Matheny: Division crown 'realistic' goal for KC

December 17th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals are entering 2021 with a simple mindset: The rebuild is over, and they are ready to compete again for the playoffs.

The Royals and general manager Dayton Moore, with the approval from new owner John Sherman, have approached this offseason with perhaps as much aggression as any team in baseball.

Despite their limitations as a small-market team hit hard financially in 2020, the Royals have gone out and invested in free agents, from outfielder to first baseman to starter to closer .

Royals manager Mike Matheny, now in his second year as the skipper, isn’t conceding the American League Central race. The Royals won 12 of their final 18 games in 2020 and believe they have momentum heading into '21.

“I just think it’s realistic,” Matheny said in a Zoom call Thursday. “You look at how well we competed and how well we did even against the better teams in our division, and how well our guys could stay in the game. … Maybe we were just missing a little piece here and there.

“And a part of those pieces is how our young guys have improved in their career path. I think the other part is how we made these additions with guys like Mike Minor and Michael Taylor and Carlos Santana and Greg Holland.

“We were tracking well at the end of the season, and that shows how well they were tracking in their growth, too, even without these new pieces."

Matheny seemed especially excited to bring aboard Santana, known throughout his career as being a tough out who creates long at-bats.

“I remember many times where we’re at a pitch limit and you see him on deck,” Matheny said, “and we’re getting close to it, and you have to think he’s going to give you a 10-pitch at-bat. And I have been really impressed with the feedback we have been getting from former teammates about him.

“He’s been a great addition along with someone like a Michael Taylor. I just see a lot of room for him to blossom as a player.

“We believe in our people. It’s been a great offseason already, signing someone like [Jorge] Soler, and bring in a Mike Minor, and keeping someone like Greg Holland. Those things all add to that step we need in terms of experience, a winning experience.”

Matheny doesn’t believe the Royals are finished this offseason, either. Moore has indicated to that the Royals still would like to add a left-handed bat.

“I think we’re still waiting to see how this market develops,” Matheny said. “We knew it was going to be a strange offseason and are waiting to see how it plays out.

“The great thing is that we have versatility on our roster, so we can make more moves.”