The Monday Rant: The Trade Deadline Cometh


There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said. This season has to rank among the most disappointing of the last two decades – given the amount of unreal expectations entering Spring Training – and for the Royals, that’s saying something.

And as the Royals fade into oblivion yet again, there are rumors (aren’t there always?) that Dayton Moore is in talks with just about every team, about every player, as the trade deadline approaches. Of course, with those rumors always comes the caveat that the Royals need to be compelled to trade any of their players.

Yeah, because as this roster is currently constructed, contention is imminent, and trading players would negatively affect the future.

Aside from the obvious reasons to not hang on to a mostly untalented roster, there’s a stiff breeze blowing from the south from a franchise that’s wide-open for trading business, and looks intent on sending everything packing that’s not bolted firmly to the floor.

Jeff Luhnow took over the Houston Astros’ GM position in December – leaving the Cardinals organization and being a major player in their rising success over the past few years – and immediately became the (new) jewel of the saber-community eye. He interviewed Keith Law. He hired Mike Fast.* He immediately started unloading his over-valued, over-priced players nearing the end of their contracts.

*An admitted Royals fan. Poor guy.

And as this season’s trade deadline is nearing, the Astros have traded their closer (ahem), their first baseman, their third baseman, and their best starting pitcher. What each deal brought in return doesn’t matter as much as the reasons for doing so.

The Astros are a bad team, and holding on to players who a) can easily be replaced by a minor leaguer (Chris Johnson) b) serve little purpose on a losing ball club (Brett Myers) or c) just aren’t that good anymore past their recognizable name, would be a huge mistake (Carlos Lee). Huge.

Granted, where the Astros are in their process of rebuilding is (presumably, at least in narrative) different than where the Royals currently are in theirs. But the correlation between each of those causes for trades with Houston and Luhnow serves as a stark reminder of the missteps so far with Dayton Moore during his regime, and ones that hopefully he’s not repeating as the clock ends the deadline tomorrow.

A)   Jeff Francoeur, Yuniesky Betancourt: two players currently on the roster that can, and most assuredly would, be more than adequately replaced by younger, cheaper players currently in Triple-A. Of course, at this point, another team would have to want either of these players, and there’s little reason to think any objective mind would care to have Francoeur wounded-giraffing his way around their outfield and swinging at everything that moves at the plate, or Betancourt Betancourting everywhere.

B)   Jonathan Broxton, or, Joakim Soria redux: the “closer” is a largely overrated role on a pitching staff anyway, but especially one on a regime that has yet to finish a season less than 10 games under .500. There’s no place for Broxton on this team anymore, given how bad that been over the past month-plus, and now would be the ideal time to find out if Aaron Crow, Greg Holland, Tim Collins, or Kelvin Herrera can step in to fill the role in order to prepare for next season.

C)   Jeff Francoeur, again: this one is just too easy.  Francoeur at this point in his career is quite possibly the worst everyday player in baseball. His negative 1.7 fWAR is the lowest in the major leagues, and there’s no amount of contrived leadership or naked batting practice that can make up for that. The contract offered to Francoeur was a mistake then, and remains a beacon for the reason teams should never pay for a player coming off a career year, before his positional market establishes. Dayton Moore beat the market to the punch when he signed Francoeur to his 2 year, $13MM deal, and the market punched back with a right-hook from hell.

If the Royals really wanted to be daring they would take this opportunity of over-valued relievers, and float the idea of a Broxton-plus package that consisted of both he and one of the other very cheap, and very young, bullpen arms.

Losing Holland, Collins, Herrera, or Crow could be a tough pill to swallow simply from a salary stand point, but there’s few other players currently on the roster that the Royals could flip in exchange for actual talent, and not have it be a major setback to the overall goal.

No matter the case, whether the Royals choose to be daring or practical as the final hours of the deadline approach, they cannot afford to stand-pat. Patience in The Process has been preached each year at this time, and because of that, moves that could have made a dramatic impact on the roster haven’t been done.

For this season, one in which more questions were raised than answers given, it would be nice if the Royals took a page out of the Houston playbook and made a concerted effort to trade everyone that doesn’t look to figure into the 2013 roster plans.

The Good

Well, um, there’s…well there’s…and there’s…

Billy Butler was named AL Player of the Week? Yeah, I guess that works. In his last 21 games Butler has been – well he’s been Billy Butler.

If it weren’t for Butler (.378/.440/.561 in his last 21 games) and Alex Gordon (.352/.406/.473 in his last 21 games) there would be little reason to watch the Royals on a nightly basis. Heck, probably even a weekly basis.

The Bad

Where’s a good place to start? The Royals have lost 21 of their last 27 games and the optimizing that was brewing at the start of June, has quickly faded back to the normal KC-fan despondence. The Twins, whom all Royals fans got pleasure in (finally) being able to mock to start the season, have climbed ahead of the Royals in the standings by slugging their way to victories despite missing Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe for a handful of games.

Yes, Buddy Bell was right.

Is there anything to look forward to? Heck, who knows? The quick answer would be “yes” because with each passing day the Royals are that much closer to calling up Wil Myers, but because that roster move has been inexplicably put-off for over a month now, it’s more likely that it won’t happen until September.

The Royals keep using the argument that a spot needs to be created for Myers before he can make his trek to Kansas City, but when the player he’s replacing is Jeff Francoeur, that would be like a TV network saying they just can’t find a place for the new Louis C.K. pilot because they already have ‘Whitney’ in that time slot. A change is a necessity, not a burden.

The Upcoming

The Royals next six games are against a Cleveland team that’s looking to unload some of its veteran, high-cost players, and a Texas team that’s likely to come into Kauffman Stadium and hit 27 homeruns in their three-game set.

So, a mid-summer home stand watching an (again) basement dwelling team on a massive losing stretch? That sounds super fun.