In the process, they made a statement that shouted it’s all about the precious present.
That was both in terms of what the Royals hauled in and the way they strip-mined their stockpile of pitching prospects by giving up five in the process.
This is all because Royals executives and players weren’t appeased by reaching game seven of the World Series last season in the franchise’s first playoff foray in 29 years.
Instead, the breakthrough whetted their appetite for more and to seize the moment and momentum that often are fleeting in baseball, particularly for small-market teams that scarcely can afford to keep all their home-grown talent for the long haul.
So sulk if you must at what was surrendered, but the Royals were right to clutch the urgent opportunity with such boldness regardless of how it plays out.
Suddenly, they are not just a strong candidate but the overwhelming favorite to repeat as American League champions.
Suddenly, they seem to have it all for the playoff run:
The sensational defense. The uncanny back end of their bullpen. A versatile offense with an infusion of power. And an upgraded realignment of starting pitching triggered by Cueto at the top, followed by Edinson Volquez, the resurgent Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura — whose strong start last Sunday reminded that he can get it all back as fast as he seemed to lose it.
This is a fine place to be after a potentially turbulent July in which the Royals lost star left fielder Alex Gordon for an estimated two months because of a groin injury and pitcher Jason Vargas for the season — and briefly optioned opening-day starter Ventura to Class AAA Omaha.
None of this distracted or so much as slowed down the Royals, who until their 12-1 flameout on Wednesday in Cleveland had been 13-5 since losing Gordon, the latest supposed moment of truth for what the team really was about.
Having a whopping lead in the AL Central Division and all systems purring at the end of July, of course, guarantees nothing, which the Royals know as well as anyone from the other end of the spectrum.
As July turned to August last season, they were 55-52, four games out and just extracting themselves from a miserable funk in which they lost seven of eight games and seemed to be doomed.
Who knew who they really were, or that they’d even make the playoffs, or that they’d somehow come back to beat Oakland in the Wild Card Game, which enabled the phenomenon to come?
Still, you’d sure rather be in this position than that one.
Now the trick is to maximize the additions of Cueto and Zobrist and where the Royals are situated by balancing the importance of winning the division with being prepared for the playoffs.
The good news is the Royals seem mindful of that, too.
Amid 18 games in 17 days before a scheduled off day Monday, they repeatedly scrapped batting practice, particularly when the heat index is approaching 100 degrees.
But the real key is the restraint to rest regulars, particularly overtaxed All-Star catcher Salvador Perez and All-Star center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who is susceptible to leg injuries.
Manager Ned Yost is enjoying the buffer zone as much as anyone, though he also figures the Royals are a bad week from losing that margin for error and that he’d rather have the distance “be more comfortable than uncomfortable.”
Still, Yost acknowledges the need to be mindful of what looms ahead barring an epic collapse.
“If you don’t (rest players), you’re going to pay for it somewhere,” he said. “If you wear ’em out at the end, that’s not going to accomplish what you want to accomplish. So you have to be smart about it.”
By all indications, he is.
Last weekend against Houston, he rested Perez on Friday, Cain on Saturday and Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer on Sunday with Perez serving as designated hitter.
For a day game on Wednesday in Cleveland, he sat Cain and Perez — making for a possibly unprecedented three times in six games that Perez wasn’t catching when healthy.
Between the regular season and postseason, no major-league player started more games at catcher than Perez’s 158 last year, and it showed.
Through 85 games in the 2014 season, Perez hit .283 with 11 home runs and a .765 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Fatigued thereafter, he became less disciplined and his numbers faded to .229/6/.595.
The pattern is beginning to surface anew in July, which Perez entered hitting .270 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs.
As of Wednesday, he was hitless in his last 13 at-bats and 13 of 77 (.168) for the month with two homers and eight RBIs.
And who knows where the point of diminishing marginal returns sets in for keeps if he doesn’t get a chance to get fresh?
In the New World Order the Royals have devised, this might seem merely a middling concern.
But it’s also just the sort of thing that they can control as they align themselves for the playoffs.
That’s something they’ve already gone all-in on with Cueto and Zobrist, of course, but need to gird for in every way they can since no one can know when such a fertile opportunity will present itself again.