Inbox: Which moments could loom for Royals?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers Kansas City fans' questions

Inbox: Which moments could loom for Royals?

KANSAS CITY -- When a team is in a Wild Card chase, all losses are painful.

But the Royals' past five losses -- all one-run gut punches -- have been particularly damaging to the morale of the fan base as well as the team's pursuit of the second Wild Card berth in the American League.

With that in mind, let's get to the latest Inbox as the team prepares for a three-game set in Chicago against the White Sox starting on Friday.

DeAnn, you stole my lead. There's still over three weeks left in the regular season, but if the Royals do not make the playoffs, they will no doubt look back to the past five losses. It really started on Aug. 30, when the Royals battled back from a 4-1 deficit against the Yankees at home and forced extra innings. Kansas City trailed, 5-4, in the 10th, but it had runners on second and third with none out. Then two strikeouts and a popup against the Yankees' depleted bullpen ended the game. From there, we've seen the Royals lose a 13-inning game, Wade Davis blow a save and Joakim Soria blow two more saves -- all gut punches.

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Soria has six blown saves, eight losses (the franchise record is nine for a reliever) and he has given up the go-ahead run when entering the game with the lead or tied an astonishing 11 times. The problem is that manager Ned Yost doesn't have many options setting up Kelvin Herrera and Davis after losing Luke Hochevar (thoracic outlet syndrome) for the season. Rookie Matt Strahm has been sensational, but he is two years removed from Tommy John surgery and Kansas City is trying to protect his arm. I suspect Yost will lean on right-hander Peter Moylan ahead of Soria going down the stretch, or maybe even Chris Young.

But going forward, the answer gets tricky. Soria has a three-year, $25 million deal, and it's too soon to jettison him -- small-revenue teams can't operate with the financial freedom of the big-market clubs. Soria is going to have to reinvent himself in some capacity, because it isn't working with him in high-leverage spots in the bullpen.

Right now, there are three locks for the rotation: Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy. After that, several candidates will be vying for the last two spots, including Jason Vargas (who should be recovered from Tommy John surgery), Mike Minor (who couldn't stay healthy this season while rehabbing from labrum surgery), Young, Strahm and perhaps prospect Alec Mills. Right-hander Edinson Volquez's contract will end -- perhaps the club will make a qualifying offer, or maybe he gives the Royals a generous discount to stay. General manager Dayton Moore likes to enter Spring Training with at least nine or 10 viable starting candidates, so he'll be searching for cost-effective starters on the free-agent market or through trade. Don't rule out the possibility that Soria could be converted to a starting role, a topic that was tossed around briefly when he signed last December.

In baseball, all contracts are guaranteed.

The Royals' television deal with FOX Sports Kansas City pays them approximately $20 million per year -- one of the lowest TV deals in baseball -- and it expires after 2019. There's really no incentive for FSKC to renegotiate before then. Perhaps after the 2018 season, FSKC will sit down with the Royals to discuss something, but I'd be surprised if anything happens before then.

When Mike Moustakas comes back, he will be the Royals' third baseman. Kansas City needs his pop in the lineup. I doubt the Royals will announce any starter at second base going into Spring Training, so they'll open the job up for competition among Raul Mondesi, Whit Merrifield and yes, Christian Colon.

As for designated hitter, it's going to be interesting. Kendrys Morales has a $17 million mutual option next season, which the Royals will buy out for $1.5 million. Kansas City never has exercised a mutual option under Moore -- mutual options are just an accounting trick to increase the value of a deal. The Royals could make Morales the qualifying offer, which coincidentally will be almost $17 million, too. But what if he takes it? That would be a lot for a small-market team to pay a DH who will be 34 next June. Then again, how will Kansas City replace his power? Morales is headed for a 30-homer season. Cheslor Cuthbert could be a DH, but he's not even close to being the power threat that is Morales, who is making the organization rethink his future with the team.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.