By Brian Henry
Five days ago I started to get excited about the prospect of discussing trades to bolster the Royals for the stretch run. Five days ago I thought about sweeping the Yankees in their home stadium. Five days ago the playoffs didn’t seem terribly far away. Today, five losses later, I am raising the white flag.
The American League Central standings still have Detroit at the top, a full eight games above the Royals. Even worse, the Royals just lost three full games to Cleveland to fall six and a half behind second place. An extra playoff spot is of no help either with the Royals sitting nine and a half out of the last wildcard spot, and five teams between them and that last spot as well. According to Baseball Prospectus the Royals have a 0.7% chance of making the playoffs and according to Buster Olney they have the toughest remaining schedule, so it is going to take a series of lucky breaks and much better play for the first postseason appearance since 1985 to come to fruition.
Jun 18, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Cleveland won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
What this means for the front office is that they have their answer. Renting any player for the rest of the year makes no sense, so any possible trades should be focusing on 2014 and beyond. This is actually still a different mindset than a lot of past years. At this point in the year it has usually been a fire-sale mindset, where anything of value that wasn’t bolted down had to go. This year’s team is not in that position. Almost everyone of importance will be back next year, so it is more about upgrading by jettisoning anything that is not a part of the next run.
That leads mostly to Ervin Santana. He is the most obvious trade piece as long as you can get back more than he will be worth in draft pick compensation (this should also increase his trade value). There are also more viable bullpen arms than positions, so I would like to see them used if the right opportunity presents itself. If the team still doesn’t believe in Johnny Giavotella, then now is the time to see what you can get for him (though you have already killed his trade value). Finally, I would be looking to shop David Lough based on his hot start and lack of on-base skills that will probably catch up to him. Also, if you could upgrade a specific position, most likely 3B, SS, or RF, I would be willing to talk about the current starters in those positions as well. For the right deal nobody should be off the table, so I am just pointing on the most likely candidates.
One large problem may impede the idea of selling any talent this year, and that is whether Dayton Moore has enough political capital with the owner to throw in the towel. It is possible that his job is on the line, and that might make him more likely to hold onto everything of value and hope for a miracle. There are now two and a half weeks until the trade deadline. Dayton, I implore you to trade sooner rather than later. Ervin’s stock is not likely to get much higher, and the pool of potential bidders will will only shrink. There is still hope for this team over the next few years, but there is not a lot left for this one.
I will probably post more about targets going forward, but for now just the first team I would call, the Texas Rangers. This is a team accustomed to winning, expecting a playoff birth, and clinging to the wildcard. It is also a team that desperately needs a starting pitcher. Their ace, Yu Darvish, just went on the DL and Justin Grimm has been sent to the bullpen. They cannot be comfortable with the current situation.
The Rangers also have two guys that the Royals should be interested in, and both of them are part of a middle infield log jam. Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar are who I would ask about. They both might be too expensive for different reasons, but I would give a significant amount up for Profar to upgrade SS and possibly 2B at the same time. Can you imagine him and Alcides Escobar as a keystone combo? They want Ervin, Yordano Ventura, and Greg Holland, then I say done. Anyway, one pipe dream of many to come as trade rumors abound. I just hope that the Royals can read the writing on the wall and get something productive done.