To some, trading an All-Star closer for a spare outfielder and to do so with the team that is likely to be the opposing league’s representative in next year’s World Series is a sign of a tear-down. It could be just another indication that, despite the past four seasons, it is business as usual for the David Glass era Royals. This trade saves the Royals six or seven million dollars in 2017, just proving that it is all about the money.
Maybe you are right. Maybe the Royals are cheap. Maybe an 86-win season followed by an 89-win season and then 95 wins and then a ‘disappointing’ 81-win campaign was just all luck and fortunate sequencing. The Royals were not going to be a playoff team in 2017 anyway, you say? Well, maybe you’re right.
I think you should maybe move along.
The recent history I saw was a pretty legitimate 89-win team that got hot in the playoffs, almost won a World Series and came back the next season to COAST to a 95-win year and beat one of the two best starting rotations in the game four games to one to win the Series. Like nine of the last 15 champions, the Royals did not make the playoffs the following year and, after an August stretch run was derailed by bullpen blowups and missed opportunities, phoned in an 81-win season. Spin it however makes you feel smart, but the jump from 81 wins to the playoffs is really just a hop and, depending on the year, just a healthy skip.
Close enough that the focus of this off-season is more about 2017 than some point in the future.
With that mindset, the Kansas City Royals may very well have passed on packages from other teams (or at least A package from ONE other team) that contained several shiny prospects and instead opted to make a one-for-one deal for a player who they can pencil into the everyday lineup next year. This deal was not a tear-down, nor was it the first match in a fire sale or even a discount sale. While the Royals did indeed trade one year of a player for four years of another, this trade was, more than anything else, done with an eye to making Kansas City better in 2017.
Jorge Soler will be just twenty-five at the start of the 2017 season and has a grand total of 765 major league plate appearances on his resume. He could develop into a strikeout machine with an iron glove. On the other hand, Soler could become a middle of the order power bat who can play at least average defense and he could do that in 2017.
In turn, the Royals gave up one of their heroes, who also happens to be a 31-year old relief pitcher coming off a season that included two trips to the disabled list and decline in pretty much whatever pitching metric you prefer from 2015. Baseball is full of relievers who, once the decline started, found themselves very quickly exiled to baseball oblivion.
Now, Davis might well be a cyborg next year for the Cubs, but baseball trades are all a bit of a gamble and this one seems like a reasonable calculation. The Royals have Kelvin Herrera to close and they are stuck with Joakim Soria. Matt Strahm emerged as a force out of the pen and old friends like Luke Hochevar and Greg Holland are lurking in the backwaters of free agency. The organization has exhibited a consistent ability to build bullpens.
Let’s face it, Dayton Moore is gambling on the fact that he can manufacture another good bullpen centered around Herrera more effectively than he can find a much needed bat for his lineup. Enter Jorge Soler, a gamble in his own right, but not an absurd one. He is not a hip and cool A-ball star who will hopefully help the 2019 team maybe be decent. No, Soler is a player who will hopefully help a team one season removed from a title get back to the playoffs AND help the 2019 team be decent.
Rumors and speculation are just that and, this time of year, they can drive you nuts if you let them, but it certainly does not appear like Dayton Moore’s off-season is done. There are moves to come still and speculating on what those might be is just that. What I do believe, however, is that whatever follows will me aimed at making the 2017 Kansas City Royals better first and foremost.
No, my friends, this is not the end.