The Kansas City Royals have fallen back to earth with a thud after their 10-game winning streak briefly carried them to first place in the A.L. Central. Their 1-6 week after the surge, paired with a Detroit winning streak, shows that the Royals have some work to do if they want to play in October.
Right now, the Royals trail Detroit by 4.5 games a little more than a week after having a 1.5 game lead. Ouch.
Pitching and defense are not the problem. The Royals rank third in pitching ERA for all A.L clubs, and their defense is nothing short of phenomenal. The team has 5 legit Gold Glove candidates in Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, and Eric Hosmer. Their team Ultimate Zone Rating of 55.4 leads all of baseball by a massive 24.2 bulge over the 2nd place Cardinals.
No, the biggest problem has come at the plate. The Royals lineup features 5 regulars who are hovering around replacement value: Nori Aoki, Omar Infante, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Mike Moustakas.
Their bench production could also use some help. Upgrades for backup catcher Brett Hayes (.105/.128/.184) and middle infielder Pedro Ciriaco (.213/.229/.255) would be welcome additions. But, better run production from the lineup is the clear no. 1 need.
Take a look at the Bermuda Triangle of the Royals offense, where wins go to die:
|Nori Aoki (15-day dl)*||32||68||292||-4||-0.3|
Yeah. That’s not good.
Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals are likely to pursue right fielders and bench help, despite reports of Royals scouts following starters who are potential trade candidates. Of course, that only makes common sense, which doesn’t necessarily apply to Royals GM Dayton Moore.
Last week, KC Kingdom’s Paul York wrote an exhaustive piece on potential trade acquisitions for the Royals. York’s breakdown makes the versatile Ben Zobrist—who can play six positions—appear to be the best fit. Andy McCullough of the Star suggests outfielders Marlon Byrd or Seth Smith as the primary targets.
While all of those are viable suggestions, I favor someone neither writer has mentioned: Colorado Rockies corner outfielder, third baseman, and first baseman Michael Cuddyer.
The 35-year-old Cuddyer is a big bat (career slugging percentage .465) who walks (career walk rate of 8.9%). That’s EXACTLY what the Royals need in the middle of their lineup. He’s currently hitting .317/.366/.500 in the admittedly inflated air of Colorado. However, his slash line on the road this season is a healthy .282/.325/.423 in only 71 ABs. Last year, over a full season, Cuddyer hit .311/.367/.485 on the road.
Obviously, he’s something more than a Coors Field creation.
The big advantage Cuddyer has over Byrd or Smith is his ability to play 3rd base. Though Cuddyer is a negative defender, he does play positions where the Royals need an upgrade. He’s also a right-handed bat, so he could platoon with Moustakas at third, or fill in for Aoki, depending on how either player is hitting. He could even spell Hosmer against a tough left-hander. Cuddyer also has the added advantage of playing for Royals division-rival Minnesota for the first 11 years of his career. Presumably, Kauffman Stadium isn’t a stranger to him.
While Ben Zobrist plays good defense at all six positions he plays (every position except catcher and CF), he’s only hitting .247/.332/.375. Zobrist does have a history of hitting much better, but his power has fallen off these past few years—and, right now, his bat speed looks slow. That limits his fit in Kansas City, because what the Royals need is a thumper—not more defense.
The problem is: Cuddyer is currently on the 60-day DL. He would have to come back, and show he is healthy, before any deal could happen. But, with Cuddyer in the last year of his contract, he should come fairly cheap.
What say you KC Kingdom: would you like to see Mike Cuddyer in a Royals uniform?