According to Cool Standings the Kansas City Royals have a 32.8% chance of making the playoffs as of Tuesday afternoon. On this same day last season, the Royals were 29-36 with a 9% chance of making the playoffs and Cool Standings had their 'expected' won-loss total to end up at 73-89. As it turned out, they missed the Royals' final record by one game. Currently, they project the 2013 Royals to be expected to post an 84-78 final record, which would leave our boys missing the final wild card spot by two games.
So we find ourselves once more at the 'all-in' discussion point only another month or so into the season. The big moves have already been made and we can't go back and undo any of what Dayton Moore did this past winter. Some simply hate it and not without good reason. There exists the very real possibility that this team, which is currently winning because none of its pitchers have given up hardly any runs for a two and one-half weeks, could still implode spectacularly. Another 4-19 streak would almost surely cost Ned Yost his job and another 90 loss season would likely cost Dayton Moore his own.
I don't know that the Royals will go through such a terrible stretch of baseball again this year. I am, however, skeptical that they will move much beyond the .500 mark. I think that 81-81 keeps both Yost and Moore in place for 2014 and would wager large sums of money that the 'expected' 84-78 assures that they do.
Therein lies the rub. It appears that this Royals team will not be bad enough to effect organizational change, but also won't be good enough to make the playoffs.
As I have written before, the Royals have half a season of Ervin Santana, one and one-half of James Shields and about that same amount of time before Jeremy Guthrie gets old. Billy Butler (assuming the team picks up his option) and Alex Gordon are both signed through 2015 (yes, Gordon has a player option for 2016). While the Royals will have Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino coming back from Tommy John surgery this summer and can look to Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer as sooner rather than later pitching prospects, they cannot reasonably foresee an impact bat coming up through the system anytime soon.
I did not mind the Ervin Santana acquisition as much as some others and, like everyone, have been delighted by his performance this season. That said, he has historically been an inconsistent pitcher season to season and there are some glaring signs of regression to the mean that will eventually smack Ervin in the back of the head. It might not be until next year, but it will happen eventually. That was an entire paragraph to simply say the Royals should not and probably will not be able to bring Santana back for 2014.
You can make a case that the 2014 Royals, without any real changes from this year's roster, could be better and maybe, with some good fortune (i.e. Mike Moustakas hitting something, Eric Hosmer hitting a ton and the rotation not falling off a cliff without Shields) you can even make a case that the 2015 Royals would be formidable. Those are real possibilities, but we are living in the now. By trading Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, Dayton Moore has forced us to live in the now.
The 'now' is a place where the Royals have one of the best pitching staffs, one through twelve, in the American League and not enough offense. If Kansas City is really two or three games away from making the playoffs or even in the general discussion of making the playoffs, Dayton Moore needs to address this issue now. He has already turned down the road, past Luke Hochevar's corner, and might as well put the pedal down.
James Shields is really good. Ervin Santana is on a big hot streak. Jeremy Guthrie is solid and, for now, Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza are good enough. Give them a little more offense and the Royals might truly be able to enter into the playoff discussion with Baltimore, Texas, Tampa and the Yankees: the four teams they will likely need to battle for a wild card spot.
There is a guy in Miami with a career line of .270/.351/.552. He is 23 years old and will be under team control (albeit likely an expensive arbitration dollar amount) through the entirety of this current roster's window of opportunity. Oh yeah, he plays right field.
Giancarlo Stanton is not without warts. He has a bit of an injury history. He is not a great fielder. He does, however, get on base and hit with power: two things not a lot of current Royals do. If you are all in, Dayton, freaking go all in.
Certainly, Miami is going to want a lot for Stanton. Just guessing, but I would think the discussion would start with two of Ventura, Zimmer and Duffy. Cheslor Cuthbert will come up and you can bet the Marlins will broach the subject of Raul Mondesi Jr. Wherever the discussion goes, you can bet Miami will demand at least four players back and, no, Christian Colon and Johnny Giavotella will not be two of them.
Would you do it? Knowing that with the exception of the starting pitching, no one you would be trading would likely factor into the Royals' regular roster in the next two, maybe even three years? Knowing that Ventura and Zimmer are hardly sure things and by the way, Danny Duffy is not either?
I would, not because I'm drinking the Kool-Aid or a 'true' fan. I would because I don't really trust the Royals to consistently develop talent through the minors that will produce in the major leagues. I would because I don't see this squad being bad enough to make David Glass change the manager, much less the general manager before the end of 2014. I would because, like it or not, whether they admit it or not, this organization already is all-in and 34-34 on June 18th is as good a look at contention as we have seen in these parts for quite some time.
Zimmer and either Duffy or Ventura, plus Jorge Bonifacio and Mondesi? Two of those starters, plus Bonifacio, Cuthbert and someone else (Jason Adam? Orlando Calixte?)? I would pull the trigger, because there is a chance it just might work.
At this point, with the last post-season play in Kansas City 27 years in the rear-view mirror, a chance is better than nothing.