If you’re looking for optimism concerning the KC Royals, you should probably stop reading now. Well, hold on, let me see what I can muster up. Oh, I got it. After 46 games in 2013, the Kansas City Royals were 21-25. After 46 games this year, the Royals are 23-23. So, there you go.
Some look at this very mediocre start to the season as a glimmer of hope, because the bats have yet to come alive. Others see it as we’re actually a couple games ahead of last year’s pace. I very much look at it as a monumental disappointment. Not to mention, after the Royals play the L.A. Angels this weekend, while fielding their junior varsity squad, their record could start to really mirror that of 2013.
In all seriousness, I’m not too disappointed with where the Royals are right now. I’m much more fearful of where they’ll be in July, and then again in late September.
Unfortunately, Salvador Perez and Omar Infante have already been banged up multiple times this year. It is kind of hard to believe, considering how young the season is, that Perez and Infante are going to make it the rest of the way without injury. The disabled list was very kind to the Royals last year, so the law of averages is not in their favor in that regard.
Where are the Royals getting decent production? Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, and Nori Aoki. That’s nice, but those guys aren’t going to inflict much damage unless guys like Hosmer, Gordon, and Butler are putting the barrel on the ball. Even then, for this lineup to be significantly better than that putrid 2013 Royals lineup, Infante and Perez need to maintain their health.
In other words, everything has to go right for the Royals to be a playoff contender, and there is virtually no room for error (injury or under-performance).
However, if we want to try to be optimistic, and figure that Perez and Infante come back healthy, and stay healthy, and the rest of the lineup heats up, and the rotation stays solid, and the back of the bullpen is lights out, we’re looking at another winning season. That’s neat, but is that catching the Detroit Tigers? Not likely.
Here’s my fear, under the assumption that the Royals are playing for a Wild Card. The Royals are 5-7 games back in the Wild Card race at, or shortly after the All-Star break (Yes, I realize the Royals are only 1.5 games out of the Wild Card as of today.). That scares me, because I think the Royals will view that as being “in the hunt”, and will miss on an opportunity to improve the club by trading some pieces like James Shields and Greg Holland.
Yes, you’re reading that right. I would rather the Royals put us out of our misery early, or somehow maintain their current Wild Card position (or better), over being stuck in the purgatory of trying to figure out if they’re actually a contender, and potentially making a move by trading some valued prospects for a long-shot Wild Card berth.
A playoff race would be awesome, and I have a burning desire to experience that again, but it is my belief that this squad is not one of the 5 best in the American League, and I think a potential trade of Shields and Holland (especially if packaged together) could bring back a haul that might actually put the Royals in a good position for 2015. In my warped mind, and I’m admittedly terrible at coming up with trades, but think Shields and Holland to the Dodgers for Joc Pederson and others.
Pederson has superstar potential, and is currently shredding the minor league competition. His line: .351/.454/.638/1.092, along with 14 home runs, and 13 stolen bases. He plays a position, outfield, the Royals could certainly use, and would fit nicely at the top of that order.
Follow me, and lets take a glimpse at what that 2015 Royals lineup might look like. I’m going to take the somewhat unpopular position that Billy Butler will return to the Royals next year. I’m also going to assume that the Royals get a significant upgrade at third base, and hopefully someone who can hit somewhere near the middle of the order (They will have some money to work with.). That being the case, we could be looking at something like the following:
1. Joc Pederson, CF
2. Omar Infante, 2b
3. Eric Hosmer, 1b
4. UPGRADE AT 3B
5. Alex Gordon, LF
6. Billy Butler, DH
7. Sal Perez, C
8. Alcides Escobar, SS
That doesn’t look too bad to me. If you dare to dream a little more with me, and assume that the 2015 rotation will feature an improving Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy, and Kyle Zimmer is the stud we’re being told he is, that would certainly cushion the blow of losing James Shields to free agency. I also wouldn’t take my eye off Sean Manaea, as I believe he has the potential to shoot through the minors very quickly.
The absolute worst case scenario for the Royals is that they determine they’re “in the hunt”, make some moves to hopefully add some punch to the lineup, and still finish outside the Wild Card, thus watching Shields walk out of Kansas City, and get nothing but a compensatory pick in return.
None of what I’ve proposed–read daydreamed–is likely, but none of it is impossible either. It will take a great deal of self-awareness by our front office, and the guts to make a big trade(s), but 2014 doesn’t have to be a window closing. Rather, it can be a pre-cursor to brighter, and more sustainable success.