When the Royals called up Johnny Giavotella to help step in while Omar Infante dealt with some back issues, they opted to send Michael Mariot down, leaving the team with 6 relievers. Since that isn’t a plan the Royals would like to employ for long stretches, they appear likely to call up another reliever before the series against the Rockies begins on Tuesday. And shortly after the Royals’ 9-7 victory over the Mariners on Sunday, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star sent out the following tweet:
The Royals are debating multiple scenarios for adding a reliever. One involves sending Mike Moustakas to Omaha. A decision comes Tuesday.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) May 11, 2014
As McCullough mentions, there are multiple options here, meaning that optioning Mike Moustakas to Triple-A is far from a certainty. Despite Giavotella’s play, I wouldn’t be that surprised if he is sent back down, and Justin Maxwell‘s poor performance in limited time may lead to his dismissal. However, the fact that the Royals are thinking about demoting Moustakas is a positive sign.
It’s not just that the Royals are considering it, either. It’s that they are publicly stating as much. A team that is notorious for sticking up for players beyond a reasonable point is admitting something must be done.
This move, though, is essentially a no-brainer. Moustakas is actively hurting the team, so it makes sense to demote him, but the Royals aren’t always known for doing things that make sense. Part of the reason some have suggested to stick with Moose is his defense, and he is a solid defender at third base. But third base defense isn’t one of the most important defensive positions on the field, and in my opinion, that impact is lessened even more with this pitching staff.
Don’t get me wrong. Good defense is always nice to have, but the Royals only have one starter that would be considered a ground ball pitcher. The other four still allow ground balls, obviously, but they will tend to rely on the excellent outfield defense a bit more. I think the Royals could get by with a below average defender at third, as long as he hits.
That leads me to what the Royals could do at third, if they decide to send Moustakas down. Danny Valencia would likely be the first choice, although his struggles against right-handed pitching should give the team pause about choosing him. Luckily, Giavotella has a bit of experience at third, and actually carries a reverse platoon split, meaning a Gio/Valencia platoon could work out.
There’s no guarantee either or both of those players will produce at even a league average level offensively, but they are almost certainly going to be an improvement over what the Royals have gotten from Moose thus far. I still think Moose is playing below his true talent level, but the team can’t afford to sit around and wait for some potential turnaround. They have to at least try something new in an effort to get some production from third base so they don’t fall too far back from the rest of the playoff hopefuls in the American League.
Gio and Valencia may not be the answer for this struggling offense, but right now, Moustakas definitely isn’t.
Granted, if Infante’s back is still bothering him on Tuesday when the team makes this decision, that might complicate things. And even if Infante is healthy, the Royals might still keep Moose on the big league roster. Far crazier things have been done with this team.
Maybe the joy of Sunday’s win is clouding my judgment, but Dayton Moore’s comments about players being held accountable, combined with this public statement about the possibility of Moose going down, lead me to believe the team understands the position they are in. I actually think the Royals will do what needs to be done, and demote Moustakas on Tuesday.