The All Star break is upon us and the Royals lone representative is….wait, what? The Kansas City Royals had 7 all-stars? That’s right, we’ve entered a fantasy world folks. Gone are the days of the club getting represented by some undeserving mandatory all-star like Ken Harvey or Mark Redman. This year we boasted a franchise record of seven participants (six with Alex Gordon out); Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Wade F. Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. The so-called experts can argue all they like, all were deserving. We have the best record in the American League by 4.5 games, we should have the most all-stars. Cain and Davis had stand out performances which comes as no surprise to Royals fans. It should be pointed out that we should all be thankful the #VoteOmar movement failed because that would have made it a joke. He may have been a worse all-star than even Harvey and Redman. Plus it would have cost the organization $500k in an undeserved bonus.
We will enter the 2nd half with a 52-34 record, on pace for a mind-boggling 98 wins. It’s pretty clear my preseason prediction of 84 wins will be blown out of the water. What’s absolutely shocking is that I thought if everything went right this season and the team stayed healthy that we could win 91 games. Obviously, things have not gone right. The rotation has been wildly inconsistent and the offense still goes through stagnant stretches where they can’t hit anything while swinging at everything. Injuries have also plagued this team. From Escobar’s concussion and Rios’s broken hand to Gordon’s strained groin (OUCH), Cain’s lingering hamstring, and all the nagging injuries to the team’s starting rotation. The Royals have overcome all to sit in a stellar position at the break.
Besides the inconsistent starting pitching the biggest question mark for at least the next two months is, can the Royals sustain their position without Alex Gordon? Let’s face it, losing the face of the franchise is an enormous blow. In the short-term, a Jarrod Dyson/ Paulo Orlando should suffice. Dyson has already harnessed his inner Gordon with some tremendous defense and outfield assists. Orlando possesses a flair for the dramatic with clutch triples, a walk-off grand slam (witnessed 1st hand by yours truly), and a game winning homer (or ‘homo‘ according to Rex Hudler). In the long-term, I’m not sure we can survive without Gordon’s production. If Dayton Moore wasn’t monitoring outfielders for the struggling Alex Rios before Gordon’s injury, you can bet your ass he is now. Think about this, if Gordon has a setback or if the Royals somehow miss out on the playoffs, we may have seen the last of Alex Gordon in a Royals uniform if he doesn’t exercise his player option for 2016. That’s a scary thought and another reason why we need to make a move for someone before the trade deadline.
So who’s available and who are the Royals likely to target? Well, much as it pains me, those are likely two different lists. The Royals have never been big spenders at the deadline but look for them to be scouring the secondary market for a starting pitcher and an outfielder. Second base is still a hole that needs addressing too but it’s doubtful the Royals brass acts there. Omar has had some clutch at-bats the past few weeks so his job is likely safe. Even though Infante and Rios have OPS’s of .555 and .554, which is among the worst in the league for regulars.
- Justin Upton (LF) and Jay Bruce (RF) – would be great bats to have. Bruce is under contract for 2016 and Upton is a free agent after the season, both would be costly in terms of the prospects it would take to land either. Let’s try a Jedi mind trick cause these two aren’t happening……These aren’t the players you’re looking for.
- Ben Zobrist (2nd/RF/LF/SS) – two birds, one stone. He’s listed as a 2nd baseman but is highly versatile and can play all over the field including right and left, highly coveted around baseball because of versatility. Free agent after this season.
- Will Venable (OF) – decent left-handed hitter with some pop, and can play all outfield positions. He’s athletic, speedy, and plays good defense. Sounds like a perfect fit for KC. Free agent after the season.
- Gerardo Parra (OF) – very similar to Venable but with a slightly higher average, less power, and a little less speed. Also a free agent after the season.
- Marlon Byrd (OF) – has been linked with the Royals for several years. In the twilight of his career but still has good pop and plays solid defense. Has an option for 2016.
- Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, James Shields – Cueto is a game-changer and could be the difference in World Series title. He’s a free agent after the season which would make him the most likely of these three, which might be a 2% chance. We aren’t taking on the monster contracts of Hamels and Shields.
- Scott Kazmir (LHP) and Dan Haren (RHP) – very good veteran pitchers who would greatly stabilize our rotation. Probably not very likely acquisitions, Haren would be the more likely of the two.
- Mike Leake (RHP) – having a very solid year and in the final year of his contract.
- Ian Kennedy (RHP) – solid veteran who has been hot as of late. Also a free agent at season’s end.
It’s hard to gauge what Dayton will do with the rotation. Riding out the season with in-house candidates may be his most likely course of action. Vargas and Kris Medlen will be available soon. John Lamb is also an intriguing option pitching extremely well in AAA. It’s hard to see Moore trading a top prospect like Raul Mondesi, Sean Manaea, or Miguel Almonte for a rent-a-player. The next few starts from Ventura and Duffy may be key in reading into what Moore does. In the outfield, don’t hold your breath for the big splash but look for a second tier signing to bolster losing some of Gordon’s production.
Post All-Star break
The games come fast and furious (18 games in 17 days) starting with a double header in Chicago on Friday. Volquez and Young start Friday, followed by Guthrie, Duffy, and Ventura. With no off day until August 3rd, roster moves should be plentiful in the coming weeks. It will be vital to stay fresh and injury free. So buckle up, return all seats and tray tables to an upright and locked position. All aboard the Cain Train!