The organization that doesn’t panic even when panic is warranted might be a little more apt to panic in 2017. Dayton Moore has said many times that he doesn’t even begin to make moves for his team until they’ve reached the 40-game mark. That’s sound logic that many have a hard time following because 40 games is a long time. But it makes sense. Baseball is a slow developing game. Trends take time to appear. A guy can be ice cold for the first 12-15 games of the season and turn in an MVP-caliber campaign. Maybe, though, there’s a little more urgency with the Royals this year.
After seven games, the team stands at 2-5. A team that is notoriously confident in their ability to dig themselves out of holes doesn’t seem to be messing around this time. They know they’re on borrowed time with three key members of their offense and Alcides Escobar set to hit free agency following the season. Sure, their hand has been somewhat forced, but after those seven games, they’ve already jettisoned two members of the Opening Day roster.
One makes perfect sense. Terrance Gore was never going to spend the whole season on the roster. The injury to Jorge Soler opened up the temporary spot for him but when the bullpen struggled and the need for a pinch runner was less than they had intended/hoped. He had to go.
The other that is slightly surprising is the demotion of Matt Strahm to Omaha. It isn’t that his performance was good enough to keep his spot, but it’s just not something the Royals do all that often. In three appearances, he amazingly has two losses to go along with a 47.25 ERA and six walks with no strikeouts. That’s all in 1.1 innings. To say he’s struggling is like saying Salvador Perez sort of enjoys life. Even so, the Royals tend to let their guys work things out under the tutelage of Dave Eiland before moving them to the minor leagues and they almost never handle a key piece of the future in this manner.
Multiple things were working against Strahm, though. His performance was obviously the biggest but the rest of the bullpen’s struggles hurt him more than anyone because of all those pitchers out there, he’s the only one with options. You want to fix a struggling unit but you don’t want to cut any of your inventory this early, so a struggling Strahm was the guy who had to go. Then there’s the fact that it’s sure seemed like three lefties in a seven-man bullpen was one too many. Add it all up and Strahm is back to the minors, which nobody expected just a couple weeks ago.
Does this mean the Royals are actually exhibiting more urgency? It’s hard to come to that conclusion because if they were truly exhibiting urgency, Raul Mondesi would be where he belongs, in the minor leagues. But I do think it shows that they aren’t going to show the same patience they had in the past. And yes, a lack of patience is sort of the precursor to urgency, but they’re kind of in that gray area in between right now.
In a way, I guess I don’t really understand what the Royals are doing. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about the middle of the order, but everyone who is hitting from one through six is on this roster and in the lineup most nights. Where they have some flexibility is at the bottom. You all know I’m not the biggest Paulo Orlando fan, and his play has been abysmal to start the year. I feel the Royals would be better off using Brandon Moss in the outfield with Cheslor Cuthbert at DH until Soler is off the disabled list. That’s a move that would show some urgency and would likely produce better results on the field.
And then there’s the Mondesi situation. No, your number nine hitter doesn’t typically win or lose you games, but the guy is so clearly overmatched. And what makes it even worse is that this was entirely predictable even when he was hitting the snot out of the ball at the beginning of the spring. So on one hand, the Royals are showing that they can’t afford to let games slip away, but on the other hand, 22 percent of their lineup is comprised of Orlando and Mondesi.
I wouldn’t be opposed to some full-blown urgency from the Royals during this season. Sure it’s only seven games and a couple of fluky home runs have, in part, contributed to two of the five losses, but they’re still 2-5 in a season when getting off to a good start in the first month to six weeks was imperative. I like the moves to work to try to optimize the roster, but they need to finish the job if they want to get back to the win column consistently.