Kansas City Royals Building Depth But Still Lack Vital Pieces

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Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a somewhat busy 48 hrs at Kansas City Royals HQ. First, the Royals pulled the trigger on lefty Bruce Chen, re-signing him to a 1-year deal for a very reasonable $4.25M price tag with a mutual option for 2015. Then just hours later, they traded with the Seattle Mariners exchanging cash for OF Carlos Peguero while designating pitcher Everett Teaford for assignment.

On the whole, Royals fans have to be pretty happy with Dayton Moore’s work this off-season. The team’s biggest needs included a legitimate leadoff hitter and a more productive second baseman although ultimately, the objective was to achieve a more productive offense in general.

It would appear they’ve solved their problems at lead off with the acquisition of Norichika Aoki from Milwaukee and at second base with the signing of free-agent second baseman Omar Infante from Detroit.

While they failed to land an impact bat, a circumstance that was explained away by asserting that the acquisition of proven table-setters like Aoki and Infante means they can now move Alex Gordon back down into a run producing slot in the lineup, the Royals have most likely improved upon last year’s offensively challenged squad.

Sep 17, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (30) Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

There was also a feeling, mostly from outside the organization, that the Royals would need to acquire help for the starting rotation in the form of one or even two proven starters. Based on what they’ve done thus far in the off-season, the Royals, stocked with talented young pitching prospects, appear to have assessed the situation differently.

Thus, we are now at a philosophical impasse. The big question remaining is whether the Royals intend to take one more dip into the free agent pool, and acquire that elusive front-end starting pitcher or are they committed to the youth movement this year. To be sure, to improve the Royals need to not only replace Ervin Santana‘s exceptional production from last year, they need to add to it.

The Bruce Chen signing was long overdue, and is a move that makes a ton of sense. Chen has been with the Royals for five years now and if there’s one thing we know for sure about Bruce Chen, he’s versatile.

He can hold down a spot in the rotation as starter and he can give you some quality innings out of the pen. In fact, just last season Chen started 15 games and posted 19 appearances in relief yielding ERAs of 3.61 and 2.41 respectively.

THAT, my friends, is exactly the kind of versatility and depth that separates the winners from the wanna-bes. Signing Chen provides an insurance policy in case of injuries, it gives the Royals a much needed, left-hander out of the pen, and it positions the Royals to really make a commitment to some of their young pitching prospects.

It wasn’t long ago, 2012 to be exact, that Bruce Chen was considered the ace of the Royals staff, a role he was never meant to play. The role Chen played last year and presumably going forward this season, is exactly the role he should play; the jack-of-all-trades, crafty veteran who provides valuable innings when and where they’re needed and can bridge the gaps between injuries.

But signing Chen doesn’t win the division, let alone the World Series. At best, it maintains the status quo. As things stand now, if at least two pitchers don’t emerge from within the current stable to become solid front-end members of the rotation, the Royals are destined to finish no better than last year.

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