The KC Royals have a rough spot or two. Is it time to pursue some help?
Few things stir the passion of baseball fans more than trade talk. A few minutes perusing baseball media and websites prove, as the KC Royals prepare to play just their 20th game of this young season today, that trade speculation is always fair game. It’s never too early.
But is deal chatter about the Royals incongruous with their division lead? No, because no team or fan base can escape it. Discussing, denying, and projecting trades is a year-round part of baseball. It never ends, but that’s all right.
And although they’re new and improved, these Royals aren’t perfect. There are rough edges to this team, so long-term contention isn’t a given. To smooth out those edges, should the club search for a deal or two? If you think so, a couple of positions come to mind.
Adalberto Mondesi’s absence makes shortstop a KC Royals’ question.
The nagging oblique issue currently robbing Adalberto Mondesi and fans of their chance to determine whether his spectacular conclusion to last season was merely baseball lightning caught in a Royal bottle, or the precursor of good things to come, continues. Mondesi’s .356/.408/.667, six homer, 20 RBI September salvaged an otherwise disastrous campaign, and his subsequent .303/.343/.606 spring effort suggested he’d found consistency at the plate.
Mondesi will return eventually, but when and for how long are the questions his injury history begs. A recent report hints of a longer absence, and Mondesi’s durability isn’t the best. Should the Royals deal for a short term solution who’s better and can provide more pop than Nicky Lopez?
Lopez, of course, is Mondesi’s replacement, and a mildly surprising one at that. Expected was his excellent glove; what wasn’t is his improved bat. Lopez has so far replaced his poor hitting with a better than Lopez-normal performance. Through Saturday, he’s hitting .269 with seven RBIs, and he’s played in every game and reduced his strikeout percentage to 10 from 2020’s 21.4.
Hanser Alberto started at shortstop Saturday (Lopez replaced him there in the ninth when Alberto moved to third) and played well; in two games at short this season, he hasn’t made an error, and he’s been better than average there in 23 career games. He has the arm and moves required to play the position.
Shortstop, then, appears to be in adequate hands as the Royals await Mondesi’s return; no need for a trade there. (And if Mondesi and Alberto can’t cut it at some point, there’s always Bobby Witt Jr., but that’s a discussion for another day).
The KC Royals’ rotation has had good and bad moments. Could a trade help?
Wouldn’t Kansas City love to have Jacob deGrom, Shane Bieber, Trevor Bauer, or Clayton Kershaw? Of course. But not a one of them is on the trade block or for sale.
Then there’s Max Scherzer, Washington’s wonderful starter who finds himself the object of early trade speculation. Scherzer will likely come with a price too high for the rental piece he’d probably be (this is the final year of his contract), and the KC Royals shouldn’t be willing to pay that kind of price at this point in their rejuvenation.
But Kansas City’s rotation definitely needs help—although Danny Duffy, Brady Singer and Jakob Junis are pitching well, the Royals won’t stay in first place, or in its vicinity, unless Brad Keller and Mike Minor become more consistent. Minor was outstanding against Detroit Friday night, and Keller gets a chance to steady himself against the Tigers Monday afternoon.
Any success Minor and Keller might achieve, though, can’t be fleeting if the Royals want to keep their hopes of contention high. Consistency is the key, and the sooner it comes—if it does—the better. Does that mean Kansas City needs to launch a search for help?
No. It’s too early for that. Keller and Minor have only four starts apiece; although both have struggled, the measure of four games is hardly a sufficient basis upon which to remove either one from the rotation.
Instead, the Royals must exercise patience with both. The club knows what they can do—only if they don’t improve in their next few starts should General Manager Dayton Moore seriously consider alternatives. And he should look first in his own backyard if that happens: Ervin Santana is certainly worth a try as a long-term fix, and the franchise has a wealth of talent on the verge of major league readiness.
The improved Royals still have some wrinkles to iron out. But at this point, trades aren’t necessary.