Never have I been wedded to the notion that stars must be traded when they near or reach their peaks. While the concept may apply to a few players, it doesn't make sense for others whose value to their teams makes trading them unwise. That's why I've always been against the KC Royals dealing away reliever Scott Barlow.
I wrote during the offseason, for example, after Barlow's superb 2022 showing, that moving him was one of three mistakes the team shouldn't make—why, I argued, trade one of the best members of a pitching staff so short on good results, especially when he's subject to team control this season and next?
But that, as they say, was then. This is now, and my once unwavering opinion about Barlow is no longer what it was.
I've become an advocate, albeit a reluctant one, for trading Barlow. Maybe I'll change my mind, but that's where I am now.
The time is definitely right for the KC Royals to move Scott Barlow
Good teams need good, reliable closers. Bad teams, especially really bad teams, don't, at least not as much as good clubs do.
As presently constituted, and despite just winning two of three games at San Diego, the Royals are, unfortunately, a bad team for whom top-flight closer Barlow pitches. Kansas City still resides in the American League Central cellar with a horrid 14-31 record; only Oakland's disastrous 10-35 season saves the Royals from being the worst team in the majors. And KC must win six of the 11 games left on its May schedule to reach 20 wins before the month ends. That's a tough task for a club that didn't win its sixth game of the season until its 24th contest.
Yes, Barlow saved both of the Royals' victories over the Padres, and has blown only one of seven save opportunities so far. But the fact the Royals have provided so few of those chances says a lot. They don't win enough to put Barlow in many of the situations in which he excels.
And they won't. Not this season, and very possibly not even next year.
So, what's changed for me? The Royals didn't win much last season, or the season before. There was hope, though, that this year might be a little better even if it is, as the club likes to call it, an evaluation season.
But that's a rapidly vanishing hope. The Royals just aren't good—they might not lose the slightly over 111 games they're on pace to, but they'll have a hard time avoiding losing 100 times for the third time in five years (excluding, of course, the 60-game pandemic-shortened 2020 season). This team just isn't good enough, and won't be for some time, to exploit Barlow's highest and best use.
Some, perhaps even a few who've clamored for a Barlow trade for at least two years, might now oppose a deal and cite his high-profile early-season struggles as ample reason to hold off. But as Kings of Kauffman's Jacob Milham pointed out recently, Barlow's made an impressive turnaround from the 9.45 ERA he had just a month ago. In fact, in 10 appearances since then, he hasn't given up a run and is 1-0 with five saves and 16 strikeouts in 10.2 innings.
Perish the thought, then, that Barlow's value has diminished. It hasn't, and could be on the rise. And because his present club is on a path to nowhere with contention not likely until at least 2025, the time is right for general manager J.J. Picollo to begin seriously shopping Barlow, either in the near future or at the midsummer trade deadline. The return could be excellent.