Pitching, pitching, the Royals need starting pitching! Anyone who takes the time to read this blog, knows that. Anyone who saw the Royals play last year knows that. But the hard reality is everyone needs starting pitching. It’s the most precious commodity in baseball.
Terrific Royals blogger Rany Jazayerli recently wrote on his desire for the Royals to think outside the box a little in an attempt to obtain Dan Haren. I agree with Jazayerli that this should be the first option that Dayton Moore considers for acquiring a 1-2 starter (Haren’s actually a 2, but a 2 looks like a 1 when all you have is a stable full of 4-5).
Will the Royals execute this plan to obtain Haren? I doubt it. I have no evidence to support this doubt, other than experience watching the Royals’ very inside the box thinking when it comes to roster development.
So, instead, let us look at the tough choices the Royals may choose to make instead. I will focus my attention on one pitcher, but we can assume that this scenario, or one similar to it, could play out with any pitcher the Royals want. I will focus on Matt Moore.
Why Matt Moore? For many reasons. 1) Tampa Bay has a wealth of starting pitching, more than they actually need. 2) Tampa Bay needs hitting, desperately. 3) Both Tampa and Kansas City’s best chances at getting a decent player is through trade. This isn’t a steadfast truth, but it makes sense as a general principle of small market teams.
Also, I like Moore. He’s young, 23, under team control until 2019 (signed through 2016 with team options for 2017-19), and good with the potential to get even better. In 2012, he made 31 starts, had a 3.81 ERA, and had 8.8 K/9. But, he’s not so good that he’s un-gettable, which also means that at 23, he’s got room to improve. He had a 1.35 WHIP and 4.11 BB/9. His xFIP was 4.35, which puts him near the same boat as Bruce Chen last season.
I’m sure the Rays know how good Moore is, certainly better than I do and probably much better than the Royals do. But they also know where they’re weak. They were 18th in runs scored, 20th in SLG, and 27th in batting average in 2012. To compete in the AL East, the Rays must know that they need to score more runs. Their DH spot was 13thout of 14 AL teams in OPS at just .684. The slash line for their DH position was .229/.288/.396. That’s terrible for a position that is designated just for hitting (I know cuz it’s in the position’s title).
Enter Billy Butler. I know; it hurts me just to think it. But in tough times, and these are tough times for the Royals in terms of starting pitching, tough decisions must be made. Let me state first that I love Billy. I think he is underrated and easily the best hitter in the Royals’ lineup. That’s the thing, he’s very good, and in order to get someone who is good, the Royals will probably have to give up someone who is good. Imagine what the Rays could do with a DH hitting .313/.373/.510 with 29 home runs and 107 RBI.
The question, for the Royals, should really revolve around if they can afford to lose Butler. Can they make up for his production if they trade him? The answer is maybe. If Eric Hosmer bounces back from his abysmal 2012, and the Royals remove heads from rectums on Wil Myers place in the organization by giving him a starting spot out of spring training, they could make up for Butler’s production, at least a little. Add to those the continued progression of Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, and the offensive production for the Royals looks fairly decent.
Who would take over at DH? That’s a good question. I think, for now, the best option would be a situational rotation. Since the Royals won’t be able to dump Jeff Francoeur, they could bat him against lefties and Clint Robinson against righties. I like that plan a little.
There is one caveat to this plan (besides the obvious that it is equal parts pipe dream and shroom fueled delusion): Butler alone is not enough to get Moore. That seems crazy when considering how productive and still young Butler is. But Butler really only has value as a DH, and his contract isn’t nearly as team friendly as Moore’s, though it is still team friendly. I tossed out this question to my brother to help me consider who, on top of Butler, the Royals might have to give up if the Rays were willing to trade Moore. Here are some names we came up with: Yordano Ventura, Jake Odorizzi, Louis Coleman, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, basically anyone in the bullpen.
I would be ok with the Royals giving up Butler and any of the names above. It would sting to lose any of them, not to mention the punch to the gut of losing Butler, but to change I’m a big believer in the idea that if you always do what you always did you always get what you always got. Butler is a valuable to both the Royals and the Rays. If the Rays are even willing to talk about Moore, or if another team is willing to talk about a Moore-like pitcher (that’s young and a #2 starter with more upside), the Royals need to be willing to part with Butler to get him.
Note: Robbie at Rays Colored Glasses wrote a response to this piece, proclaiming that Moore is going nowhere.