KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A day after the 2017 season ended for the Kansas City Royals, the transition officially began with changes to the coaching staff.
Pitching coach Dave Eiland and bench coach Don Wakamatsu will not be back for 2018, Royals manager Ned Yost announced Monday at the team’s end-of-season news conference at Kauffman Stadium.
“We’re moving forward with a younger group and felt in some areas we needed a different voice,” Yost said.
Eiland had been the team’s pitching coach since 2012 while Wakamatsu joined the club in 2014.
“I want to personally thank both Don and Dave for the contributions they made to our success here, culminating with the World Series title in 2015,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a release. “We are currently in the process of restructuring our major league coaching staff.”
First base coach Rusty Kuntz’s role has not yet been decided, but Yost said he will be back with the team in some form.
“Rusty is an extremely important figure in this organization,” Yost said. “Dayton and I are evaluating what he’s going to do.”
With Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar all set to become free agents, the team had no choice but to begin the developmental process of a new crop of players that includes shortstop Raul Mondesi and outfielders Jorge Soler and Jorge Bonifacio.
“Next year is going to be Mondi’s time,” Yost said. “Next year is going to be Soler’s time. Next year is going to be Boni’s time.”
The Royals finished 2017 with an 80-82 record, their first losing season in five years. Hosmer, Moustakas, Cain and Escobar all played huge roles in returning the team to prominence but change is on the way.
Though there will be some growing pains, Yost sees some similarities with the next wave of players, which also includes pitcher Jake Junis and second baseman Whit Merrifield. Junis, the rookie right-hander, went 9-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 20 games (16 starts). Merrifield, who didn’t make the opening day roster, hit .288 with 19 homers and 78 RBIs in 145 games. He also led the American League in steals with 34.
“This group, when I looked at Moose, Salvy (Salvador Perez) and Hos, (Kelvin) Herrera, I just felt these guys are going to be special and they’re going to be All-Stars, and as a group they were going to be a really special group.
“I think (Cheslor) Cuthbert’s going to be a really good player, Boni, Soler, Mondesi, (Ramon) Torres,” Yost said. “So I think we’ve got a good group to work with.”
Though there will be several new faces in key spots, Yost is looking forward to the challenge of developing the new group, which he hopes brings as much success as the previous one did.
“I love that part of it,” Yost said. “I think what was so emotional for us yesterday was that we all had a piece of it — the fans, the front office, the coaches, the players. We all had a piece in building from the ground up something extremely special that no one can take away from you.”