You know the rest. It’s go time KC! These Royals aren’t standing pat on the roster this year and merely taking their chances. Dayton Moore and company are coming out, guns blazing. This team’s struggles in the starting rotation is nothing new. It’s absolutely exhilarating as a fan to know the front office recognized that and responded. It’s not surprising that we traded for a pitcher, Moore has usually been proactive on the trade market. What’s surprising…no, what’s shocking is the quality of pitcher he went out and acquired.
The Royals completed a trade Sunday for Reds starter and last season’s NL Cy Young runner-up Johnny Cueto (nicknamed Johnny Beisbol). In the last blog, we broke down possible trade targets and I called Cueto, a game-changer that could be the difference in a World Series title. I also gave it a 2% chance of happening. I love being wrong. Cueto is indeed a game-changer and hopefully the ace this staff is desperately in need of. Every MLB team has a #1 starter in their rotations, but not every #1 starter is a true “Ace.” There are probably 10-15 pitchers in all of baseball that I’d label an ace, Cueto is definitely one of them. He can match-up with any pitcher an opposing team sends against us in a postseason series. How does that not excite you as a Royals fan?
In return the Royals sent three left-handed pitchers to the Reds:
- Brandon Finnegan, last year’s 1st round pick and postseason sensation.
- John Lamb, a former top 20 prospect in all of MLB.
- Cody Reed, a 2013 2nd round pick.
The Royals also received approximately $1 million in the deal. Was the price for getting Cueto steep? Yes. But in my mind, you have to give up something to get something. Let’s face it, prospects are in fact just that, prospects. It’s impossible to judge how they will turn out. They could go on to have very nice careers but I still think the gamble is well worth it. The Royals have a window of opportunity to do something special and obtaining an ace in Cueto could be the difference, even though he’ll only be here for approximately three months.
Finnegan was a sensation in 2014. He pitched in the college world series, got drafted by the Royals, and found himself pitching in the playoffs just months later. It’s clear the Royals weren’t convinced he would ever be a starting pitcher which made him expendable. His numbers in the minor leagues were not very impressive. If the Royals traded a potential solid left-handed reliever for a possible stud, I say well done Dayton Moore. Cody Reed was having a good season in class A Wilmington and in AA Northwest Arkansas and scouts seem to like his stuff. At best he projects as a middle of the rotation type starter. John Lamb is the one that I’m sad to see leaving. In 2011 he was the 11th rated prospect in all of baseball, got hurt, had Tommy John surgery, and struggled in his return back in 2013. He was finally living up to early expectations this year with an outstanding season in AAA Omaha. Perhaps the Royals never fully believed he would pan out and decided to use him as a trade chip while his market was high. At this point in the process, it’s safe to trust Dayton’s judgment.
So while we did give up some potentially good players obtaining Cueto, we didn’t mortgage the farm system. We still have all our top prospects; Raul Mondesi, Sean Manaea, Miguel Almonte, Kyle Zimmer, etc. Finnegan was the only prospect in the deal from our top 10 by most indications.
Rest of the Team
The Royals have picked up in the 2nd half right where they left off. Besides losing the make-up game with St. Louis, we have won 3 series with Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Houston. Lorenzo Cain continues his hot streak and is emerging as a dark horse for AL MVP. Hosmer seems to have come out of his funk and started hitting again. Alex Rios has picked it up this month in the absence of Alex Gordon. He’s hitting .338 in the month of July with 7 extra base hits. Even Omar Infante, who has flat out sucked for most of the year, continues not to hit but occasionally has clutch at-bats with games on the line. He’s an enigma (and yes I know I’m hard on him).
As for the rotation, Ventura was sent down to Omaha (for an hour or two) to make room for the dramatic return of Jason Vargas. Vargas promptly went down with his elbow injury and is set for Tommy John surgery. That means we likely won’t see him again until 2017, the last year of his 4-year deal. As much as it hurts to lose him, it’s hard to tell if the Royals would have dealt for Cueto if we had a healthy Vargas.
I still think, as I have all year, the key to this season will come down to Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. If those two can step up and harness their potential, we will be a very formidable team. Duffy seems to have turned a corner and has a 1.37 ERA in four July starts. Ventura had an excellent start Sunday going 7 strong innings giving up just 1 run. Whether his struggles this season are due to him being young and immature, a big ego prima donna, or simply putting too much pressure on himself doesn’t matter. What matters, is him performing down the stretch for this team. I think people who are ready to be done with Yordano need their heads examined. He’s the most talented young pitcher the Royals have had since Zack Greinke. I’m not saying his career will be as good as Greinke’s, but he has that much talent. Zack also struggled early in his career if you remember.
Imagine for a minute a rotation in October that includes Cueto and Volquez, along with last season’s version of Ventura and a healthy Danny Duffy. Freaking scary isn’t it? I promise you Dayton Moore has imagined that scenario. That’s why we should be ecstatic as Royals fans about acquiring Johnny Beisbol. It appears to transform our inconsistent, weak rotation into a real strength for the stretch run. And by all accounts, we’re not finished making moves. HELLO DOLLY! Now is the time for us, the fans, to embrace this run. Last October may prove to be just a starter for what’s to come. This season could very well end up being our time.