With a 37-47 record at the break, the Kansas City Royals appear poised to be one of the few true sellers at the trade deadline. The spring of 2012 was forged with great promise in BBQ City but has been met with typical substandard play and disappointment.
The worst offender has been the pitching staff. KC’s team ERA of 4.35 ranks 24th in the big leagues. The combined ERA of their starting rotation is a grotesque 5.16. GM Dayton Moore knew this would be a sticking point and that’s why he traded away Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez. KC has watched Melky turn into an all-world center fielder for the Giants while Sanchez has just one win on his Royals resume thus far.
The only Royals pitcher who was getting it done was Felipe Paulino and he is set to go under the knife and is lost for the season. Same with Danny Duffy. Three Tommy John surgeries (including Joakim Soria) and a cloud of runs have summed up the Royals rotation this year.
Not a single other member of the Royals starting staff sports an ERA better than 5.00.
Throw lengthy injuries to center fielder Lorenzo Cain and catcher Salvador Perez into the mix (both have now been activated) and an unexpected season long slump from sure-fire star Eric Hosmer and it just hasn’t been KC’s year.
To make matters worse, prized pitching prospect John Lamb is still recuperating from his own bout with Tommy John while his cohort Mike Montgomery has scuffled in the minors this year. Jake Odorizzi is one of the few bright arms in the system.
Despite the current troubles in Kansas City the future remains bright. Perez looks like the best catching prospect of this millennium. Team him up with fellow infielders Hosmer as well as Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar (both having breakout years) and the infield is young and promising. Alex Gordon should remain a fixture in KC and hopefully Cain returns to good health and finally lives up to his billing.
So how can KC improve so that they don’t waste the great years these young bucks have ahead of them? They must find reliable starting pitching.
The obvious trade pieces for KC include Jonathan Broxton and Jeff Francouer. Sadly, Soria would have been a tremendous trade chip if not for his elbow issue. 27-year old catching prospect Max Ramirez, who is having a big year in AAA (.313, 11 HR’s, 56 RBI’s), could also be a moveable piece.
Francouer is the guy who must go. He is blocking phenom Wil Myers at the moment, and that just doesn’t seem right. Frenchy is on the books for $6.75M this year and next. That’s a reasonable fare for a guy who has some thunder in his bat, can run a little, and is a top-tier right fielder.
KC is looking forward to a 2nd half lineup that looks something like this: Gordon, Escobar, Hosmer, Billy Butler, Myers, Moustakas, Perez, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Cain. Now that’s exciting.
Broxton has reclaimed his career with the Royals and will surely be shipped to a contender.
But here’s the rub, Kansas City at some point has to stop acquiring prospects and shift toward getting legitimate big league starters. Sanchez was their first step in that direction this past offseason and it failed miserably. More deals like this with better results will quickly vault the Royals into contention in the wobbly AL Central.
Due to their substandard track record the Royals will continue to have a difficult time luring big name free agents in the winter, until they start winning that is. In the meantime, they must target stable arms that remain under team control for at least a few years so that they can grow together.
That’s the recipe.