Jul 19, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) delivers a pitch in the fifth inning of the game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

2013 MLB Trade Deadline: Decision Time Looming For the Royals

The Royals ended the weekend at .500 following a six game winning streak. That leaves them seven games behind the Tigers for the AL Central lead and five games behind the Wild Card spots.

After an awful May and a rough finish heading towards the All-Star Break, it’s a spot that is a surprise to many fans to see them back at .500. And now, with just days left before the trading deadline (or at least the non-waiver deadline), they find themselves in more of a position to buy than to sell. Just last week, there were ideas about what Ervin Santana may return in a trade, what Greg Holland might be worth on the market, and even what Luke Hochevar could fetch.

And now, flip all of that because the Royals may seek upgrades in the lineup.

This feels like a key moment in the Dayton Moore era. There’s a shot – though it’s a slim one – that the Royals can overtake both Cleveland and Detroit (who both rattled off winning streaks – Detroit won three in a row, Cleveland four). They have to weigh the opportunity to buy with their true chances. If it’s a 50/50 shot, then you buy, but the Royals have less than a 2% chance of making it. That’s pretty flimsy.

They’ve been noted to be interested in Chase Utley previously this year, but with Utley being a pending free agent, is that worth trading Yordano Ventura (and likely more)? Likely not. Ventura could help in 2014 while Utley would be gone. It may be a moot point anyway, as the Phillies are talking extension with Utley now.

So that puts them in the odd position of having a good market for Santana, but still looking for this year. That’s how Jeff Passan characterizes their current mood. They don’t want to dump players and look to next year. They’re looking for now. Even to sell Santana, they’d have to be overwhelmed.

It seems that the Royals are content with their outfield of Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, David Lough, and Jarrod Dyson, so that’s at least one less hole to fill. They’d been tied to Alex Rios before, but that seems to have fizzled out, but he’s the kind of option they’d be seeking – a player who they’d be able to use the rest of this season as well as next year (Rios has another year on his current contract and there’s a team option for 2015 as well). That helps now and down the line, so he’d be more than just a rental. But, again, they seem comfortable with their outfield as it is.

Jul 28, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels infielder Howie Kendrick (47) is congratulated by outfielder Kole Calhoun (56) after scoring a run against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

So the next spot is to upgrade at second base. Utley’s a tough guy to go after, as he’s going to be a free agent and two months of Utley doesn’t help anyone. But while the Royals have decisions to make, other teams have started to indicate that they’re selling. Ken Rosenthal reported that the Angels will listen to offers for Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar.

Kendrick is a career .293/.330/.430 second baseman who’s under contract through 2015 at less than $10 million per season. He’s recently turned 30 years old and is mostly a contact guy with occasional pop (his career high in homers is 18 but his 11 would tie for the team lead today). Considering the Royals have had no production at second all season, he’s an attractive target – if the price is right. The Angels are said to be looking for a pitcher with multiyear control.

Would that be Ventura? Danny Duffy? Perhaps Will Smith in a return to his original organization? Maybe even Chris Dwyer? I doubt the latter two would be enough, but Ventura or Duffy should do it. Then the question is if it’s the right move. Does upgrading from [insert second baseman here] to Kendrick yield more value than would keeping Ventura or Duffy? Do the extra years of Kendrick tip the scales? What about how he might age? If bat speed suffers in the next two years, the Royals would be paying upside for what turns out to be just a brief upgrade.

That’s the kind of deal the Royals need to look for though. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports suggests that the Royals are looking for a good finish to this season just as much as a potential playoff spot, which suggests that they want to make some move to get them a more secure shot at .500 or better at the end of the year. Going after a player that helps beyond this season is the way to go, but the cost can’t be at high-potential talent just for the sake of getting there. Getting to .500 this year would be significant progress on paper, but if it costs a potential starter for 2014, when the Royals may have a better shot at the playoffs (and in future years with someone like Ventura, Duffy or even Kyle Zimmer), the more prudent move is to at least stand pat.

That is, unless trading Santana gets a starter with a few years of control left (or a major league ready pitching prospect and more) can keep the Royals at their current pace and load up future seasons with talent.

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Tags: 2013 MLB Trade Deadline Ervin Santana Howie Kendrick Kansas City Royals MLB

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