Two starting pitchers? Is that all it is going to take for the Kansas City Royals?
Last Monday, I wrote a column with a poll with regard to what the Royals should do this off-season. The overwhelming winner of that poll was the 'go all in' answer which was to basically sign a number one (if not an outright ace) and another solid number three type. David Glass, obviously a huge fan of Royals Review, took note and not more than half a day later announced his intention to open the purse strings in search of better pitching.
Hey, I applaud the idea. Anytime Glass is willing to make an effort, we should all rejoice. Of course, the 'spending on pitching' slant quickly turned towards acquiring two 'number three types', so put your Zack Greinke jerseys back in the closet.
Trying to acquire two number threes in this off season market is a logical approach. After Greinke, who may not want to come back to KC and who KC may not want back anyway, their might not be an ace on the market. Funny how that works, isn't it? The problem is, two number threes will make the Royals a better team, but it might not make them a contender. Unless...
Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar repeat their 2012 seasons. Salvador Perez has to stay healthy and be as productive over a full 2013 as he has been in this latter half of the year. That is a nice start to go with improved starting pitching, but what the Royals really need is...
Mike Moustakas to get on base a little more and hit 30 instead of 20 home runs. They need Wil Myers to emerge as a Rookie of the Year candidate. They don't need Myers to be freakish like Mike Trout, just a standard ROY guy will do. No need to get greedy here. Most of all, the Kansas City Royals need Eric Hosmer to being his ascent to stardom.
Truthfully, if all of the above comes to pass, then as long as whomever ends up playing at second base and in centerfield is somewhere better than dreadful, the Royals will be a very interesting team. If, of course, the bullpen continues to be very good and if, of course, Dayton Moore is able to sign two number threes.
Still, does a rotation of Edwin Jackson, Jeremy Guthrie, Luis Mendoza, Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar (there, I said it!) combined with the above make Kansas City a playoff team? Doesn't feel like it.
What about Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, Jeremy Guthrie, Luis Mendoza and either Chen or Hochevar in the five spot. Add in the idea that Jake Odorizzi becomes the new number five by late May or early June and then look for one of Danny Duffy or Felipe Paulino to come back at mid-season and be in top form shortly thereafter. Now, THAT feels like a playoff team.
Basically, the Royals are not two starting pitchers away from the playoffs, they are four away if you want to have post-season fun in 2013. That is a big leap for an organization that agonized over cutting ties with Kyle Davies and has similar angst over the thought of doing so with Luke Hochevar. Not to mention that even with David Glass willing to spend more money on pitching, I doubt he is prepared to spend the kind of money it would take to get THREE free agent pitchers.
Mr. Glass' proclamation, while good public relations, might well back fire in that the casual fan will take those words to assume that Kansas City is simply a Shaun Marcum and Jeremy Guthrie away from the playoffs. 2013 could become a massive disappointment to many, even the Royals make an incremental step (finally!) to get to 82-80.
All that said, most of us inhabiting these Internet tubes are in favor of making some free agent noise. Most of us are also somewhat fearful of what Dayton Moore has tendency to do when the checkbook is opened. Dayton Moore, however, once went big on a borderline number four starter and for two and one-half seasons was rewarded with number two type production.
Yes, we all know the sad ending to the $55 million Gil Meche contract, but Meche gave the Royals 70 starts with front of the rotation results before his arm flew off. If one of Moore's number threes gives Kansas City the equivalent of Meche's 2007 next year, well then boys and girls, the Royals will certainly have our attention.
Okay, those of you with an eye towards research and projection, go find me the next Gil Meche.