About two weeks ago, a day after the All-Star Game, I wrote a column cautioning the Royals to figure out if they were buyers or sellers—before it was too late.
Kansas City has looked more the part of a buyer since the All-Star break.
They started by taking two out of three from the American League Central-leading Tigers at home.
Then they won three out of four from the Baltimore Orioles, which entered today as one of the top two clubs in the AL Wild Card standings (the other is Boston).
Over the past weekend, the Royals swept division rival Chicago including a 4-2, 12-inning win on Sunday.
Any team would take an 8-2 record in a 10-game stretch. The problem for the Royals? It got them back to .500.
Entering tonight’s road game in Minneapolis, Kansas City is 51-51, and that’s good and bad news.
Good because the Royals haven’t flat-lined—yet.
Bad because this is the time of year teams start looking towards next season.
With the trade deadline tomorrow, KC is in that weird limbo where it doesn’t appear to be a buyer and can’t raise the white flag as a seller.
Entering Tuesday, they were only seven games out of first place in the Central and five behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot.
That’s still a murky margin.
And without any clarity, the Royals may lose out on their biggest trade chip, starter Ervin Santana, by not selling.
Beyond the Texas Rangers’ newly-acquired Matt Garza, the wiry right-hander was probably the next best starter on the market. The White Sox’ Jake Peavy has been bandied about, but Chicago’s unwillingness to eat some of his salary and his lengthy injury history make him a high-risk target. The miserable Houston Astros have a good chip in Bud Norris but he is more promising than he is a difference-maker (6-9, 3.83 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .277 opponent’s batting average).
If KC thinks it can win this year, then holding on to Santana is rational. He has arguably been as good James Shields.
But if the Royals don’t make the postseason, then Santana likely walks when his contract is up. Kansas City could re-sign him but you have to think he can get more money – and maybe a better shot at the postseason – elsewhere.
It’s hard for this current bunch of Royals to suggest they can make the postseason without the help of additional talent.
All signs point that KC is intending to be a buyer simply because they haven’t sold. As far as acquisitions, though, they only have the waiver wire pick-up of shortstop Pedro Ciriaco, who was shipped immediately to Triple-A Omaha.
Kansas City has holes. And it’s waited too long to address them.
They have been linked to a handful of second baseman trade options including the Angels’ Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, the White Sox’ Gordon Beckham and the Brewers’ Rickie Weeks. If the Royals pull the trigger and acquire a second baseman, they should be better off than sinking farther into the abyss created by Chris Getz, Elliott Johnson and Miguel Tejada at that position.
But is that really enough to suddenly put the Royals in the playoff mix? KC won’t continue to win eight out of every 10.
A veteran impact player with postseason experience would be welcome, especially in the outfield where Kansas City is relying on youngsters Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and David Lough to produce in the right field/center field committee.
The ball is in GM Dayton Moore’s court and the next 24 hours – action or inaction – will say a lot about where the franchise is headed for the next couple years.