The Kansas City Royals bounced back after a rocky start. Does this mean they will be buyers at the trade deadline?
Just two months ago, analysts across the country assumed The Kansas City Royals would be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline. That narrative is changing, though, on the heels of an incredible turnaround that catapulted the club back into the American League wildcard race.
General Manager Dayton Moore added fuel to the fire last week. In an interview with MLB.com, Moore hinted that the Royals might be buyers this year.
Of course, we’ll try to find ways to improve our team without adding significantly to payroll,” Moore said, “but it doesn’t mean we won’t do it. We’ve done it before. It’s just hard to predict right now. Not every team will need the same thing.”
Although the Royals look like contenders once again, they are doomed to face serious free agent problems this off-season. Core players Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Jason Vargas, Mike Minor, and Alcides Escobar are all on-track to become unrestricted free agents.
When asked about this impending problem, Moore said, “We’ll compete to sign free agents just like any other team will. In my mind, we have the best opportunity to sign them because we know them better than anyone else. Our track record is pretty good.”
The fact Moore is even considering some aggressive moves shows how much the club changed this season. When the Royals won just 10 of their first 30 games, the outlook was grim — to say the least. But then, the season began to turn around, and the team started to look like its old self.
Since May 8, the Royals have the second-best record in the AL behind the Astros. During that time, they were 3 1/2 games better than the Twins and 4 1/2 games better than defending AL champs in Cleveland. A lot of the success is due to the offense, which scored 5.2 runs per game in June. That was a large step forward from their measly 2.7 runs per game in April.
Aside from the improved play, they will also get Pitcher Danny Duffy back in the lineup before the All-Star break. If the streak continues and they are in the wildcard race come late July, the Royals may be just one trade away from being a contender again.
Although they are outperforming expectations, the Royals’ looming free-agent problem is clear. Whether they make a post-season push or not, it is almost certainly the last season for the core team that won the 2015 World Series.
Keeping that in mind, the only players worth targeting for the club should be rentals. They will need all the cap space they can get to sign pending free agents this November.
Trading for a rental player carries its own risk, though. Even with their strong mid-season push, the Royals have only a 7.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus. That website also ranked Kansas City’s farm system No. 27 in the league. Instead of buying at the deadline, the club could deal one or two high-profile players for higher-end prospects.
With the odds of making the playoffs so low, and the inevitable collapse of the team’s core, Moore should objectively consider selling at the deadline. It is tempting, though, to make one last push with the star players the city has come to love.
David Lesky, the managing editor at Baseball Prospectus Kansas City, summarized it well in a recent interview.
I think what’s best for the long-term of the franchise is to sell if they’re just hovering around .500, but as a fan at this very moment, I won’t mind seeing these guys finish one last season. Don’t ask me about that in two years. I might be very mad about standing pat at that time.”
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