The Kansas City fan base is certainly divided on last night's trade with Tampa. My extremely unscientific research indicates that the casual fan is predominately excited for this trade, as are those who make a fair portion of their living in some sort of association with the organization (or by at least having access to said organization). The sabremetric community and the 'internet crowd', which by the way is not one in the same are against the trade by an extremely large margin. Judging solely by blurbs, bytes and tweets, the baseball community outside of the immediate and every shrinking Royals community, also seems split.
Sometimes such a divergence of opinion is the sign of a fair trade and sometimes it is just a sign that people don't agree. My wife hates this phrase: but it is what it is.
In the confusing world of following the Royals, where just a week ago we were told that the major league payroll could not exceed $70 million and, for a short time, could not be even that much, we journey into the work week with a Royals team whose payroll now is bumping up against the $80 million mark. If you told me that was going to happen 60 days ago, I would have been really excited. However, that $80 million is not seem particularly appealing, unless you think paying one million dollars per win in 2013 is a good deal.
Without question, this was a move made by a General Manager who has become desperate to win. I speculated a few weeks back that we were headed down this road, but I have to admit I was not sure the Royals would drive at an unsafe speed down said road. Dayton Moore is now traveling somewhere north of 100 mph on the backs of James Shields, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie, Wade Davis and, brace yourself, Jeff Francoeur.
That's the bet: Moore is going to win 90 games not 80 (or 78) with this group or he's going to be working somewhere else.
That is a pretty big gamble considering just how long the list is of 'ifs' that had to fall right for this Royals team to even begin to catch the Detroit Tigers. You know, the guys with a top five in the order of Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. The same group that will roll out Verlander, Scherzer and Fister to start a series and might yet return Anibal Sanchez to the mix as well.
Simply put, Dayton Moore needs the following to happen:
- James Shields has to translate his Tampa environment (park and defense) successfully to the Midwest. He has to be 'James Shields', not the guy who used to be James Shields. Honestly, I think this is the most likely of all the 'ifs' to happen.
- Wade Davis has to translate his 2012 bullpen success into a 2013 starting performance that makes him way better than Luke Hochevar. Right now, Dayton Moore is indicating that Hochevar is a 'solid number 4 in the Royals' rotation' and that Davis will be competing with Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza for the number five spot. Davis has to blow those two and Hochevar away, plain and simple.
- Jeremy Guthrie needs to be decent. Is it realistic for him to pitch like he did late last summer? I don't think so, but he could be what he was prior to his disastrous stint in Colorado last year. Let's clarify decent: that means league average and not just league average with all the crap that gets run out throughout the course of the season. I'm talking league average in relation to the pitchers who throw 150 or more innings.
- Ervin Santana does, too. All of what I said about Guthrie, only insert 'bad first half with the Angels' for Colorado.
- Eric Hosmer has to become the star we thought he would be. Without Wil Myers to come up and bolster the lineup, the Royals need Hosmer to be the next big thing. The Royals can live with Mike Moustakas being okay at the plate and good in the field - hell, his fWAR last year was good enough, but they absolutely positively need Hosmer to be a star.
- Jeff Francoeur can't suck. Last year he hit poorly, ran poorly and covered almost no ground in right field. Yes, he has a great arm that makes Sports Center highlight throws, but what's the point if his range is similar to that of Juan Gonzalez's....right now.
- Lorenzo Cain has to both stay healthy and, you know, HIT the ball. Some really like Cain, others do not and worry about his long swing. There were flashes last year of both good and bad, but the Royals need more good flashes than bad.
- Did I say James Shields being good was the most likely of the ifs? I was wrong. The Royals need Salvador Perez to parlay the success of his first two partial seasons into 140 games of greatness. I think he will, but it is still an 'if'.
- Gordon, Butler, Escobar and Moustakas, as a group, cannot regress. How they achieve the cumulative WAR they provided last year will likely change, but the four of them have to provide at least as much production as in 2012.
- The bullpen cannot implode. I don't think they will, but pitchers are hard to predict (that's frankly what Dayton Moore is counting on with at least three of his starting pitchers - that the statistical predictions are flat wrong) and relief pitchers are the most volatile of them all.
- One of Danny Duffy or Felipe Paulino has to return before July and be effective. Both would be nice and required if any of ifs 1 through 4 don't occur. Even all of the first four do happen, the Royals will need a boost by mid-season and who would not prefer seeing Danny Duffy every fifth day instead of Luke Hochevar?
- They have to stay healthy. Wil Myers isn't waiting if an outfielder goes down and Jake Odorizzi is not in AAA if another bout of Tommy John sweeps through the clubhouse. Name a non-reliever in AA or AAA who is ready to step in on an every day basis. Yep, let's all be careful out there