When the Yankees came to town at the start of last week, the Royals were starting a 13-game stretch where they had a chance to almost undo the brutal start to their season. They were sitting at 16-21. Going 9-4 would get them back to .500, but even an 8-5 run would probably be enough to get hopes back to where many were prior to the season. With yesterday’s rainout, the 13-game stretch became 12 games, but they’ve gone just 3-6 in the first nine. Sure, if they can sweep the Indians, it’ll give us all a warm feeling, but this was their shot to get back into this thing, and for now, it sure looks like they missed it.
- Naturally, there is a lot of talk about the Royals getting prepared to sell off their pending free agents and maybe some other players. Dayton Moore has said repeatedly that he isn’t ready to do that yet and, while I disagree that there’s reason to wait, I do get it. Still, the time is going to come when reality is going to set in with this team. The question really is how big of a return can the Royals get for these guys, and I’m skeptical they can really change the farm system unless they get a little creative. I look at guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Both are having solid, if unspectacular, seasons. What kind of prospect can the Royals really expect for either of them? Sure it’ll be a decent one, but they’re likely not getting a top top prospect for either. Lorenzo Cain is the one who I think could really bolster the farm system for the Royals, especially considering there is a team (the Nationals) with a glaring need and no other seller has a center fielder as good as him available. Add in the Nationals desperation in the bullpen and the Royals might be able to pry a top prospect from them. There’s debate whether or not they could get Victor Robles and while I doubt they can, teams that get desperate do some desperate things, so I guess I wouldn’t completely count it out. Still, the Royals need to focus on getting back quality pieces to help expedite the coming reloading of this team and if they have to creatively package some players to do it, I’d rather they get impact quality than just quantity.
- Notice I said reloading and not rebuilding. It’s not that I think the Royals and Dayton Moore truly are opposed to a rebuild, but I just don’t think it’s feasible. This isn’t news to anyone, but the Royals currently have about $97 million committed to 10 players with Kelvin Herrera and Nate Karns arbitration eligible next season. It’s probably worth noting that Jorge Soler can opt in to arbitration after the season and cancel out his roughly $4 million guaranteed salary in 2018. I figured he’d play well enough to justify asking for $5 million or more, but that hasn’t been the case to this point. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that it’s difficult for the Royals to rebuild given the payroll constraints. Now, it would help if Ian Kennedy opted out to save $16 million. And if they could trade Joakim Soria, this deadline, that would save $9 million. But both those seem somewhat unlikely at this point, knowing what we know about this front office. And knowing what we know, I can’t imagine them going into a season with an average of nearly $10 million for 10 players and not going out there and trying to win. So that likely means more focus on trades that can help the team now and in the near future rather than trades for players who might be a few years away but with higher upside. Again, this is a strategy I disagree with, but I at least understand where they’re coming from on it.
- Given the Royals uncertainty with their rotation next season, don’t be surprised if they hold on to Mike Minor at the deadline and hope to give him some starts in the second half of the season. They’ve already mentioned that they want to be careful with him for now, but might stretch him out later in the year. He’s been amazing out of the bullpen this year, but if that ability can be stretched back out to start, it could be big for the 2018 team that, remember, probably isn’t rebuilding. It’s a risky play, yes, because he only has a mutual option for $10 million, which means he’s likely to become a free agent, but the odds are that with the way he’s pitched in relief, he’ll fetch a nice contract anyway, so at least the Royals would have an idea of what he can do as a starter before joining the bidding for him. Plus, it could work out just right that the $10 million mutual option actually makes sense for both sides. Not that it’s likely, but it’s certainly possible. What’s interesting is that Minor has clauses in his contract for bonuses based on starts and innings, so if he starts after the break and gets 14 starts and throws six innings per start, he could pick up four different $225,000 bonuses to earn an extra $900k. Maybe that’s only interesting to me, but I’m fine with that.
- And finally, I’ll give you your “I don’t believe you” stats of the day. Though you’ll probably believe me because you’re savvy and keep up with this team as well as anyone. Alex Gordon is currently sporting the worst batting average in the lineup, falling just behind the great Alcides Escobar. And yet, he has the sixth best OBP among regulars, beating out Escobar, Brandon Moss and…Mike Moustakas. Yes, that’s right. Moose has a .279 OBP this year as he’s completely abandoned the approach that made him an All-Star and a complete hitter and has sold out for power. Not that power is a bad thing, but I’d much rather have the .284/.348/.470 guy than the .244/.279/.482 guy he’s been this season. Yes, the long home runs are nice, and it’d be great to get that Balboni record off the books, but Moose is swinging at a ridiculous 41.1 percent of pitches outside the strike zone this season. That’s the worst in his career. By a lot.