Have you ever had a car that you kept a really long time? Eventually, things start to break down. You fix one thing and it runs a little while longer and then you fix another thing and runs a little while longer. Eventually, that’s it. It doesn’t matter what you do. The car is just done. I kind of feel like that’s what happened to the Royals this week. They worked through injuries, ineffectiveness, more injuries and some more ineffectiveness and then they just sort of ran out of gas. Maybe they’ll go on a captivating run over the final two plus weeks of the season, but they look like a team that’s maybe gone as far as they can go.
And it kind of makes sense. I mean they’re the World Series champions and running out career minor leaguers, prospects who have hit a wall, prospects who aren’t quite ready and pitchers who probably shouldn’t be in the big leagues pitching in what was supposed to be a race to the postseason. And you know what? It happens. It’s not fun for the fans (or probably the players), but it happens.
- With the season taking the turn that it has over the last couple weeks, I’ve started my annual look at what I’d do to make the Royals better in 2017. I’ll get into it more in an article here in the near future, but one name I kept looking at was Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks. And then amazingly, I’ve heard from multiple people over the last few days that the Royals keep looking at that name too, so keep an eye on that. Corbin is 27-years old and looked to be on the rise after a 2013 season that saw him win 14 games with a 3.41 ERA and make the All-Star team. Then he had Tommy John, but was very effective last season when he returned. He had an even higher strikeout rate than before and lowered his already good walk numbers. This year has been a disaster for him, so I’m not sure if the Diamondbacks would trade him at low value, but the Royals have an interest, and I think this is a name to keep an eye on over the next few months. It would be a risk because of the year he’ll be coming off, but I think this is one that could work out nicely for the Royals if it does come to fruition.
- I think I know why this is, but the offense this year isn’t getting nearly enough attention for how bad it’s been. This season, runs per game by team are up by about a quarter run on average. And yet, here are the Royals averaging more than one-third of a run per game less than they did in 2015. Of course there are very good reasons. Lorenzo Cain is going to end up missing more than one-third of the season. Mike Moustakas played in 27 games total. Salvador Perez has had his moments, but he hasn’t even been much beyond power. Eric Hosmer is having a down year. Kendrys Morales has been a complete zero for much of the season. Alex Gordon has had a dreadful year and missed time (which I think is still bothering him, by the way). Whatever the reason, the offense is on pace for about 60 runs less than they scored last season in a run-scoring environment where even simply getting worse shouldn’t have resulted in this big of a drop. If you subscribe to the idea that 10 runs is a win, that’s six wins difference for the Royals. You think they couldn’t use those six extra wins? I think a full season of Moustakas and hopefully Cain next year will help things. I don’t think Gordon can possibly be as bad as he has, and maybe they’ll find some more consistency out of the DH spot, though it’s hard to complain too much with the 27 homers Morales has given. To me, this is one of the big differences between this year and last year, but it just isn’t getting much attention because it’s much easier to pinpoint one game here or one game there than to look at the season as a whole.
- So Jason Vargas is going to pitch the second game of the series against the White Sox. Consider me surprised. After having Tommy John surgery in early August last year, I figured he’d do his rehab assignment this year and then get shut down, but with the playoff push essentially over, they’re going to see what he looks like, I guess. Personally I don’t see the reason for it. They’re going to have to make a 40-man move to get him on the roster, and while it isn’t like they can’t afford to drop a player or two they currently have, I’m just not sure it’s even worth having to make the decision for 10 innings during a season. But hey, I’m curious to see him. And, as I noted on Twitter, the Royals have never missed the playoffs in years Vargas makes a start for them, so prepare yourself for the winning streak of a lifetime.
- If you handed me some cash and told me I had to make a bet about where Wade Davis pitches in 2017 and my choices were KC or somewhere else, I think I’d lean toward somewhere else. The rumors at the deadline were telling to me, and I’m not convinced the Royals aren’t trying to not showcase him before the season ends. Holding him out of Tuesday’s game against the A’s was interesting given that he didn’t pitch on Monday, so he already had the day rest he’d likely need from his two long outings over the weekend. Maybe I’m reading way too much into it, but I think the Royals see his $10 million salary and a replacement already on the roster and think they could find a way to improve the team both through the return of Davis and the savings of not having to pay him. If you’re worried about the bullpen next year without him, I think there’s a very good chance that both Luke Hochevar and Greg Holland are back and healthy and can pair with Kelvin Herrera and hopefully Matt Strahm to form a dynamic back of the bullpen. There’s plenty of risk with pitchers coming off injury, a rookie and Joakim Soria back there, but I think that’s the beginnings of a really good bullpen. Add in Brian Flynn and I think next year’s unit could get back to dominant, even if they don’t have Davis in the fold.
- Since we’re thinking about next year anyway, let’s take a look at the payroll situation the Royals find themselves in. They have about $85 million committed to 10 players, one of whom (Omar Infante) will not suit up for the team. They have another $16.5 million in options that are likely to get picked up (Davis and Escobar). And then I have them at about $32 million in arbitration estimates for six players, though I could see them DFAing guys like Tim Collins and Tony Cruz, but their salaries are low enough that it doesn’t skew much. So that puts them at a bit less than $134 million for 18 players (17 of whom are on the roster). There are a few pre-arb guys that we’ll call $3.5 million for ease. And then there’s $6 million in option buyouts. That’s a grand total of $143.5 million or so. And with that, they likely need to find another reliever, another starter, an outfielder and a backup catcher. There might be some other positions of need, but those seem to be the burning ones heading into the offseason. It’ll be interesting to see how Dayton Moore handles it all. It’s clearly going to be no easy task, but I do expect the Royals to do everything they can to get better and get back to the championship ways of 2014 and 2015.