For two months, Royals fans have been subjected to a steady drumbeat of trade rumors revolving around the core of the team that is eligible for free agency at season’s end - Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar, as well as pitcher Jason Vargas. Those rumors intensified once the team stumbled off to a 7-16 start in April, seemingly dooming their season and closing their window.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the July trade deadline. The Royals caught fire. A Royals hot streak, coupled with a completely mediocre American League, has put the Royals squarely in contention for a playoff spot, just two games back of a Wild Card spot heading into Friday’s action.
The hot streak is causing many to re-evaluate whether the Royals will be sellers this summer, and ESPN’s Buster Olney believes that Dayton Moore believes too strongly in this team to break them up.
Some of Moore's peers with other teams understand Moore's loyalty and appreciation of this group of players. They believe that unless the Royals completely collapse and fall far behind in the race, there will be no Kansas City sell-off; they think there is no way the GM would break the Royals in the middle of this season without giving them the last, complete opportunity they’ve earned at the end of one of the greatest eras of success in team history.
Knowing Dayton Moore, this makes a lot of sense. He had an opportunity to trade Ervin Santana for assets with the team under .500 in July of 2013 but held onto him, and the team made a decent run at a playoff spot. His team was under .500 again in July of 2014, with trade rumors surrounding James Shields, and again he held on, and the team made their magical run to the World Series. Even last year, Dayton Moore admitted he had deals on the table for Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales with the team several games under .500 in July, and again he held on to see the Royals catch fire in August, although they fell well short of a playoff spot.
Olney calls Dayton Moore a “realist”, but I don’t think this is the case at all. A realist would not say “there’s no reason this team can’t go on a run where you win 15 of 20.” A realist would not have held onto all of those players with the team under .500 in July. A realist would have re-built this club long ago.
Dayton Moore is a boundless optimist. That optimism has served him well, such as in 2014 when his unshakable belief in his team allowed them to give Kansas City its most magical season in three decades. It may also cost this team in the future, if they pass up the chance to land prospects this July.
The next five weeks are critical for the Royals. If they continue their hot streak, they could be well positioned for one more run with their core. If the collapse, they could be well positioned to control the July trade deadline with their assets.
But if they are mediocre, then what? It seems Dayton Moore’s unshakable belief in this team will keep him from selling off assets. Perhaps his optimism will be rewarded one more time.