The Royals eliminated themselves in spectacular fashion yesterday. Hey, if you are going to go out, go out with something noticeable. Hardly a big deal, really. The Royals did not trot out the 'A' lineup or use much of the 'A' bullpen on Sunday. They did give us a glimpse of Jake Odorizzi, whose start Craig is going to detail later today.
Despite the implosion on Sunday afternoon, the Royals are 28-22 in their last fifty games. You can devalue these August and September contests all you want, but this team has played pretty decent baseball against a number of teams who are still interested. That is a positive sign. Will it translate into 2013 success? We have all been down that road before, haven't we?
Dayton Moore has traveled that same highway. He took an 18-8 September to mean the Royals were 'that' close. Mike Jacobs, Coco Crisp and a dead Gil Meche shoulder later and The Process was right back where it started.
There are a lot of differences between that 2008/2009 Royals team and the 2012/2013 squads, but there are lessons to be learned as well. This is a big off-season for Kansas City and Dayton Moore, but is it THE off-season? The one where a big move makes the Royals playoff bound? I'm not sure (sadly) we are there yet.
Three certainties seem to surround this off-season for Kansas City.
1. The everyday lineup is pretty much set. Butler, Gordon, Perez and Escobar are locks and, to varying degrees, known quantities. The Royals simply have to stick with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas at the corners. If they progress, Kansas City will have a potent offense. If they don't, well, Kansas City has to find out. Centerfield and second base are unsettled, but not unsightly. Again, if Hosmer becomes the star we think and Moustakas hits 30 homers instead of 20, then you can be a contender with a Getz/Giavotella option at second and a Cain/Dyson combination in center. Right field? Well, at some point in 2013, that will resolve itself. We all know the answer, it is just a matter of time until Dayton Moore reluctantly pulls the trigger.
2. The bullpen is good and it is deep. Say what you want about Aaron Crow, but when he is your fourth best reliever, you are in good shape.
3. The Royals need better starting pitching.
Of course, it is number three that is the issue. Simply put, how desperate should Dayton Moore be this off-season to get good starters? I'm not talking Carlos Villanueva types. While the need is obvious, is it smart for Moore to go out and spend big money (or make an impact trade) to get a top end starter THIS off-season?
The Royals have three promising starters coming back from Tommy John surgery in Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino and John Lamb. At some point in 2013 - probably later than people seem to think - all three of these pitchers will be factors in the rotation. They have Jake Odorizzi pretty much primed and ready. Between Luis Mendoza, Will Smith, Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar (although the price tag will be stupid), the Royals can certainly fill out the back end of a starting rotation competently.
There is probably not an 'ace' in the preceding paragraph, but if Kansas City can sport a starting rotation of Duffy, Paulino, Odorizzi, Mendoza and Smith in August of 2013, with John Lamb and Yordano Ventura knocking on the door, how desperate should Dayton Moore be in the winter of 2012?
Are the 2013 Royals a Jeremy Guthrie and Zack Greinke (just throwing a name out - insert the available top end starter of your choice here) away from winning the American League Central? Could Kansas City contend if they signed Edwin Jackson and Guthrie (or Brandon McCarthy - why McCarthy? You've seen his wife, right?) or two guys comparable?
Basically, this is 600 words to get back to the same off-season question we have dealt with for years. Is 2013 THE year or is contention the year after that?
Call the ball.