It’s only been one week since the last edition of Friday Notes, but the Royals have gone from sub-.500 to four games over and have vaulted into playoff position in the American League. Life really does come at you fast, I guess. Now comes a very tough series to round out the first half, but with the sweep of the Mariners, the team that was 10-20 in early May is guaranteed to have a winning record during the All-Star week festivities. If you tell me that you knew this was coming, you’re a liar.
- I guess the best place to start is the man of the hour, Mike Moustakas. He’ll be the first Royals player to participate in the Home Run Derby since 1991. He’s also just been the beneficiary of the love Royals fans have for voting as he’s an All-Star for the second time thanks to the final vote that concluded yesterday afternoon. But maybe more importantly, he’s inching closer and closer to breaking the embarrassingly low franchise home run mark of 36. At 25 now, he’ll need just 11 over the team’s last 78 games, which should be more than doable for him. In a way, the break is coming at a bad time as he’s kind of gone nuts ever since the Royals first headed out to the West Coast a little less than a month ago. In 23 games, he’s hit .283 with a bad .299 OBP, but he’s posted a .652 slugging percentage with 10 homers in that stretch. He has six homers in his last eight games. As Hud would say, the Moose is definitely loose and now he gets to take some hacks close to where he grew up. I may even try one of those Stouffers Fit meals he was peddling last offseason. I’m a believer.
- While I think most people are off the idea that the Royals should sell, there are still some who think that trading pending free agents is the best course of action. While I was fully on board with trading off parts before this stretch, I don’t see how you can now, and I also don’t think you gain a whole lot from making those trades now. Considering the return for rentals who aren’t pitchers, I think the value the Royals receive from making another run with this group and then taking the draft pick compensation (likely a comp round first rounder for all three of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Moustakas if they don’t re-sign in Kansas City) is a similar value to what they’d receive if they traded. While they would get players who are farther along in their professional career than someone they would draft next June, I don’t know the players would necessarily be better than those they could draft. It’s not just the players they’d be able to draft but the fact that their draft pool allotment would jump considerably and allow them to take a player who might want more money than most teams can afford in the draft. When you add in the idea that this group could make another run and currently does sit in position to make the postseason, selling is entirely off the table to me. As for buying, I believe they should work to supplement this team, but I don’t want them to go too crazy unless they’re getting back controllable talent.
- I mentioned what Moose has done since the Royals headed West to San Diego, but another player who has kind of quietly turned things around since that point is Alex Gordon. He’s hitting .247/.310/.481 in his last 23 games with four homers and 15 RBI. No, that isn’t anything fantastic but given what he provides on defense that’s more than enough, especially if he’s going to remain at the bottom of the batting order. That trip coincides roughly with when he finally brought some adjustments from batting practice to the game. It’s always nice when a positive change occurs after an adjustment has been made, one way or another. That makes it feel much more real. Anyway, it may very well be true that the Alex Gordon we fell in love with in 2011 and 2012 will never be back, but this version is a very useful piece on a championship club. Him continuing to hit like he has is a big key to the Royals offense continuing to put up runs and win the games necessary to make October crazy in Kansas City once again.
- If the Royals are buying, one area I’d fully expect them to look to upgrade would be at starting pitcher. There’s all sorts of uncertainty around Nate Karns and if he’ll even be back this season, so they will likely need one more piece. Nick Cafardo recently wrote that he thinks the Royals will target top of the rotation arms, but Cafardo also routinely has been very wrong regarding the Royals plans, so I’ll go ahead and file that away and not worry about it. I think mid-rotation arms are a much more likely target, and there are actually a few who could make sense. My list of who I think will at least be in rumors includes Andrew Cashner, Jhoulys Chacin, Marco Estrada, Scott Feldman, J.A. Happ, Derek Holland, Ivan Nova (though I don’t think I can see him traded), Dan Straily and Edinson Volquez. Volquez’s walk rate concerns me, but I could also see Dayton Moore having interest in sort of getting the band back together. Straily would be really intriguing because of the tons of control he has left, but that would also make him more expensive. None of these names will make the Royals favorites for anything necessarily, but they would all help to round out a rotation that has been better than expected this season.