When we left Part 1 of our series about the 2017 KC Royals, the July trade deadline was near and the club was in contention. Dayton Moore had a decision to make: keep key players and seek additional help, or trade them for prospects?
The KC Royals started July of 2017 just three games out of first place in the AL Central, a position warranting serious discussion about the roster: the front office needed to decide whether to buy, sell, or stand pat. The club’s promising position in the standings essentially took the last option off the table; General Manager Dayton Moore needed to make a move.
The Royals didn’t waste time forcing Moore’s hand. They closed out June with a home win over Minnesota, then won two of three against the Twins and swept a three-game set in Seattle to start July 5-1. They were a half-game back; clearly, it was time for Moore to strengthen his team.
But he waited. And as he waited, the club lost seven of eight after leaving Seattle and dropped to three games back by the time play ended July 18.
The wait ended July 24–on the day the club won its sixth of nine straight games, Moore pulled the trigger on a six-player deal with the Padres, sending promising (albeit injured) pitcher Matt Strahm, pitcher Travis Wood, minor leaguer Esteury Ruiz and some cash to San Diego for pitchers Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Trevor Cahill.
Four days later, the Royals recalled Terrance Gore, a move a non-contending team wouldn’t have made until the annual September roster expansion, but the timing made sense because the club won its ninth in a row that night to trail by only two games. Moore’s final move came July 30 when he traded minor leaguers Andre Davis and A.J. Puckett to the White Sox for veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera (and some cash).
Except for Cain and Vargas (Cain dropped to .247, Vargas’ ERA skyrocketed to 7.23 and he went 1-1), the soon-to-be core free agents played well again: Hosmer hit .379 with six homers and 21 RBI; Moustakas matched Hosmer’s RBI total and added nine homers while hitting .287; and Escobar drove in 17 runs and hit .260.
As July ended and August began, the Royals were just two games out.