals had stumbled backwards into the second wild card, they were far too hampered by lingering injuries and boneheaded roster moves to be able to do anything with it. Monday's makeup game in the Bronx
made for a tolerably good approximation for how it might have gone—I mean, yes, the game would have been managed differently if it were an elimination game, so maybe the Royals lose 6-1 instead of 11-3, but it's really hard to imagine that they actually win. The Twins, who actually did stumble backwards into the second wild card after selling at the trade deadline, don't look poised to do much with it either, but then they've already exceeded expectations for this year and they aren't losing anyone significant to free agency next year, either.
I actually do
hate to say 'I told you so' because it would have been infinitely preferable to admit to being wrong than to watch career years from hometown heroes and impending free agents Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas get frittered away amidst general mediocrity and ineptitude over the course of a hundred and sixty-two often-painful games. The Davis-Soler trade was far from the only problem with the team, but it was maybe the biggest single one and it was bad in exactly the way that I predicted that it was going to be bad, so naturally I can't help but perseverate on it.
Closers were maybe the hottest single commodity during the 2016-2017 offseason. Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen all commanded massive contracts as free agents. Greg Holland, coming off of Tommy John surgery, signed a deal that was quite lucrative albeit structured with incentives. Fernando Rodney got snapped up by a contending team, for heaven's sake. While the free agents had their choice of suitors, the Royals were the only team shopping a closer in a trade, or at least the only team that pulled the trigger, and for some reason they settled for absolute garbage that both parties pretended was a major league-ready player in return.
When Jorge Soler isn't injured, which is rarely, he's undisciplined, lackadaisical and surly. He would not recognize major league pitching if it bit him in the ass. Sure, when he manages to connect with a pitch, purely at random, he has the strength to hit it out of the park, but most major league pitchers can manage not to give him a pitch to hit when they know he'll flail helplessly at off-speed pitches that aren't even in the same zip code as the plate. He alternates between making half-hearted attempts to field balls that get away from him in the outfield to making big showy diving attempts to field balls that get away from him in the outfield, practically gift-wrapping third base to runners on a regular basis. He appears to have little aptitude for defense, in spite of playing one of the easiest defensive positions on the field, nor has he shown any desire to improve.
He has no incentive
to improve, since his contract guaranteed him the same three million dollars whether he was performing worse than a replacement player on the big league club or jacking meaningless dingers off minor league pitching for the Omaha Stormchasers. In a mere 34 games, he racked up an astonishing -1.3 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference and -0.9 Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs, who use a slightly different formula to calculate WAR. A hypothetical replacement player earning league minimum would have been, by definition, worth 0 WAR over those same 34 games and
they would have only gotten paid a little over $112,000 to do it. A minor leaguer playing in triple-A only makes $12,000 for an entire season, which is disgraceful, but that is a slight digression from the fact that Jorge Soler earned three million dollars for being completely unsuitable for playing above the AAA level where he spent the majority of the year.
It would have genuinely been better for the team if they had given Wade Davis to the Cubs for literally nothing, because Soler cost more and was worth less than the organizational filler that every team already has available. Oh, and we're still stuck with him for another three years/$12 million dollars, the very prospect of which makes me want to cry almost as much as the idea of Eric Hosmer on the Yankees, Mike Moustakas on the Giants, and Lorenzo Cain on the Rangers, all credible rumors at this admittedly early stage.
Meanwhile I've seen how Joe Maddon uses his rental closers in the postseason and it isn't pretty. If he breaks Wade I swear to God I will burn Chicago to the ground again. I hope the Cubs flame out in the division series.