Kansas City Royals: Unlikely Trades That Could Help Win the AL Central
With a 35-42 record, and losers of three straight, the Kansas City Royals still sit just six games back of the first place Chicago White Sox in the American League Central. Well within striking distance, the Royals could try on a different hat heading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and actually become buyers.
While a wild card spot isn’t likely for any team that calls the AL Central home, winning the division does at least get you invited to the dance. And recent history has shown (2011 St. Louis Cardinals) that anything can happen once you are out on the dance floor.
An attempt to win the division by making moves midseason proves two things: 1) the 2012 season was the bridge year all along before the Royals are ready to make a Tampa Bay Rays-like jump into contention (circa 2008) and 2) that management and ownership are indeed intent on turning the franchise back into the perennial winner it was in the 1970s and 80s.
The Royals’ minor league system has been depleted recently as its talented youth has gradually made its way to Kansas City. As expectations take shape, only outfielder Wil Myers and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi are likely to make any impact in the near future on the big league roster.
Since Myers and Odorizzi would be the hot names floated around in any trade talks with the Royals acting as the aggressor, it makes any move to improve the team for the stretch run of the 2012 season highly unlikely.
However, with about a month left before needing to make that decision, there is still time to jockey for position. Assuming the Royals are still hanging around the division come the end of July, here are four moves that could help them win the AL Central in 2012.
Whether centered on outfielder Alfonso Soriano, shortstop Starlin Castro or starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, the Chicago Cubs seem to be involved in the bulk of the trade chatter recently.
New team president Theo Epstein knew what he was getting into when he relocated this past offseason to the Windy City from the same post he held with the Boston Red Sox.
Midseason moves and free agent acquisitions are right up his alley, but Epstein is usually on the other end of the spectrum and not the one selling off the team’s better parts.
The Kansas City Royals need starting pitching badly. While it wouldn’t make much sense to trade for an injury-prone hurler in Dempster, Garza would actually fit in quite nicely atop the Royals’ starting rotation.
Garza, who wouldn’t be considered a No. 1 starter on most playoff teams, poses a nice contrast to the rest of the Royals’ rag-tag starting staff. Having the durable righty toe the rubber every five days would give the Royals a chance to minimize the extended losing streaks that have haunted them all season long.
Zack Greinke’s patience with the Kansas City Royals wore thin due to the team’s lack of on-field success, so the team shipped him to the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the 2011 season.
In exchange for the former Cy Young Award winner, the Royals were able to haul in their starting shortstop (Alcides Escobar), their now No. 1 pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi, their starting center fielder Lorenzo Cain (currently out with injury) and a hard-throwing bullpen arm in Jeremy Jeffress.
With the Brewers falling on such hard times this year after reaching the NLCS last season, they have plenty of pieces to become major sellers come July 31.
With pitching the hot topic around this time of the year, Greinke will have plenty of suitors. But with him not technically ruling out a return to Kansas City at some point in his career, why not bring him back for a stretch run towards a playoff berth? Nothing like a postseason appearance to help whet his appetite again.
While both Shaun Marcum (traded from the Toronto Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie) and Greinke have proven to be fair returns compared to what Milwaukee had to give up to obtain them, the team results simply aren’t keeping up.
Marcum, an Excelsior Springs native (suburb of Kansas City), has had a very productive MLB career and fans have always talked about him returning to his roots to pitch for his hometown Royals.
While not considered a No. 1 starter, Marcum’s consistency would certainly be of help anywhere in the Royals’ rotation. And with free agency looming this offseason, getting a test run in his backyard could land Kansas City atop his list of potential destinations.
Trade Jeff Francoeur to Make Room for Wil Myers
Jeff Francoeur was a breath of fresh air for everyone in and around the Kansas City Royals organization last season.
An offensive resurgence, along with good defense in right field helped ease the youth movement onto the big league roster. But the fan favorite’s 2012 season has been quite the opposite, as Francoeur has only hit .256/.293/.387 with seven home runs and 24 RBI in 75 games.
Unlike last season, Francoeur is now blocking the next piece of the Royals’ talented young group from producing at the major league level. Wil Myers, currently playing for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers, has hit everything thrown to him this season (.329/.408/.688 with 27 home runs, 71 RBI and 68 runs scored across two stops). Francoeur, simply put, has not.
While it is common for organizations to wait for the June 1 arbitration deadline or the elusive Super 2 status to pass, bringing up Myers—sooner rather later—will benefit both him and the team. It could also trigger the promotion of pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi.
Unloading Francoeur won’t be easy with his suddenly team-unfriendly, two-year contract outweighing his on-field performance, but the Royals should do anything and everything to make space for Myers in Kansas City.
Though none of these moves guarantee a playoff berth, there are two things that Royals’ fans want to see during the second half of the 2012 season: better starting pitching and Wil Myers in Kansas City. Either or all of these moves accomplishes that goal.