I was worried this would happen.
The Royals were the second-hottest team in baseball in the six weeks leading up to the All-Star Break. They were playing really good baseball and were in the heart of both the Wild Card race and the AL Central. Suddenly not only were the Royals keeping all their free agents to-be until the end of the season, but they might just be kicking the tires on a pitcher or hitter to add for the stretch.
Then they got swept in their final three games before the break. Sure, that series was in LA, against the Dodgers, the hottest team in baseball. But getting swept was a bad way to end the first half. Given how this season began, I got worried it was a sign the hot streak was over. Would the four days off erase all the Royals momentum and with it the hopes that the championship core had one more run in them?
They stretched the losing streak to five before getting a lucky win Sunday. Then they got pummeled but Detroit on Monday, with ace Jason Vargas getting hammered for his second-straight start. The offense suddenly looks more like its April iteration than the June one. The DH spot is a disaster. Alex Gordon seems unsalvageable. Lorenzo Cain has looked terrible for two weeks. Injuries keep popping up.
Still, they’re only three back in the Central and two back in the Wild Card race.
With the trading deadline less than two weeks away the Royals are in a tough spot. Do they move someone from their depleted minor league system for a DH that can actually put the ball in play, or someone who can throw 5–6 decent innings every fifth day? Does Raul Mondesi have any value and do you risk moving him to get someone who can help this year?
I think if you have an opportunity to make the post-season you go for it. The problem is the trend lines aren’t great. Who says that moving Mondesi and a couple other prospects will be enough? It’s not like 2015, when the Royals were firmly in control of the division and had their eyes on plugging holes for October when they acquired Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. Those were very good and reasonable gambles. When you’re about to begin a large rebuilding process, do you move bodies you’re going to need next year and the year after for ones that will help you for just two-plus months?
My biggest fear is the Royals get stuck in the middle. I’d almost rather them fall apart completely than muddle along and stay 4–6 games back, treading water. I don’t know if Dayton Moore will start moving guys if the Royals go 1–9 over their next 10, but at least that gives him cover if he decides to. Sitting right around .500 on July 29 makes it tough either way.
They have nine games against Detroit and the White Sox before they go to Boston next weekend. I really think they need to break off a 6–3 stretch if they want to be honest about having hopes for October. If they reverse that, and go 3–6, Moore has to be honest about what this team is capable of. And if there’s a decent offer out there for Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, or one of the other guys who will leave this off-season, he needs to jump on it. He hasn’t had great luck with high draft picks, so I’d almost rather him acquire players with minor league track records than get a bunch of extra picks in next year’s draft.
I realize that’s all kind of wishy washy. What I really want is 10 more weeks of these guys playing decent ball. I’m fine if they come up short. But I want to see Lorenzo, Eric, and Moose go out strong.