MLB: Seattle Mariners at Kansas City Royals

Decisions of the Past

Tuesday, we took a look at mid-season records of American League teams and what happened to those teams for the remainder of each season. It was an attempt to glean some sort of idea as to whether the Kansas City Royals should be aggressive on the trade market this July or stand pat. Today, let’s take a look at the group of teams that had a similar mid-season (remember, our ‘mid-season’ is July 13th of each year) record over the past six years as the Royals do right now and review what moves they made and if those moves, or lack thereof, paid off.

Let’s start with the Toronto Blue Jays. This organization has rather remarkably been within three games of .500 (either plus or minus) on July 13th in each of the most recently completed six seasons and have reacted in several different ways over that period of time. Of course, we all remember the Jays trading for Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, LaTroy Hawkins, Ben Revere and Mark Lowe (okay maybe not Lowe, but you basically remember) last season and going from one game under .500 to TWENTY-FIVE GAMES over in the second half, but let’s go back in time to study what they did prior to that big splash.

In 2010, the Jays were just a game under .500, but 12 1/2 out of first and 9 1/2 games out of the wild-card. They were basically buried, but did go out and acquire Yunel Escobar (along with then prospects Anthony Gose and Jo-Jo Reyes). After July 13th, Toronto played much better (.562 clip), but never could gain any ground. Interestingly, the following year found Toronto two games under .500, 11 games out of first and 8 games out of the wild-card and the Jays went out and traded for Edwin Jackson, Mark Teahen, Colby Rasmus, Brian Tallet, PJ Walters and Trever Miller. Of course, they then shipped out Jackson the same day, along with Octavio Dotel and Jason Frasor. I would say the Blue Jays were selling as much as buying here and played two games over .500 after July 13th, 2011.

The 2012 season found the Jays a game under on July 13th, 10 1/2 games out of first, but just 2 1/2 games out of the brand new second wild-card spot. They traded Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco and five others to Houston for J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon. In a separate deal, Toronto also acquired Brad Lincoln. Opting for more pitching did not pay off that year as the Blue Jays played just .400 baseball in the second half. Despite a similar record and relevance to first place the next season, the Jays were 8 games out of the wild-card as well. The organization acquired no new talent in July and played bad baseball the rest of the way.

July 13th, 2014 was the only one of the past six years that Toronto found itself above .500 (by two games), 4 games out of first and 2 1/2 games out of the wild-card. Their big mid-season acquisition was Danny Valencia – Royals fans remember this epic Valencia for Kratz/Hendriks trade – and Toronto played at the same pace the rest of the way.  They would end up missing the wild card by five games.

Speaking of the 2014 Royals, they are relevant because a) Royals and b) they were two games over .500 at this time in 2014, 6 1/2 games out of first and 2 1/2 games out of the wild-card. Sound familiar? In addition to the juggernauts listed in the above paragraph, Kansas City also acquired Jason Frasor, Josh Willingham and an ancient Raul Ibanez. They gave up the unhappy Valencia, Spencer Patton and Jason Adam to get these veteran pieces. You know the results: 14 games over .500 the rest of the way and a scintillating post-season run. All told, however, the Royals really did more ‘standing pat’ than ‘going for it’ at the 2014 trade deadline. Should that be their model for this season?

Before you answer, let’s take a look at some of the other seventeen teams that were anywhere from .500 to six games over that mark on July 13th. Detroit is all over this list.

Last year, the Tigers were exactly even on the 13th, but by the end of the month were sellers and sold big. Let’s remember that as part of that sale, Detroit got Michael Fulmer among others. In 2012, they were three over, 3 1/2 out of first and 1/2 a game out of the second wild-card. They traded Rob Brantly, Brian Flynn and Jacob Turner to Miami for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez, played .573 ball in the second half and won the division. The year before that, Detroit was six over on July 13th and leading the Central by half a game. They acquired Wilson Betemit, Delmon Young and Doug Fister and proceed to play .657 ball.

Another division rival, Cleveland, is well represented, too. In 2014, the Indians were exactly .500, didn’t do a much at the deadline (Chris Dickerson – not that one, the other one) played eight over in the second half, but could not make up ground. They were six over in 2013, didn’t do much but get Mark Rzepcynski in July and played .618 ball after July 13th on their way to a wild-card berth. They were four over in 2012, 3 games out of first and tied for one of the wild-card spots. The Indians’ additions that year were Brent Lillibridge and Lars Anderson – which may be the very definition of standing pat – and the club played .303 baseball the rest of the season. Finally, in 2011, the five over .500 Indians went out and got Ubaldo Jimenez and Kosuke Fukedome in July. Following up with 40-year old Jim Thome in August. They missed the playoff that year by playing just .452 ball the rest of the way. At the time, this seemed like a bigger ‘go for it’ move than it turned out to be. Drew Pomeranz is the one player who got away out of all of that. Perhaps this is a bit of a lesson in the difference between prospects and major league players. Of course, it could also be a lesson in not going for it as it made you worse!

In this group of ‘sort of’ good mid-season records is a good bit of evidence for the stand pat crowd. The Orioles were four games over in 2012 and their big move was getting then 41 year old Jim Thome. They played .632 ball in the second half on their way to the wild-card. That same year, the Rays went from just three over to playing .600 ball without any move of note (unless Ryan Roberts is ‘of note’), but missed the playoffs anyway. 2012 was a good year to stand pat apparently, as the Oakland A’s, by adding just George Kottaras and Pat Neshek went from one game over to winning their division by playing .667 ball.

Last year’s Blue Jays and Rangers, along with the 2012 Tigers are probably the best example of going big and being successful doing so. The 2014 Yankees, who acquired Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, Chris Capuano, Brandon McCarthery and Martin Prado and still did not make the playoffs are on the other side of the fence. With them would be the 2010 Angels, who traded Patrick Corbin, Joe Saunders and Tyler Skaggs to get Dan Haren and also miss the playoffs.

One more historical fact for you. In the above, we have touched on or at least considered 24 American League teams in the last six seasons who were somewhere between six games over to three games under .500 on July 13th. None of them won a world championship, but two of them did make the World Series. Of course the 2014 Royals are one and did so by sticking with their core team and making a couple of minor additions. The second was the 2012 Detroit Tigers who added a new second baseman (Infante – back when he could still play) and a quality starting pitcher (Sanchez).

So, what is your goal?  World Series or bust? Just make the coin flip game in the post-season and see what happens? I think there are almost as many schools of thought on those questions as there are plans of actions and results laid out above.

If you want my opinion, and you’re getting it if you have come this far, I want in the post-season. If the Royals can get to wild-card, I will take my chances on flukes, luck, a dominant starting pitcher, the Royals’ bullpen and everything else that comes with nine innings of mayhem that we call a wild-card game. Go big may not be the right phrase, but go get a starting pitcher that is better than Young, Medlen and Gee and hope for better health the rest of the way. Will the marketplace allow such a move without too large (i.e. Mondesi) a sacrifice? That is the rather obvious question Dayton Moore will and surely has considered.

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1 comment on “Decisions of the Past”

Adam S.

The farm is depleted for sure with lots of names popping up this year that dont have a long track record of success (Dozier, Bonifacio). We cant make a chance for the playoffs without adding at least one starting pitcher. It would be my hope we add one with upside and controllable years so we get bang for our buck. Not too concerned with the cost because prospects fail more often than succeed. Just dont want to see all our top minor leagues shipped out! We will need the high minor guys soon, ship out the low minor stars.

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