Welcome to the latest edition of The Star’s Royals mailbag. The trade deadline is a little more than a month away, and there is much to discuss. Let’s get to it.
It’s an interesting perspective, and one almost never voiced by fans. It would be tough to disrupt the team’s chemistry with any one trade, unless it was like swapping Alex Gordon for Hanley Ramirez. The Royals boast a strong bond in their clubhouse, and the sort of deals they are looking to make would not necessarily detract from that.
But there is an argument to be made that the trades you don’t make often save you, rather than the trades you do make. It is a dilemma each contending club faces each summer: Short-term gain versus long-term potential.
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Is it worth it to deal a top prospect like Raul Mondesi Jr., for two months of Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto or Oakland utility man Ben Zobrist?
Is it worth it to take on Cole Hamels’ salary, and potentially spend dollars that could have been earmarked for new deals for players like Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez or Mike Moustakas?
Is it worth it to give up on Danny Duffy, who is still under team control for two more seasons, for a two-month rental?
These are the sort of questions the Royals must answer. General manager Dayton Moore has never made a midsummer blockbuster. Last year serves as something of a precedent. Restricted by their finances, Kansas City explored a variety of incremental upgrades, coming close to deals for players like Alex Rios (who refused to waive his no-trade clause), Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett and others. They never could finish off the final details.
After the nonwaiver deadline, the team acquired Josh Willingham from Minnesota. Willingham contributed some decent at-bats, but wasn’t much of a factor in September and October.
The last part of that sentence is crucial. The Royals did pretty much nothing last year at the deadline, and rode their core all the way to the World Series. Their team is better in 2015. The American League is weaker. Kansas City certainly could use upgrades at second base, in right field and in the starting rotation. Those are the areas they are focusing on at this point. But if they can’t swing a deal, they may be in a better position for the future, anyway.
Eric Hosmer is a good baseball player. Seriously. Just ask Alex Rodriguez.
He ranked fourth, as of Thursday, among American League first basemen, with a 1.8 WAR. He is a two-time Gold Glove defender, and his deftness around the bag stabilizes the performance of the other infielders. He has shown signs of growth as a hitter this season, with a career-best .812 OPS and 123 OPS+. He is still 25, and the Royals hope to see more offensive improvement in 2016 and 2017, his final two seasons of arbitration.
Does Hosmer have holes in his game? Sure. He fritters away at-bats on occasion. He runs into the occasional out on the bases. He gets himself out at the plate too often for his or the team’s liking.
Do you expect more from the No. 3 overall pick in the draft? You would think so — except the draft is far from an exact science. The third-overall pick in 2007, Josh Vitters, was released by the Rockies this spring and does not appear to be playing professional baseball right now. The third-overall pick in 2009, Donovan Tate, has never reached the majors.
Hosmer is a success story. He may never bash 40 home runs or post a 1.000 OPS like Miguel Cabrera. But he is a talented player, a sizable asset. The Royals should not be looking to upgrade from Eric Hosmer. They should be figuring out if they can afford to extend his contract in any form or fashion past 2017. If they can’t, they need to figure out how they’re going to replace such a valuable member of their club.
Nothing in baseball is worth speculating about.
But here goes: One guy to keep an eye on is Miguel Almonte.
He won’t be up after the All-Star break. No one in the Royals’ minor-league system is poised to make that sort of impact in 2015. If John Lamb continues to pitch well*, the Royals will have to consider using him, but for now they have a surplus of veteran options. The big-league staff — like every big-league staff — prefers pitchers with big-league experience, because those players have a track record and a veneer of reliability. They aren’t always reliable — see Pino, Yohan — but that’s the thought process.
*Lamb struck out 10 in his last outing for Omaha. One scout who watched him that night clocked his fastball at 95 mph. “Dominant,” the evaluator said.
So, anyway. Almonte. He is one of the team’s better pitching prospects. Baseball Prospectus rated him the No. 56 prospect in the game before the season. Almonte has had some struggles in 2015, but the team framed this as part of the developmental process.
At 22, Almonte wields precocious ability with his changeup. The Royals tasked him with improving his fastball command this year, so they restricted his changeup usage. His strikeout totals have dipped accordingly. But if Almonte stays healthy, there’s a decent chance he could contribute as a reliever in September.
I’ll say this much: It would cost more than reliever Brian Broderick, who has pitched well enough in Omaha.
Look, the Royals gave Johnny Giavotella plenty of chances. He never hit. His former teammates are happy for him. The group cheered when Giavotella scored a game-winning run for the Angels last week.
What is there to dread? This season is part of a baseball renaissance in Kansas City. Enjoy it. The city and the region and the fanbase waited nearly three decades for years like 2014 and 2015. Savor every moment. Windows close fast and without warning.
“For your birthday, Andy, I am giving you a gift of $1 million.”
It depends on the situation. If voices within the organization speak up about it and voice their concern, I believe it’s fair game. One minor-key example: We wrote about the team’s addiction to Clash of Clans last fall.
I don’t use Instagram because I don’t take too many pictures with my phone, and I don’t use Snapchat because I graduated high school 10 years ago. Twitter is great at disseminating information, accessing information and receiving death threats from strangers. Facebook is a cesspool.
Now this is a good question. Here are 10 that come to mind:
1. “‘45’” by The Gaslight Anthem.
2. “When It Dies” by The Get Up Kids.
3. “Soon We’ll Be Living In The Future” by Straylight Run.
4. “Rest To Get Better” by Transit.
5. “Appreciation” by Jimmy Eat World.
6. “You Are A Tourist” by Death Cab For Cutie.
7. “Best Of You” by Foo Fighters.
8. “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean. [I don’t care, I just don’t understand why people went so crazy about “Channel Orange.” But this song is amazing.]
9. “Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers)” by Patrick Stump.
10. “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” by WZRD.