Sunday, July 28, 2013

Threading The Needle.


As I write this, the Royals have a losing record, and they are in third place in the AL Central, seven games out of first place. They are seven games out of the second wild card spot. (Correction: six games after winning last night.) They have the ninth-best record in the AL. They do not resemble, in any way, shape, or form, a contender.

But being associated with this franchise means you have to wear beer goggles when you look at the standings, and if you squint just right and interpret every bit of data in your favor, you can sort of pretend that the Royals have a playoff shot. They’ve only been outscored by four runs – they have a better run differential than the Yankees! (This would mean more in any other season since 1992.) Sure, they have a losing record, but they’re 49-51. (Now 50-51 after beating the White Sox last night. All hail strength of schedule!) Here’s what the Royals’ record has been after 100 games in the last nine years:

2012: 41-59
2011: 42-58
2010: 42-58
2009: 40-60
2008: 45-55
2007: 43-57
2006: 35-65
2005: 37-63
2004: 35-65

And they’re seven games out of first place? They’re only seven games out of first place! Here’s how far out of first place they’ve been on July 27th in the last nine years:

2012: 12 GB
2011: 12 GB
2010: 12.5 GB
2009: 14 GB
2008: 14 GB
2007: 16 GB
2006: 32.5 GB
2005: 28.5 GB
2004: 19 GB

The Royals are closer than they’ve been to first place than they’ve been in 10 years. Prior to this year, the Royals never got within nine games of first place at any point from this date on. In the last nine years, the Royals hadn’t been this close to first place at any point after July 4th. If they win this afternoon, they’ll be back at .500. In the last nine years the Royals haven’t been .500 or better at any point after May 26th.

So, yay, I guess. Mediocrity is a victory.

Unfortunately, victory may lead to yet more mediocrity, because it appears that the Royals don’t consider themselves sellers. There’s still a snowball’s chance in hell that they might catch the Indians and the Tigers, and apparently we Royals fans are such delicate flowers that if our team’s front office were to trade Ervin Santana for a huge stash of talent, dashing our miniscule hopes of contending this season but increasing our chances of contention next season, we’re all going to riot. Apparently we’re not psychologically strong enough to endure another losing season, while an 82-80 finish will make it all better.

If I haven’t made it clear enough: I strongly disagree with the notion that the Royals shouldn’t sell. For one thing, precisely because so many teams share in the Royals’ delusion – the Phillies, Angels, Rockies, and even Mariners may not be selling, even though they all should be –the price of talent on the market has been artificially raised, which is a boon for the teams that are selling.

The Cubs prepared themselves well for this summer’s seller’s market, and are already cashing in. Matt Garza was the best starting pitcher on the market, and in return for two months of Garza, the Cubs got Mike Olt. Olt was Baseball America’s #43 prospect after the 2011 season, and their #22 prospect barely five months ago, after hitting .288/.398/.579 in Double-A and showing off a fine glove at third base. Olt suffered a concussion while playing in winter ball, and started this season 10-for-72 in Triple-A (.139/.235/.236) before he complained of vision problems. The Rangers shut him down for a month, he returned to Triple-A on June 3rd, and from that point until the time of the trade he hit .247/.353/.506 – not quite as well as he hit last year, but good enough. MLB.com just re-ranked the Top 100 prospects in the game, and Olt came in #63. He still projects as a major-league average third baseman, low on batting average but high on walks and power, and he’s basically ready for the majors.

But here’s the thing: Mike Olt wasn’t the key to the trade. That was C.J. Edwards, one of the great late-round finds in recent memory, who was drafted out of high school in the 48th round just two years ago. In 160 career innings, Edwards has allowed 94 hits and 59 walks, struck out 207 batters – and hasn’t allowed a single home run. He projects as a #3 starter in the majors, granted that he’s still in low-A ball.

Oh, and the Cubs also got Justin Grimm, who put up excellent numbers in the high minors last year, and as a rookie for the Rangers this year walked 30 and struck out 68 batters in 89 innings. But he also had a .349 BABIP, and gave up homers on 14.3% of flyballs, both numbers being unsustainably high, but which has led to a 6.37 ERA.

Grimm reminds me of Scott Feldman, who like Grimm had a high ERA pitching in The Ballpark in Arlington (5.09 ERA last year) despite good peripherals (30 walks, 96 Ks in 124 innings). The Cubs signed Feldman as a free agent, betting that getting him out of such a hitters’ ballpark, moving him to the inferior league, and a normalization in his luck would turn him into a solid starter. Feldman made 15 starts for the Cubs this year with a 3.46 ERA, and they flipped him for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.

Grimm isn’t quite as good as Feldman, but he’s also a rookie under club control for the next five years. He’s worth a gamble. The Cubs also get at least one and maybe two players to be named later. All for two months of Matt Garza.

Ervin Santana, if he were on the market, is the closest thing to Matt Garza available. He’s a legitimate #2 starter who can help a team get to the postseason and help a team in the postseason. He hasn’t been as consistent as Garza over the past few years, but he’s been healthier. If the Royals can get anything close to a Garza-like haul for him, they have to move him.

Keep in mind, even if they move Santana the Royals don’t have to wave a white flag on this season. Danny Duffy is getting his groove back in the minors; in his last five starts he’s walked 7 and struck out 30. Will Smith has been outstanding all season; he’s struck out 91 against 23 walks in 82 innings in Triple-A, and in his brief time in the majors, he has 15 Ks and one walk*.

*: I’ll confess that I don’t know what the Royals are doing with Smith; they’ve apparently decided to make him a full-time reliever. He hasn’t started a game since June 2nd. In 39 innings as a reliever in Omaha, he’s been fantastic – 27 hits, 5 walks, 41 Ks. But what do the Royals need more – another dominant reliever, or a starting pitcher? Meanwhile, Chris Dwyer continues to start and continues to find bats. Just flip-flop them already.

When looking forward to 2014, the Royals have even more options. Kyle Zimmer has been, more or less, the best pitcher in the minor leagues over the past month; in his last six starts he’s thrown 37 innings, allowed 20 hits and six walks, and struck out 55. He made the jump from Wilmington to Northwest Arkansas, from an extreme pitchers’ park to a moderate hitters’ park, and hasn’t missed a beat, throwing 12 scoreless innings so far. His early season struggles were always a mystery; I loved him coming out of the draft, and his stuff was excellent even when he was getting beaten up in April and May. I think he could arrive by next May if not sooner. And while Yordano Ventura hasn’t dominated at Triple-A like he did in Double-A, he’s been reasonably effective and just needs to tighten up his command a little before he’s ready for his close-up.

So trading Santana would only modestly impact the Royals’ rotation the rest of this season, and the Royals are well-situated to put together a rotation next season with or without Santana. This should be an easy call.

It isn’t, because the Royals have different priorities than I do. I’m interested in postseason victories. They’re interested in moral victories.

The one saving grace is that if the Royals don’t trade Santana, they won’t be completely empty-handed when he departs this winter; they’ll get a draft pick after (presumably) making him a qualifying offer that he declines.

But if we can’t agree on the merits of trading Santana, I hope the Royals and I can agree that the other pitcher on their roster that’s attracting a lot of interest should be moved. I’m referring to (surprise!) Luke Hochevar.

In the never-ending battle between the Royals’ front office and the sabermetric community, the skirmish over Luke Hochevar may be the rare time that everyone wins. We were right that Hochevar would never be a successful starting pitcher, and that the Royals were making a mistake in bringing him back to be one. But the Royals mixed things up by conceding their mistake before the season began, moving him to the bullpen in late March, and he has been legitimately fantastic this season, with a 1.89 ERA in 38 innings. He’s allowed just 23 hits and 10 walks, and he’s even been better with men on base (.111/.184/.156) than with the bases empty (.205/.263/.398).

And a number of teams, most notably the Red Sox, Braves, and Dodgers, are interested. The market for relievers is as weak as the market for starters. The Baltimore Orioles just traded Nick Delmonico, a legitimate corner infield prospect who was hitting .243/.350/.469 as a 20-year-old in the Carolina League, for two months of Francisco Rodriguez. (Keith Law wrote that “Delmonico is probably a Top-200 prospect in the minors right now”.) Hochevar is a better pitcher than Rodriguez, he’s cheaper, and he’s under contract for one more year after this one.

And here’s the thing: even if the Royals want to win this year, trading Hochevar makes perfect sense. Everything I wrote about Greg Holland last time applies to Hochevar: relievers are fickle, and the Royals have more relievers than they have roster spots. As well as Hochevar is pitching, he’s still not near the top of the totem pole in Kansas City. It’s telling that Friday night, with the Royals holding on to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, Ned Yost called upon Kelvin Herrera, newly returned from the minors. Only after the Royals scored three runs in the ninth did Yost turn to Hochevar to close out a 5-1 game. Yesterday, to protect a 1-0 lead with a man on first and one out in the eighth, Yost called on Louis Coleman.

Hochevar is in a rotation with Herrera and Aaron Crow and now Coleman for the role of right-handed set-up man. If they trade him, it just opens up a spot for Donnie Joseph, or for Will Smith to return, or – most sensibly of all – it means Wade Davis can fill his spot.

Wade Davis is one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball, and that’s not disputable unless you believe that “numbers” and “mathematics” are a conspiracy. Even after 7 shutout innings last night – with three walks, four Ks, and a litany of great defensive plays – he has the third-highest ERA in baseball (5.50) of anyone with 100+ innings. He has the highest batting average allowed (.316) and highest OBP allowed (.384) of any starter.

Yet last year, in his one season working as a reliever, he had a 2.43 ERA in 70 innings, allowing 48 hits and striking out 87. Basically, Wade Davis is proving the exact same thing that Luke Hochevar is proving this year, only in reverse: even the worst major league starters can be dominant relievers. Wade Davis is Luke Hochevar. Trade one of them away, move the other one to the bullpen, and give his spot in the rotation to someone – anyone – else.

If the Royals trade Hochevar, move Davis to the bullpen, and replace Davis with Duffy, they will have improved their rotation, broken even in the bullpen, and acquired a substantial loot of prospects in return. This seems to be a no-brainer.

And as a further bonus, the Royals don’t have to worry about some sort of psychological impact on the fan base. It’s quite possible that the Royals are afraid of sending a message to their fans that they’re not serious about winning over the last two months, which might cause attendance to plummet. I think those concerns are massively overblown, but I’ll concede that trading Ervin Santana might keep some fans away from Kauffman Stadium.

But given his tortured history in Kansas City, does anyone think that trading LUKE HOCHEVAR is going to make some Royals fan, somewhere, anywhere, say, “man, I was really planning to go to the ballpark today, but now that I know I won’t be seeing Luke Hochevar pitch, I don’t know if I can go through with it”?

Trading Luke Hochevar seems to me to be about as obvious a decision as any decision that the front office has been presented with since Dayton Moore was hired. That doesn’t mean they see it that way, although recent reports are that they are, in fact, giving this option some consideration.

Frankly, I see no contradiction between trading Hochevar on the one hand, and simultaneously being buyers at the deadline. Specifically, the Royals have one glaring need that towers above all others: they need a second baseman. They might already have a second baseman in Johnny Giavotella, but they might not, and the Royals have made it perfectly clear that they have no interest in finding out.

David Lough has patched the right field hole as well as can be expected – he actually leads all AL rookies in bWAR – and while I’m skeptical he can keep this up, between him and Jarrod Dyson the Royals have no urgency to make a move there. But Royals second basemen have hit a combined .227/.277/.307 this year, and their solution is to give us more Chris Getz, who is hitting .209/.280/.281. Replacing Getz with even a league-average second baseman might be worth two wins between now and the end of the year.

And with no second baseman coming through the system on the immediate horizon – thanks for nothing, Christian Colon – a second baseman who can fill the hole for beyond this season would be even better. As skeptical as I remain about relevance in 2013, I remain convinced – if not more convinced – that the Royals have an excellent shot at contention in 2014 if they play their cards right. The Tigers aren’t getting better, and – particularly if they can’t figure out what’s happened to Justin Verlander – they could be worse. The Twins have a stacked farm system – they’re almost where the Royals were two years ago – but realistically they’re not ready to contend next season. The White Sox are the early favorite for the #1 overall pick in 2015. And the Indians probably will tread water. I see no team that’s a good bet for more than 88-90 wins in 2014.

So if the Royals insist on being buyers, let’s identify some candidates who might actually help the team.

Rickie Weeks: Weeks was a fantastic offensive player from 2009 to 2011, when he hit .269/.357/.472 and averaged 30 homers per 162 games. After the 2011 season the Brewers signed him to a four-year contract, but he hasn’t been the same since: he hit .230/.328/.400 in 2012, and this year he’s hitting .218/.321/.370. The secondary skills are still there, but he’s hitting .220 instead of .270, which is a huge difference. Weeks is only 30, so he shouldn’t be in steep decline yet, but it’s hard to ignore a track record of nearly two years. He’s also a terrible defensive second baseman. While the Royals have such a good defense overall that they can overcome one iron glove, it doesn’t make much sense to compromise on defense to get a .220 hitter just because he walks and hits some homers.

Weeks is getting paid $10 million this year and $11 million next year, and he has a $11.5 million option for 2015 that vests if he bats 1200 times between this year and next; i.e. if he stays healthy. That’s a lot of coin for a bat-only second baseman whose bat may or may not be in decline. He wouldn’t cost a lot of prospects, and the Brewers may even be willing to eat some of his salary, but I’ll confess that my interest in him is significantly less than I thought it would be when I started this exercise. Interest level: low to moderate.

Gordon Beckham: This one’s more interesting. Beckham hit .270/.347/.460 as a 22-year-old rookie in 2009, just one year after he was drafted, and looked like a future star. It never happened. He was a third baseman as a rookie, and the White Sox moved him to second base the following year; perhaps it’s a coincidence, but he hasn’t really hit since. From 2010 to 2012 he batted .238/.303/.362.

Beckham’s 26 now, so he’s still theoretically got growth ahead of him. After missing two months with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, he’s hit .314/.339/.413 in 48 games this year. It’s probably not real improvement – it’s almost all batting average-related – but the combination of youth and his pedigree (he was the #8 overall pick in 2008) gives you pause. He’s under club control through 2015, and he’s making a shade under $3 million as a first-time arbitration-eligible player. The White Sox have finally accepted the need to rebuild, so he should be available. And while teams don’t like to trade in division, the fact that the Royals and White Sox are heading in opposite directions makes a deal viable – they can make a win-win trade if the Royals improve now and the White Sox get better in 2-3 years. And they’ve hooked up in the not-too-distant past, with the legendary Mark Teahen-for-Chris Getz deal. Interest level: moderate to high.

Howie Kendrick: If available, Kendrick would be perhaps the best second baseman available under control beyond this season. Kendrick is a line-drive machine with a career .293 average, and he’s hitting .301 this year, so even without a ton of walks he’s a valuable player. It does concern me a little that he suffers from the same lack of plate discipline that virtually everyone in the organization is afflicted with.

But Kendrick just turned 30 earlier this month, he’s under contract through 2015, and his salary, while high, isn’t outrageous ($8.75 million this year, $9.35 million next year, $9.5 million in 2015). The issues are that 1) it’s not clear the Angels are willing to sell; 2) if they are, he’s going to cost a lot of prospects; 3) it’s not clear that the Glass family would authorize that much of an increase in payroll.

Would I give up, say, Yordano Ventura and Kyle Smith for Kendrick? If the goal is to win now – and by “now” I mean “this year or next” – then yeah, I probably would. But I think that even if the Royals’ front office were willing to give up that much talent, either the Angels’ front office or the Royals’ ownership would turn the deal down. Interest level: high, but probably not high enough.

Dustin Ackley: I don’t think he’s available, but some of you have asked about him. Ackley was the #2 overall pick in the draft in 2009, arrived two years later to much fanfare, showed promise (.273/.348/.417) as a rookie, but has collapsed since, necessitating a trip to the minors this year, and he’s come back as an outfielder.

Holy crap, he’s Alex Gordon!

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but as Royals fans I think we’d be willing to bet on there being a correlation. Ackley hit .365/.472/.500 during his month-long exile in Tacoma, so there’s still something left in his bat. He’s still only 25. The Mariners have moved on at second base, as rookie Nick Franklin has locked up the position by batting .273/.338/.465. The Mariners presumably still have big plans for Ackley in their outfield – when Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse are playing two of your corners, you’re probably going to need replacements in the not-too-distant future – but I have no idea if their faith in him has wavered to the point where he’s available. Interest level: who knows, but I’d definitely ask about him.

Jose Altuve: Stop it, guys.

Look, I like the little 5’5” sparkplug as much as anyone. And I’d love to see him in a Royals uniform. But Altuve just signed a four-year extension with the Astros a month ago. As much as the Astros have committed to razing the franchise to the ground, it doesn’t strike me as a wise strategy to trade a player before the ink on his contract has dried, unless you’re trying to steal some of Jeffrey Loria’s reputation. Anyway, the Astros have pretty much burned everything down already; Altuve is one of the players they’re trying to build up over the ashes.

Besides which, Altuve is a good player; he’s not a great one. He’s a career .284/.325/.378 hitter, batting .279/.318/.359 this year. He’s an okay defender, he steals a few bases, and – this may be what excites many of you – he’s only 23 years old. The typical 23-year-old has tremendous growth potential.

The typical 23-year-old isn’t 5’5”, or more to the point, hasn’t hit just 13 homers in 300 major league games. There is a legitimate concern that players with very little power don’t develop offensively as well as other hitters, because if pitchers don’t respect their ability to drive the ball, they won’t fear throwing strikes to them and their OBPs won’t go up over time. Two good examples of this in 2013 are Elvis Andrus and Ruben Tejada. Both got to the majors at 20, which presages stardom, but both are having trouble even matching their performance from ages 21-22.

Altuve has a little more power than those two; he’s right at the line where I get worried. I’d love to have him, especially since he’s under contract for so long. But he’s as expensive as anyone on this list. Interest level: moderate to high, but not nearly high enough.

Danny Espinosa: Now this is interesting.

Last year, Danny Espinosa hit 37 doubles, 17 homers, and stole 20 bases for the first-place Washington Nationals. This year, it’s been even more of a nightmare for him than for them. He hit an atrocious .158/.193/.272 for the Nationals, got demoted to Triple-A, and he’s only hitting .203/.268/.297 there. Meanwhile, former #6 overall pick Anthony Rendon has taken over the second base job in Washington.

There’s no sugarcoating how awful Espinosa has been this year. But I’m not sure you can find a second baseman who was as good as he was a year ago (and two years ago) who would be easier to acquire than him. Espinosa is an unconventional hitter for a second baseman – lots of power, led the NL with 189 Ks last year – but prior to this year the overall package added up to a solid-average everyday player. He’s a good enough defender at second base to have started 34 games at shortstop last year. If you trade for him, he’s very unlikely to help you in 2013, but you’ve got two months to work your magic with him this season, in the hopes that he could be your starting second baseman in 2014, when he turns 27. Interest level: moderate. He’s a gamble, and I’d want my scouts’ input on him even more than usual, but if you think you can fix him, you just might be able to get him cheap.

Chase Utley: Right this very moment, there isn’t a better second baseman on the trade market. If Utley were on the trade market, which he isn’t. Ruben Amaro won’t trade him, and in fact wants to re-sign him, and in fact he might re-sign him. And he’s a free agent at the end of the season, so even if by some miracle you could trade for him, you’d have to go out and find a new second baseman for 2014. And if he is available, you’re going to have to out-bid a lot other teams for his services. Interest level: purely theoretical.

Michael Young: Oh God, I guess I have to list him, don’t I? Young is sort of a more talented Jeff Francoeur – a good baseball player who gets treated like God’s Gift To Baseball by some in the chattering classes, thanks to a winning personality, his defensive versatility, and a lifetime .300 average, which hides his modest secondary skills, the fact that his numbers were all put up in a great hitters’ park in Texas, and the fact that his glove has been a liability at all those positions he’s versatile in playing.

Young is 36 now, and in Philadelphia, and he’s hitting .278/.344/.404 while playing bad defense at third base. It seems like a stretch that he could come to KC and play a quality second base and hit. The Rangers are apparently interested in re-acquiring him, God bless them, and they’re welcome to have him. Interest level: as low as possible.

Daniel Murphy: On the surface, there’s a lot to like about Murphy. He’s a lifetime .290/.335/.426 hitter, he’s 28 years old, he’s under control through 2015. But I have a bad vibe about him.

For one, he’s not really a second baseman. He played exclusively left field as a rookie in 2009, then expanded his horizons to play first base in 2009. In 2011 he returned to the majors and shocked everyone by hitting .320 while adding third base and second base to his resume, and has settled in as the every day second baseman the last two years – but not surprisingly, the numbers say he’s not very good at the whole fielding thing. Throw in the fact that he’s playing in the NL, and that his offense is so dependent on his batting average, and I worry that he’ll come to KC, he’ll hit .260, and now you’ve got a .260 hitter at second base with not much pop, no walks, and bad defense. That’s not really an upgrade. He should be available, but I wouldn’t want to pay the price. Interest level: low to moderate.

Darwin Barney: He’s on the Cubs, so you know he’s available. Baseball Info Solutions rated Barney’s defense last year as 28 runs above average, and if he’s a legitimate +28 defender, he’s worth playing no matter how bad his stick is. The problem is, his stick is probably that bad, and his glove probably isn’t that good. He’s at +6 this year, and I’m comfortable saying he’s an excellent defensive second baseman. But he’s a career .253/.296/.346 hitter in the NL. He’s a better version of Chris Getz. Call me greedy, but I’d like to set my sights higher than that. Interest level: low.

Luis Valbuena: He’s on the Cubs, so you know he’s available. He’s played primarily third base for the Cubs the last two years, but has actually played more games at second base in his career than any other position. He’s only 27, and early this season looked like he had really figured some things out at the plate; he was hitting .264/.372/.464 at the end of May.

Since then, he’s hitting .194/.302/.317. He’s at .227/.335/.386 for the season. Those secondary skills are great, but he’s a lifetime .225 hitter, and that’s a tough sell even with some walks and pop. He’s basically a poor man’s version of Rickie Weeks, and I’m having enough trouble getting excited about the original. Interest level: low.

Marco Scutaro: He can hit – since joining the Giants just under a year ago, Scutaro has hit .332/.376/.425 in 148 games. And the Giants are starting to acknowledge that it’s not going to be there year.

But Scutaro is 37 years old. And in the first season of a 3-year, $20 million contract. I’d be willing to take him, but given his age and his price, I wouldn’t be willing to surrender much in the way of prospects in return. Interest level: moderate.

Robinson Cano: Made you look.

Kolten Wong: A man can dream.

Wong was the Cardinals’ first-round pick two years ago, #22 overall, out of the University of Hawaii. He was young for a college junior, just 20 years old, and hit .335/.401/.510 in the Midwest League after signing. He then skipped a level and hit .287/.348/.405 in Double-A last year, and is hitting .298/.357/.463 in Triple-A this year. He’s still only 22 years old. He’s a lefty bat, he’s ranked in BA’s Top 100 each of the last two years, and only figures to move up the list next year. He’s even 15-for-16 in steal attempts this year. And seeing as how the Cardinals’ current second baseman, Matt Carpenter, is hitting .325/.400/.499 and might be the best second baseman in the NL right now, Wong just might be available.

Available is one thing. Attainable is another. Wong would be a perfect fit for the Royals’ lineup, a high-average, low-strikeout hitter with a little juice in his bat and good defense; he’s basically the player the Royals hoped Johnny Giavotella would be. The problem is, how do you get him?

And this might be where you thread the needle, and simultaneous buy and sell. The Cardinals are trying to fend off the Pirates and Reds to win the NL Central, and need players that can help them now. Ervin Santana would be a good fit here; they’re one starter short of a great rotation. They don’t have an acute need for a reliever, but someone of Hochevar’s talents – to say nothing of Holland’s – would still be an upgrade.

Ideally, Santana for Wong would represent the skeleton of a trade that benefits both sides. Wong could step into the Royals’ lineup immediately, easing the sting of losing Santana and signaling to fans that the Royals aren’t giving up on the season. Failing that, could this be a situation where the Royals package Hochevar with lesser prospects in order to obtain Wong? Or just trade two or three prospects for Wong straight up?

Given that Wong is himself a prospect, the Royals wouldn’t be mortgaging their future if they packaged, say, Orlando Calixte and Miguel Almonte for Wong. This isn’t a future-for-present trade so much as a redistribution of prospect talent to better suit the needs of the team. The Royals need a second baseman; the Cardinals don’t. The Cardinals don’t really need anything, but if they do have a hole, it’s at shortstop, and with Alcides Escobar signed long-term, the Royals can afford to part with Calixte. (The issue of whether Escobar is ever going to hit again can be saved for another day.)

It’s not an ideal solution, and it’s certainly not a conventional one. The best answer to the Royals’ short-term needs at second base is a 22-year-old who has yet to make his major-league debut? And yet when you consider the alternatives, there just isn’t anyone out there who’s a lock to be an above-average second baseman, who’s under contract for at least one more season, and who is worth the price it would take to get him.

If Howie Kendrick is available and affordable, by all means, go after him. If your scouts are convinced that Rickie Weeks can bounce back or that Gordon Beckham’s improvement this year is for real, I’d be comfortable with them. If you can convince the Mariners to part with Dustin Ackley cheaply, more power to you. If the best you can do is to buy low on Danny Espinosa and try to rebuild him in the minors, that’s still better than nothing.

But the one player who ought to be available and who has the talent to justify paying a significant price for is the guy who’s still in Triple-A. If the Royals want to be buyers at the deadline without jeopardizing their future, they should trade for the one guy who’s most certain to be a part of their future. Kolten Wong is that guy. I’d like to see him in Kansas City soon.

If they can get him for Ervin Santana, and hold on to their own prospects, even better. But I suspect that ship has sailed. As long as the ship coming into port has Wong on it, I won’t cry too much for the missed opportunity.



14 comments:

Deo Prentice said...

Some trade involving Wong, Santana, and Hochever makes too much sense not to happen. Fills stated needs on both sides. Also, Cards have depth in young pitching (many have debuted this year). Wong & a couple of near-term pitchers for Santana & Hoch seems very doable for both sides.

deaner said...

Rany, at the end of the day, your main problem with a trade, is Dayton Moore. He just doesn't seem to have the guts/brains/fearlessness to pull the trigger on one of these trades.

deaner said...

Rany, at the end of the day, your main problem with a trade, is Dayton Moore. He just doesn't seem to have the guts/brains/fearlessness to pull the trigger on one of these trades.

Bart said...

I think Logan Forsythe is another reasonable/possible trade target.

anonymous said...

if dayton moore is able to turn 12 mil and brandon sisk into a main stay second basemen, that would probably be his best move to date.



I already consider santana his best move to date, however

Adam Pearce said...

Enjoying the article, but noticed that Gordon Beckham's profile states "from 2010 to 2010 he batted...". Figuring that's a typo of some sort.. Keep up the great writing.

Kansas City said...

Great writing and interesting information.

Royals continue to be an extremely interesting story. Now, they largely luck into a an 8 and 2 streak at the trading deadline (winning close games, including close games against a lousy team), which probably and unfortunately, changes everything. Moore will not sell. I suspected that when he was quoted a week ago as expressing fear that he would trade Santana and then regret it. With the emotions related to the Myers trade and the recent hot streak, no way Moore will make an objective and clear eyed decision.

The Royals are 10 and 10 in Santana's starts. He has about 13 left and the most likely result is around 500. The Angels were 7 and 6 in Greinke's 13 starts last year. Let's assume with the significantly worse hitting Royals, Santana goes a comparable 7 and 6. TRADE HIM. And based on Rany's analysis, get Wong.

Scott said...

Rany,

Why isn't Ciraco up and starting at 2B? His historical offensive numbers are quite good and, apparently, he is an excellent defensive 2B..

Get him up, now....!!

Scott

Kansas City said...

In the old days with 8 team leagues and no playoffs, it was common for bad teams to shoot for upward movement to the "first division" (top four of the 8 team league). Teams like the KC Athletics used to dream of being in the first division. In some ways, the 2013 Royals take us back to 1955.

twm said...

That Wong trade would be nice, but it is a pipe dream. The idea of trading Santana is itself a pipe dream.

Sean Thornton said...

I agree with Bart...wouldn't Forsythe be a possible target? Didn't the Royals scout San Diego not that long ago?

BobDD said...

We need Wong just for the plethora of punned headlines that would soon stretch further than our oldest scout's memory.

twm said...

Kind of wanted something interesting at the deadline. So, now what? Any chance if a Santana extension? I know everyone assumes he leaves, but would five/$70 get us into the discussion? Is he worth that? What does revenue look like with all the new money coming from MLB? Salary projections for our position players? Hosmer is looking better of late, but his struggles, as well as Moose's, must help alleviate the coming arbitration crunch. I don't know, just wondering.

KHAZAD said...

I somewhat agree with deaner on Dayton Moore, and have been telling everyone that the Royals would be neither buyers or sellers at the deadline. Despite the small move for Maxwell, this proved to be the case.

Moore has been timid when it comes to bold moves. I don't even believe he would have made the Myers trade if not for the fact that (to him at the time) it took the competition away from his boy Frenchy in right field. (I would have given up Myers and the rest, or perhaps even a little more for Shields and Zobrist. Now THAT would have been an interesting deal!)

In the end, anyone who has watched Moore the last 7 years would find it easy to predict that he would stand pat. Taking the middle ground and making small moves with players that were not in his plans anyway has been his M.O. (tradewise) from the beginning.

Of course as Mr Miyagi once said, if you walk down the middle, sooner or later you get squished, just like a grape.