The Royals can go Risky-Retro on Rotation


Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, with Matt Garza‘s “almost signing”, there was a ton of Ervin Santana chatter on the internet yesterday.  Kings of Kauffman was no exception.  Most of the writers here and most Royals fans feel the team is a #2 starter away from a post season appearance.

As I wrote yesterday, the Royals can take one of three routes with their rotation.  One route is great.  One route is risky.  One route spells disaster.  Signing Santana would be great.  It’s the safest, most solid move the team can make for their rotation.  Ubaldo Jimenez  also fits that bill, but he’s probably going to cost even more than Santana.

Of course, there is more than one road to success for the Royals and their rotation.  The Royals could insert Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy into the rotation on opening day, and call up Kyle Zimmer as early as May to join them.  If the Royals want to see continued success, it will have to come from young pitching they control.  If the Royals want to go deep, and not just qualify for next year’s post season, it will ride on the upside quality of their young arms. With higher risks come higher rewards.  This formula produced the ultimate prize for the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

In 1984, The Royals squeaked into the play offs with a 84-78 record.  They were promptly rolled by an incredible Detroit Tiger club.  In 1985, 23-year-old Danny Jackson replaced Larry Gura in the rotation.  He joined fellow whipper snappers, Mark Gubicza, 23, and the barely pubescent 21-year-old Bret Saberhagen.  Veteran 28-year-old Bud Black, and an ancient 29-year-old Charlie Leibrandt were kept in the rotation.

The 1985 Opening Day rotation order was Black, Gubicza, Jackson, Liebrandt, and Saberhagen.  Yep, Sabes started off as the #5 starter.  Leibrandt was solid as a rock in 1985.  Black regressed badly, and the young guns all took huge leaps forward after getting their feet wet in 1984.

One could forecast similar results for this year’s Royals.  32-year-old James Shields has to be an anchor.  Either the 34-year-old Jeremy Guthrie or 31-year-old Jason Vargas needs to be average.  (Look up average major league starter in the dictionary and see their images)  Finally, and I mean finally, the Royals then need their highly drafted, young pitchers to blossom. If 25-year-old Danny Duffy is going to be a front of the rotation guy, his time is now.  Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer need to play the part of Danny Jackson and Bret Saberhagen.  Both are 22 years old.  History says teams like the Royals need young pitchers they drafted to become Cy Young candidates in order for deep post season runs to occur.  See David Price now for Tampa, remember Brett Saberhagen for the 85 Royals, and Dwight Gooden for the 85 and 86 Mets.

Considering the Royals past track record, it feels more foolish than risky to advocate this plan.  If Dayton Moore has yet to hit on one young starter, how can they hope to hit on three in one season?  It’s risky, but not crazy.  The rest of baseball has thought very highly of all three young pitchers, and damn it, the Royals are due.  Yes, this is a risky road, but it could deliver the sweetest possible results.

If one or two of the pups just aren’t ready, there would be Vargas as insurance and opportunities to trade for a starter.  One would hope their would be some money in the coffers for such a trade at the All Star break, after trading away certain players making way too much money in their current roles as relievers.  Certain players we’ll discuss tomorrow in the “disaster rotation route” installment.