Rumors. That’s what they all are, maybe. Rumors are fun; rumors are exciting. Rumors are an enjoyable fantasy that allows fans to play their version of GM, and allows fans to have their take on what they would do, if this were MLB The Show in real life.
What rumors can also be is terrifying, worrying, and head scratching. Rumors can make a fan’s head spin with joyous confusion, and blood boil with angering rage. The Royals, it would seem, are at the center of all rumors that do this on a daily basis.
The most prevalent of rumors for the past, oh, two months now, is that the Kansas City Royals are willing – if not eager – to trade for a top-of-the-rotation starter at the expense of some offensive firepower. It’s been said that the team is reluctant to part with established major leaguers, but the deeper into the offseason we get with names coming off the availability board, the more worrisome it gets that Dayton Moore will push the panic button and do something drastic that may do more harm than good.
The three most mentioned names in the rumors are Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler. Each has the reasons for and against trading (most against) yet the appeal of acquiring a pitcher to dress up a flawed roster, seems to be too alluring.
As long as the Royals are in the mode to spend something they don’t have much of – talent – in lieu of something they actually have available – money – the possibility of trading any of these three hitters goes up immensely.
I’ve already touched on the case against trading Wil Myers, as did Dave Cameron at FanGraphs (much better than me), but as reluctant I would be to trade Wil Myers, the idea of trading either one of the other two players is absolutely frightening:
Billy Butler – the team’s best pure hitter and only one of two in lineup that’s willing to be patient enough to take a walk at the rate of a player that’s played baseball after the decade of the 80s. Butler represents all that the Royals have avoided over the past six years: players with at least one extreme skill.
As a player, Butler is flawed. He’s not the “well rounded” (well, not in terms of talent) player the Royals seek, and because of that what he does well – damn well – has been ignored by the organization and fans.
Trading Butler makes sense in theory. The Royals need pitching if they’re expected to compete in 2013, and teams with pitching that can make a difference (Tampa Bay for instance*) will only part with that talent if it allows them to still compete next season as well.
*I’m doubting the Rays acquisition of James Loney means they wouldn’t still be interested in Butler.
To get something you have to give up something, and if the Royals do trade their most proven hitter who will be just 27 years old in April, they’re going to be creating a bigger hole than the one they had to begin with. The lineup is flawed as it stands now, and Butler is one of two dependable bats the Royals have.
Eric Hosmer – the enigma. Hosmer two years ago was a top three prospect in baseball and widely regarded as “can’t miss” as can’t miss can be. And then 2012.
Hosmer struggled, badly. And the problem with Hosmer struggling in 2012 as a sophomore instead of 2011 as a rookie is that’s it’s fresh. It’s the most recent group of statistics we have of Hosmer and because of that, his pedigree and resume are being completely forgotten. If there truly is a need to “make a trade that hurts”, as some have written, trading Hosmer would hurt.
Teams do all they can to acquire stars. Stars are what win championships because they’re the ones that can provide the most impact from a single spot on the roster. Stars need to be given every opportunity to become stars; they don’t come around often.
Eric Hosmer two years ago was a can’t-miss star. He was everyone’s darling with the athleticism, bat speed, plate discipline, defense, and attitude. If his rookie season and last season were flipped, no one would be saying a word. But they’re not, and they are.
The Royals (especially with their self-imposed small market ideals) need stars. The Royals need to wait until they just can’t anymore to allow Hosmer to be what he profiles out to being.
The Royals may see their window as wide open entering 2013, but in reality, it may not even be cracked yet. Panicking and trading three pieces that are all difference makers, or potential difference makers that provide talent that isn’t on the roster elsewhere, may just shut that window for good.