Opinion

Ask Andy: Did the Royals give up too much for Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist?

Kansas City Royal’ Johnny Cueto warmed up before the Royals’ game Tuesday.
Kansas City Royal’ Johnny Cueto warmed up before the Royals’ game Tuesday. The Associated Press

A funny thing happened this week when I beseeched readers for questions about the Royals: There really weren’t any.

Kansas City stole the show early in the week, trading for Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto and Oakland super-utility man Ben Zobrist. That answered the lingering questions about the team’s plans for the trade deadline. They filled the most glaring vacancy on their roster, the lack of an ace, and also picked up the most versatile player on the market.

It was a good week.

One figures more questions will arise next week. But for now, it’s relatively quiet. Let’s answer what we can.

It’s an interesting philosophical discussion, and one the Royals front office grappled with in the weeks leading up to the deadline. On one hand, of course, you can argue that a club like Kansas City should be wary of sacrificing their top prospects for short-term gains, especially when the current club is already pretty good. But the Royals also acknowledged that the opportunity in front of them won’t exist in perpetuity.

Consider the context. The American League is, more or less, dreadful this season. Kansas City may never have a better chance to return to the World Series than they do in 2015. And the roster figures to change, perhaps in significant ways, this offseason. Alex Gordon can become a free agent. The Royals almost have to more aggressive in trying to move closer Greg Holland, who will earn an eight-figure salary through arbitration, which does not account for his regression and troubling peripherals.

Meanwhile, arbitration will continue to hike salaries for Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy. It won’t be easy to keep this core together forever.

So the Royals, in one reporter’s humble opinion, did well to strike on a pair of front-light assets without wrecking their farm system. They still control Raul A. Mondesi, Miguel Almonte, Kyle Zimmer, Scott Blewitt, Bubba Starling and others.

Let’s do a quick review of what they actually gave up.

The Reds received three left-handed pitching prospects. A number of Kansas City officials believe Brandon Finnegan will be a reliever in the majors. Cincinnati will try to develop him as a starter. John Lamb is having an encouraging year in Class AAA, but he’s never pitched in the majors before, and, at 25, projects more as a back-end starter these days. Cody Reed is a prototypical lefty, but he’s also just reached Class AA. Some scouts did say Reed was the most enticing player of the trio.

So, Kansas City could look up in three years and see all three pitchers in Cincinnati’s rotation. Or, Brandon Finnegan could become a middle reliever, and the other two could wash out. It’s impossible to predict.

In acquiring Sean Manaea, Oakland impressed rival executives. Manaea is a prospect with a lot of upside, which is why Kansas City gave him a $3.55 million bonus in the 2013 draft. But Royals officials considered him to be quite raw, an issue that manifested itself this spring when Manaea dealt with a variety of minor, nagging injuries. He could become a beast in the majors, but he wasn’t going to do that any time soon. Manaea likely wouldn’t have pitched for Kansas City until late 2016, at the earliest.

Which circles back to the original point: Did KC give up too much? Not if you believe the opportunity currently in front of them is worth gambling on, worth striving for. That’s the choice they made. It is an admirable one, a choice general manager Dayton Moore had never had the opportunity to make in Kansas City. The next three months will determine its wisdom.

A fun weekly segment returns!

We’ve written a lot about Holland’s issues in this space. Like last week. Or back in June.

Yes. There are concerns.

It’s conceivable Starling could be rewarded with a September call-up, but he’s not yet on the 40-man roster, which hurts his chances. Also, if Terrance Gore is healthy — an important caveat, since he’s hasn’t played for the last two weeks due to an ankle injury — why not just use him for the, ahem, Terrance Gore Role?

No. Wrestling is for losers. Read a book, dweebs.

Great segueway!

I did read it, and it’s tremendous. I won’t spoil it, but you should buy it just to read Zack Greinke talk about his dreams of one day running his own landscaping business.

A few other books I’ve enjoyed this year:

1. “The Grind” by Barry Svrluga, an elegiac portrait of the baseball season’s marathon.

2. “Not A Game” by Kent Babb*, which shattered basically every illusion I ever harbored about Allen Iverson.

3. “Dear Mr. President” by Gabe Hudson, a collection of inventive, haunting short stories about war in the Middle East.

*Star alum!

It’s definitely the album I listen to the most that came out in 2006. Here are the other records I probably listened to the most that year:

1. “We Don’t Need To Whisper” by Angels & Airwaves

2. “Hell Hath No Fury” by Clipse.

3. “Night Ripper” by Girl Talk.

4. “Inside In/Inside Out” by The Kooks.

5. “Return To Cookie Mountain” by TV On The Radio

6. “The Crane Wife” by The Decemberists.

7. “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance

8. “Food & Liquor” by Lupe Fiasco.

9. “Amputechture” by The Mars Volta.

10. “A City By The Light Divided” by Thursday.

FROM THE STAR

1. Meet Johnny Cueto: The Royals’ newly acquired ace.

2. Danny Duffy made some mistakes on Thursday, and the Blue Jays capitalized.

3. Here is your daily video update.

THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)

98.1 percent.

HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC

“Another Space Song” by Failure.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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