KANSAS CITY — The defending World Series-champion Royals arrived in Surprise, Ariz., last February with full intentions of a third straight trip to the World Series.
Ownership and management went all in, re-signing Alex Gordon, the face of the franchise, to a four-year, $72 million deal. Right-hander Ian Kennedy was signed (five years, $70 million) to strengthen the rotation and reliever Joakim Soria (three years, $25 million) was added to an already strong bullpen.
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But it was clear from day one in Surprise that the same energy that catapulted the team to two straight deep postseason runs just wasn’t there. Two shortened offseasons had taken a toll, and the 2016 Royals were characterized by injury and fatigue.
The champs slipped to a disappointing 81-81 and missed the postseason.
“I think they were disappointed,” manager Ned Yost said of his …