It is not completely crazy for Dayton Moore to think that the Royals could come back and clench a post-season spot. The Royals had an impressive win-loss record in June. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have picked up the pace. Lorenzo Cain and David Lough have proven that they can give league average production, albeit inconsistently. Everyone on the team has proven they can field. With a nice core of line drive hitters, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Salvador Perez, it is understandable to expect more run production for the rest of the season.
The pitching is capped by ace James Shields. Ervin Santana will probably be unable to keep his walk totals so low, and keep his ERA hovering around 3.00, but Wade Davis should almost certainly get better. Danny Duffy will return, and while he won’t be as dominant as Santana, he won’t be as aggravating as Davis. He looks similar to what he was before Tommy John surgery. With a solid rotation and decent offense, Dayton Moore isn’t crazy to think that the Royals could sweep the Tigers, win nine out of ten, and be back in the race. He would be absolutely certifiable, however, to count on it.
There are five playoff spots in the American League (three division leaders and two wild cards). Currently, the Royals are behind ten teams. They are, of course, behind the Indians and the division favorite Tigers…and losing ground. They are also behind every single team in the AL East, which has four teams that are inherently better and the impossibly resilient Yankees. The Royals are behind the Angels, Rangers and A’s, with little chance of catching whichever team finishes second. If the Indians and Tigers lose all their stars and the Royals play at .700 for the remainder of the season, they could theoretically win the division and that is the ONLY way they’re getting into the post-season.
In other words, they’re doomed.
The Royals have a knack for digging themselves out of holes, only to throw the dirt on top of themselves. It is evident that the Royals front office is fueling a lost cause. They are depending on everything breaking the their way, including things far outside of their control. It is more likely that the Royals will get below average offensive production, like they have all season and the pitching will regress to the middle of the AL. It’s time to sell.
If the front office is willing to give up on the idea of a winning season and ownership agrees not to gut the team in favor of a $40 million payroll next season, the Royals have a prime trading commodity in Ervin Santana. If Santana hits the trade market, he instantly becomes the most desirable pitcher on the market. That is a powerful position for the Royals to be in.
The Royals couldn’t possibly resign him next season for the $14+ million per year that he would cost. He’ll be gone next season anyway and if they don’t trade him, the Royals will have nothing to show for it except a losing season in the rear view mirror and a hole in the rotation. Without an every day second baseman and right fielder and under-performance rampant throughout the lineup, Dayton Moore has many holes to fill and now is his best chance.
The most obvious and bitter side-effect of trading Santana is that the Royals won’t get much major league talent in return, if any. It will leave fans with the impression that the team is “rebuilding,” a concept that justifiably raises bile in their throats. However, by trading away Santana, the Royals might finish with three less wins than if he stayed the remainder of the season. That is WORST case scenario. Danny Duffy will soon be recalled from his rehab stint and buffer the losses. Does it really matter if the team wins 79 games instead of 76? The Royals should trade Santana for near-major league ready prospects that can fill gaps at second base and right field. As long as the return prospects are far enough along in the minor league system, the Royals organization won’t have enough time to screw them up like every single other prospect they’ve pushed into the majors.
The Royals can, and should trade Luke Hochevar. He’s a $4.5 million middle reliever whose price might go up. His stuff is electric from the bullpen and his fastball is touching 97. Teams in contention should want him. The Royals however, know that he panics in high leverage situations. Find a sabermetrically inclined team that doesn’t believe in such “nonsense” and take them for all they’re worth, because we in KC know better. Without moving any pieces that the Royals were not already prepared to forego, they could bring back two or three legitimate talents for 2014 while freeing up $15-20 million that can be used to find an impact run-producer.
No one wanted this: the struggle, this May, another losing season, but it’s here and it’s time for everyone to face reality. “Next year” has been the cruelest joke that Royals fans have had to endure, repeated like clockwork in the second half of every season for decades. Here we are again–might as well make the most of it and charge into next season better off than we were, fans included.