Kansas City Royals Need a True Ace in the Rotation

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Last season, the Kansas City Royals came tantalizingly close to winning the World Series, essentially seeing their run through the postseason thwarted by the efforts of Madison Bumgarner. The Royals offense, which had come alive in the postseason, was no match for the Giants’ ace, who allowed only one run on nine hits and a walk. Kansas City just did not have an answer for him on offense.

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While the Royals struggles to do anything against Bumgarner were well noted, they also did not have a pitcher to match him in the rotation. James Shields, who was the Royals nominal ace, struggled in the World Series and was generally outclassed by the Giants lefty. It is quite easy to suggest that a pitcher like Madison Bumgarner was the difference in the World Series, especially as the Royals were 3-1 when not facing him.

So what is the point of dredging up such bittersweet memories? Well, a lot of attention has been given to the Royals rotation this year, and their general lack of success. While the rotation has improved, they still do not have that true front of the rotation option. Yes, Yordano Ventura is expected to develop into that role, and is the de facto ace of the Royals, but he is not a “true” ace at this point.

Looking over the past World Series winners, that ace pitcher has been a constant. The Giants had Bumgarner last year. The Red Sox had Jon Lester. Chris Carpenter, Tim Lincecum and C.C. Sabathia were all prominent parts of their teams rotations, true stoppers that were able to face any lineup and bring confidence that they would be able to shut down the opposition. In fact, we may need to go back to the 2005 Chicago White Sox to find a World Series winning team that did not have an in their prime ace, unless one wants to count Mark Buehrle.

Perhaps that is what is missing from the Royals. Danny Duffy himself talked about how important it was for him to have a pitcher like Shields, not just from the mental side, but in knowing that someone like that was fronting the rotation, taking that leadership role. Perhaps the Royals need that true top of the rotation starter, letting the other pitchers be themselves and to take the pressure off of Ventura and Duffy to be something they may not yet be.

Obviously, it is easier said than done to acquire an ace pitcher. Even though that label gets passed around, the truth is, not many true ace starters are out there. That is why pitchers such as Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels, both of which are considered available, are such valued commodities. Although it is unlikely that the Royals could resign Cueto, and the overall price tag for Hamels may be far more than what the Royals are willing to pay, it still makes sense for Dayton Moore to consider these options. Over the past decade, it has been proven that it takes an ace to win the World Series.

Is it worth the Kansas City Royals possibly mortgaging the future to bring in an ace for this season? If the goal is to win the World Series, and this starting rotation is not at that level, then it may well be. Dayton Moore and the Royals may have an interesting summer ahead of them.

Next: Royals Starting Rotation Joins the Party

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