This year, 2012, is a lost cause. The team continues to show flashes of contention without really getting anywhere for more than a week or so.
Our window for contention is probably from 2013-2017. If we do not add any pieces, we are probably screwed. So, how do we build for this window? What pieces need to be added? Which pieces do we already have? How do we continue to sustain success past this window?
In this article, I will attempt to provide answers to some of these questions from a fan's point of view. I will also provide a bit of research I did on the pieces that each playoff team from the last 5 years has had, and how we could realistically acquire these pieces. I will give a few things that the Royals could do to improve now, and some potential moves that they could make over the next year to make the team better now and in the long run. Keep in mind, this is completely hypothetical, although I would advocate for DM to get this stuff done.
So, without further explanation, let's get started.
First, here are a couple of statistical constants I noticed after some research on playoff teams in the AL over the past 5 years.
1: Every AL team in the playoffs from 2007-2011 has had at least 3 players with an OPS over .800 (min. 200 PA's). Most of the teams that moved on the farthest had at least 3 players with an OPS of .800 or higher, and at least one with a .900 OPS.
2: Every AL Team in the playoffs from 2007-2011 has gotten at least approx. 11 WAR (Baseball Reference) from their pitching staff, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF the 2009 Angels (Approx. 4 WAR).
3: The teams with more WAR from their pitching staff tended to have less players who OPS'd over .800. The teams with less WAR from their pitching staff tended to have more.
4: The teams who had multiple players who OPS'd over .800 and over 15 WAR from their staff tended to advance in the playoffs. (Ex: 2009 Yankees. WS Champs with a whopping 8/9 regulars with .800 OPS's and 21.5 WAR from their staff).
5. Almost none of these AL teams from 2007-2011 had any regulars with a sub-.650 OPS.
So, how much of this do the Royals already have?
Let's start with the pitching staff. The starters alone have 3.1 WAR, and are on pace to finish with 7 WAR. Total. For further reference, Justin Verlander alone got 8.3 WAR (more than the entire Royals starting staff is projected to finish with this year) and has 3.8 already this year (More than the entire Royals starting staff to this point in the season).
On the starting staff, we have two roughly 2 WAR pitchers. Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza (of all people). The rest is a flaming pile of suck. Hochevar might be an adequate swingman at this point in his career, but not much more than that. We have basically what constitutes as a back-end of a rotation for a playoff team, and those are our best pitchers.
In order to match their window, the Royals need about another 7-10 WAR out of their pitching staff. So, how do we get that?
First of all, they must call up Jake Odorizzi, which will give us at least another roughly 2 WAR starter at the major league level right off the bat.
So, we need another 5-7 WAR out of our pitching staff. Where do we look?
Option 1: Free agency. (List of 2013 FA's is here: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/04/2013-mlb-free-agents.html)
NOTE: We have a projected post-arb Payroll of $53 Million. I will not factor in any potential payroll dumps, and I will assume a budget of roughly $20-$25 Million.
Here are a few options that stood out to me:
Ryan Dempster (36) Over the last 5 years, Ryan Dempster has averaged out to be a 3 WAR pitcher. He would not come too expensive, and he has that sort of "Veteran presence" that Dayton Moore likes. Although he is old, he is a viable option considering the fact that he has consistently been a 2-3 WAR pitcher over the last 5 years.
Projected price to sign: 1 year, $7-$9 Million.
Shaun Marcum (31) KC Native, 3 WAR pitcher over the last 5 years. Could come to us for a discount since he is from here, but we should not assume anything.
Projected price to sign: 3 years, $8-$10 Million per.
Brandon McCarthy (29) Great 3-4 WAR pitcher who has completely reinvented himself in the last couple of years. Other teams will likely balk because of his injury history, so that will likely drive his price down a bit. Most likely will be a cheap, reliable option for the starting rotation.
Projected price to sign: 2-3 years, $7-$9 Million per.
Option 2: Trades.
After looking at the trade market for starters, I came to the conclusion that moves for starters are simply too expensive for a small-market team with little pitching depth to make, although I could see some moves for some minor league starters in the near future. I did come up with one hypothetical trade scenario, though.
Yordano Ventura, Chris Dwyer, Johnny Giavotella, and Mike Montgomery for Vance Worley of the Phillies. This is the only trade I could think up that made sense. Really the only young, cost-controlled starter to potentially be on the market.
So, say they make two of these potential moves. We would then have for our 2013 rotation:
1: 3 WAR starter
2: 3 WAR starter
3: 2 WAR starter (at least) (Odorizzi)
4: 2 WAR starter (Chen)
5: 1.5-2 WAR starter (Mendoza)
11.5-12 WAR out of our starting staff (This is not including our bullpen, which would add another roughly 3-4 WAR to that total, and that's not being very generous) or the fact that we have another 2-3 WAR (or better) pitcher (Paulino) and another 2-2.5 WAR pitcher (At least) (Duffy) each coming off of the disabled list at some point next season.
So, now that the pitching question is answered, what do we need from our lineup?
First, let's look at what we already have.
Regulars we can expect to have OPS's over .750 in 2013: Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez (C).
Positions in need of an upgrade in 2013: 2nd Base, CF/RF
So, now that that is answered, where do we get those positional upgrades (Keep in mind, this is assuming we dump Frenchy or make him a 4th outfielder)?
Option 1: Free Agency
Potential free agent Upgrade at 2nd base:
Kelly Johnson (31) Decent bat, okay fielder at second, averages a .775 OPS per year. Has pop. Wouldn't come too expensive.
Projected price to sign: 2 years, $4-$5 Million per.
Potential free agent upgrade at CF/RF:
Cody Ross (32) Great hitter, averages .789 OPS per year. OPSing .900+ in Boston right now. Would be relatively cheap (He is going into his age 32 season) and most likely very productive. Another one of those "Good clubhouse guys" that Dayton likes.
Projected price to sign: 1 year, $5-$6 Million.
Option 2: Trades
Not many options here that wouldn't be long-term. We have plenty of minor-league guys that could fill in at these positions in the future.
Option 3: Minor league guys.
This would basically be flinging shit at the wall and seeing what sticks at those positions. Cain might work for CF, but I don't see him as more than a 4th outfielder long-term. Giavotella isn't really liked by Dayton Moore for some reason.
So, after tinkering a little and adding some pieces through free agency, we have a depth chart of:
1B: Eric Hosmer (.725-unlimited OPS)
2B: Kelly Johnson (.725-.775 OPS)
3B: Mike Moustakas (.800-unlimited OPS)
SS: Alcides Escobar (.750-.800 OPS)
LF: Alex Gordon (.760-unlimited OPS)
CF: Cody Ross (.780-unlimited OPS)
RF: Wil Myers (.720-Unlimited OPS)
C: Salvador Perez (.720- Unlimited OPS)
DH: Billy Butler (.800-Unlimited OPS)
So, there you have it.
A 15.5-16 WAR pitching staff (With out any player progression or regression, completely neutral).
A lineup with an average OPS of .750 (Again, Without any player progression or regression. Completely neutral).
As well as the hope of many Kansas City Royals fans that 2013 is the year.
So, I leave you with a question, RR'ers. What would you do to prime the team for 2013? Which moves would you make? Do you think the team will be ready in 2013? Will we be poised to contend? And lastly, what did you think about this article, and are there any ways I could improve my statistical analysis, writing skills, and or knowledge of the trade/FA market and the science behind baseball?
Thank you for taking the time to read this.