Royals cut ties with Eiland, Wakamatsu

Royals cut ties with Eiland, Wakamatsu

KANSAS CITY -- The winds of change for the Royals started on Monday as the team announced it was cutting ties with pitching coach Dave Eiland and bench coach Don Wakamatsu.

The Royals are anticipating the departure of some of their pending free-agents -- Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas, Melky Cabrera and Mike Minor -- and are beginning the transition to a new era, most likely with younger players.

Discussions on coaching changes began about a week ago when it became evident that this core group, which went to the World Series in 2014 and '15 and won the title in '15, would not make the playoffs in '17.

"We're transitioning to a new group of players," Royals manager Ned Yost said Monday. "[General manager Dayton Moore] and I have been talking a lot about the coaching staff that's going to move forward with a younger group and we need to make some transitions there."

Eiland has been the Royals' pitching coach since 2011. Wakamatsu has been on the coaching staff since 2013. Neither could be reached for comment.

"Those guys were phenomenal in our run and integral parts in our championship run," Yost said. "Dave was fantastic in getting our pitchers in a fundamental spot. Dave is a phenomenal mechanical-type of coach.

"Wak really helped me a lot. As a manager, having those guys, Wak, Dave and Pedro [Grifol], made me a better manager. You look back at your strengths. Running the game isn't my strength, but having Wak and Dave and Pedro made me smarter than I really am."

The Royals also likely will reassign popular first-base coach Rusty Kuntz to a different organizational role. Kuntz was replaced as first-base coach during the last month of the season because of cataract issues. Mitch Maier took over for Kuntz and likely will be his replacement in 2018.

But Kuntz, who has sought more of a roving instructor role in the past few seasons, will remain in some significant role for the Royals.

"We're still formulating a role for him," Moore told "As you know, he's an extremely valuable asset to this organization."

Moore and Yost both said they still are in the process of coming up with candidates to replace Eiland and Wakamatsu. They will look internally first.

"We need guys who are really positive and know the game inside and out and will help teach younger players," Yost said.

The Royals are still formulating their offseason strategy in terms of which pending free agents they can retain. But Moore and Yost both mentioned the likelihood that younger players such as shortstop Raul Mondesi, third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert and outfielders Jorge Soler and Jorge Bonifacio would be significant parts of the 2018 roster.

Moore and Yost aren't conceding that the 2018 Royals won't compete for the postseason. But they also know the challenges that lay ahead.

"I imagine it will be a little bit of a step-back," Yost said. "But I understand there will be ups and downs next year.

"I would love to have [the pending free agents] all back. These are special kids. That was my message to the young guys [Sunday]: 'Hey, look at these guys. They were where you are and look at them now.'"

Yost also hinted that there will be more of a youth movement on the pitching staff.

"There will be other kids you haven't seen that will come up and pitch for us," Yost said.

While there were reports that bullpen coach Doug Henry would not be back in 2018, that decision has not yet been made.

Moore said whoever the new pitching coach is will have input on his bullpen coach.

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