Did the KC Royals, Dayton Moore lay a trade deadline egg?

The KC Royals walked into the trade deadline ice cream store earlier this week and left it today not with a banana split, or even a double sugar cone featuring the flavor of the day.

Instead, the Royals might have settled for a scoop of plain vanilla with no toppings, not even a candy sprinkle or two.

Many fans of the club, ever hopeful for good things happening at the least likely times during the Dayton Moore regime, have likely been disappointed once again. The midsummer deal deadline passed this afternoon, and with it went any thoughts of immediate organizational improvement.

Kansas City’s gain, in fact, is a player to be named later and two relievers, both of whom they assigned to the minors. The Royals shipped Danny Duffy to the Dodgers Thursday afternoon for a player to be named later, paid cash to Toronto for reliever Joel Payamps last week and assigned him to Triple-A Omaha, and then, in an apparent buzzer-beating deal right before the deadline, traded Jorge Soler to the Braves for reliever Kasey Kalich:

FanSided’s own Robert Murray had the deal before it was officially announced:

So, at the end of the day, Kansas City traded a fan favorite (Duffy) who, despite two left forearm flexor injuries, has pitched some of the greatest innings of his career this season, and a power hitter (Soler) who’s miserable performance at the plate this season is mitigated only slightly by his brief post-All-Star game resurgence. The returns on both deals aren’t overwhelming (at least not yet) and no blockbuster deals materialized for KC. Some payroll shedding occurred, but not much considering Duffy and Soler are over half-way through the final years of their current contracts.

But let’s not kid ourselves. This was never going to be Christmas in July for Kansas City. That Moore and the Royals were going to ho-hum us again became all but certain late Thursday when Kansas City Star Royals writer Lynn Worthy reported this from the KC GM after the Duffy trade:

It’s difficult to interpret Moore’s message as anything other than a signal there wasn’t much, if anything, his team had left to do. Or would do.

If we didn’t get the not-so-subtle message, it’s our own fault for not paying attention.

Kansas City fans should at least be thankful, though, that this trade week wasn’t the disaster Moore presided over in 2017 when his ill-fated plan to keep the club in the race for the postseason produced the awful deal that brought Brandon Maurer to Kansas City. Trying desperately to win one more playoff berth before the inevitable departure of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar to free agency, Moore sent a trio of players, including Matt Strahm, to the Padres for Maurer, Ryan Buchter, and Trevor Cahill.

Maurer went 2-2 with an 8.10 ERA for the Royals that season, and 0-4, 7.76 the next. He hasn’t seen the majors since. And the Royals didn’t make the playoffs.

Where does the KC Royals’ 2021 trade deadline performance leave the team?

Because the Duffy, Payamps and Kalich deals are somewhat positive for the KC Royals, they’ll never approach the dark depths of the Maurer fiasco. Duffy’s contract ends after this season, so the KC Royals guaranteed themselves at least some return by trading him to the Dodgers. And the deal doesn’t foreclose the possibility of him returning to Kansas City next season, a move that could assure him of realizing his desire to finish up as a Royal.

And Payamps? He’s a talented fireballer with potential to add depth to a Kansas City bullpen to which Wade Davis certainly, and Greg Holland possibly, won’t return; other relievers may also fall by the wayside. And cash consideration deals like Payamps’ rarely involve much financial risk.

Kasey Kalich? The righthander was Atlanta’s fourth round pick in the 2019 draft and owns a two-season 1-3, 2.42 minor league record. He’s struck out 59 batters and walked 28 in 52 innings, and is 0-2 with a 3.26 ERA in 20 High-A relief appearances this year. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the Braves’ No. 21 prospect before Thursday’s trade.

But not making bad deals doesn’t make Moore’s latest deadline work great. As long as he remained unwilling to—or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, couldn’t for the right price—trade Whit Merrifield, Mike Minor, Carlos Santana, all of whom are under contract for next season, or Michael A. Taylor, Hanser Alberto, or even Jarrod Dyson, all of whom are playing under contracts that expire after this season, the face of these Royals, for whom a 90-loss season is quite possible, wasn’t going to change much.

And unless KC moves some of those under-control players, doesn’t re-sign those on one-year deals, signs a good free agent or two this winter, and decides it’s time to promote the likes of Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto, and Jackson Kowar, next season’s KC Royals will look much like the present version.

Then, we’ll all have to wait for the 2022 trade deadline…

The Royals unsurprisingly made no big trades this week. Whether they laid a trade deadline egg is in the eye of the beholder.