The vast rebuilding job that Ned Yost inherited as the manager of the Kansas City Royals was strikingly similar to the one he took on when he was hired by the Milwaukee Brewers.
The difference this time is that Yost will have a chance to stick around.
The Royals and Yost agreed to a two-year contract extension Tuesday after wrapping up an 86-76 season, the best finish for the franchise in 24 years. Yost's contract was set to expire after the season, though both sides had expressed a desire for the manager to remain on board.
"Our main goal is to win the World Series, but we took a major step this year," Yost said. "We finished 10 games over .500. That was huge for us. That was a big step."
The next big step is to make the playoffs, something that Yost had the Brewers on the verge of when he was fired in 2008. He eventually landed in Kansas City and became the interim manager in 2010, and then lost more than 90 games each of his first two full seasons in charge.
His biggest task then was to help develop one of the youngest rosters in baseball, and the work began to pay off this year. The Royals rebounded from a disastrous May to go 43-27 after the All-Star break, and weren't eliminated from wild-card contention until their penultimate series.
"Milwaukee was a great experience for me, like May was a good experience for our team," Yost said. "I'm thankful for that opportunity because it made me stronger. It made me a better manager. The May we went through, it made us better, it made us stronger, because we endured it, and we were better for it the rest of the year."
Yost, who is 741-831 in 10 seasons as a manager, held off on discussing a new contract until after the season. It came together quickly on Monday.
"When you have something good you need to stick with it," outfielder Alex Gordon said after the final game, "and I think that's what we have. We have a good manager that gels well with the guys on this team and we all have a good relationship."
Yost's two-year deal creates a strange situation in the organization in that general manager Dayton Moore is only under contract through next season. Moore declined to discuss whether he will also seek an extension this offseason, saying only that he's "secure" with his situation.
"I'm at peace about where I am and what we've done," Moore said. "There's an emotion and an expectation and excitement around this group of players, and in a small way, I feel like we've won the World Series, because we have a fan base that's excited."
Now that Yost is under contract, Moore will soon turn his attention to putting together a roster for next season. Most of the lineup will return intact, led by promising young players such as first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvy Perez. But plenty of questions remain, starting with right field and what was one of the best starting rotations in the big leagues.
The Royals cobbled together right field when Jeff Francoeur fizzled out, and David Lough and Justin Maxwell were platooning there late in the season. But Yost and Moore both have indicated they would like to add a bat with power to the lineup, and right field is the natural fit.
In the rotation, Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen are both eligible for free agency. Santana may have priced himself out of the Royals with the best season of his career, but Moore said that he anticipates having the resources necessary to make a competitive bid to keep both pitchers.
If that doesn't happen, Moore said that youngsters Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Kyle Zimmer are prepared to compete for a starting job in spring training.
"Every team has holes. We certainly are not immune to that," Moore said. "We'll look at the areas where we can improve, but you can only improve with talent and opportunities available to you, and I have no idea what opportunities are going to be available going forward."
Moore did say that he expects the Royals' payroll, which was a franchise-record $81,241,725 on opening day, to remain the same or perhaps even increase next season.
"You have a deep-pitted feeling in your stomach every year you're not in the playoffs," Moore said. "We want that for our fan base. We want that for our players in the worst way. So we're going to continue to work to press the right buttons."