Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The second “half” of the season is officially underway, which means the next major event coming up is the trade deadline on July 31. Trades can happen after that date, but then you get into the whole waiver process, and that can get murky at times, so we’ll just focus on the non-waiver trade deadline for now. Following the Royals’ disappointing loss to the Red Sox last night, they are tied with the Indians for second in the division, and tied with the Indians, Blue Jays, and Yankees for third in the Wild Card standings, 2.5 games behind the Mariners. Needless to say, the race is bunched up at the moment.
With so many teams in the hunt for a playoff spot, one would expect to see quite a few trades in the coming weeks. Every team mentioned above is flawed in some way, and every team mentioned above could use some help from outside their organization. The Royals are no exception.
The Royals need help on offense, and there’s really no debating that. It’s possible the current roster could see enough positive regression to improve to a competitive level, but to increase the odds, they would be better served to pursue a bat or two on the trade market. The problem, of course, is that the team’s chances for making the playoffs aren’t great, in part because there are so many teams competing for basically one spot, and also competing for those trade targets. The Royals need some help.
Luckily for them, their schedule in the next two weeks could be just the help they need.
Last night notwithstanding, the Royals have a fairly easy schedule down the stretch, at least on paper. Before last night, 52 of their remaining 68 games were against teams with a .500 record or worse. In the next 12 games, they’ll play just 4 games against teams above .500, with a series against the Indians, who sit at 48-47. Eleven of those games will be played prior to the trade deadline on the afternoon of the 31st, which means the next two weeks are extremely critical for the Royals.
If they can bounce back to win the series in Boston, they’ll be set up to head to Chicago to face a bad White Sox team, followed by that 4-game set with the Indians in Kansas City, and then they wrap up the month against the Twins. Those 11 games before the deadline present an enormous opportunity for the Royals to create a bit of separation between themselves and the .500 mark, which will put them in a position where one trade acquisition could be enough to push them to the playoffs.
While the schedule appears to be less difficult, wins are certainly not guaranteed. If things do not go well, and the Royals lose 7 or 8 of the next 11, they may find themselves in a position to sell pieces, rather than buy them. Now, I’m not expecting the team to sell, regardless of how poorly they do, but it would make sense to get what you can for someone like James Shields, if the Royals fall too far back.
But if the team does take advantage of their upcoming schedule, they could look to buy the bat they need to bolster their lineup, and they may be at the point on the win curve where a slight overpay in prospects may be merited. I don’t think there are any bats on the market who will require a top prospect to acquire, but if the Royals are close enough to a playoff spot, it would be justifiable to surrender potential wins in the future for an increased likelihood of wins in 2014.
Then again, there is the very real possibility that the Royals just hang around the same record they currently have, remaining in the jumbled pile of flawed teams slap-fighting each other for a chance at a one-game playoff. In that case, they’ll still need help, but it may be tougher to pull the trigger on a big trade, since the odds of the playoffs would still not be terribly high.
Regardless of which direction they go, the Royals undoubtedly are in a strong position heading into the trade deadline. Their schedule should allow them to improve their place in the standings, and if things go well, they’ll be able to make a trade to give them the boost they need to break their historically sad playoff drought.