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Royals improve club, while other AL contenders are quiet on trade front

Other than the Yankees, AL contenders are fairly quiet.

Oakland Athletics v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The trade deadline has come and go, and while the Royals had already made their big moves, acquiring Trevor Cahill, Ryan Buchter, Brandon Maurer, and Melky Cabrera in the week leading up to the deadline, they did not get the additional starting pitcher they were rumored to be seeking. The Royals were one of the more aggressive teams at the deadline, while the Central Division rival Cleveland Indians stayed largely pat. The Indians had been linked to Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish and Orioles closer Zach Britton, but ultimately made just one minor deal, acquiring middle reliever Joe Smith from the Blue Jays.

The Yankees made the biggest deals in July, acquiring Sonny Gray from the Athletics at the deadline. They had earlier acquired Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson from the White Sox, and Jaime Garcia from the Twins. The Dodgers were also big movers, getting Darvish from the Rangers, reliever Tony Watson from Pirates, and reliever Tony Cingrani from the Reds.

Aside from the Yankees, most American League contenders made complimentary moves. The Red Sox acquired reliever Addison Reed from the Mets, and earlier got infielder Eduardo Nunez, but did not address starting pitching or third base. The Rays picked up Lucas Duda from the Mets, but made a curious move to send infielder Tim Beckham to the Orioles. The Astros acquired lefty Francisco Liriano, who had been linked to the Royals, in exchange for prospect Teoscar Hernandez and former Royals outfielder Nori Aoki.

The Royals also got some help when Central Division opponents traded away many of their top players. In addition to the White Sox trading Cabrera, Robertson, Kahnle, Frazier, and Jose Quintana, and the Twins trading Garcia and closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals, the Detroit Tigers traded reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila to the Cubs, after already trading outfielder J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks. The Royals have 22 games remaining against the Twins, White Sox, and Tigers.

There are two big takeaways from the trade deadline. The first is, that most American League contenders failed to significantly upgrade their ballclubs. The team chasing the Royals for the Wild Card spot, the Rays, actually traded away some useful pieces in Tim Beckham and Erasmo Ramirez this week. Perhaps the dominance of the Astros this season scared other contenders from sacrificing the future for a year in which a Houston pennant seems a foregone conclusion. This could create an opening for the Royals, as their moves helped patch holes on the roster that could allow them to leapfrog teams that stood pat like Boston and Cleveland.

Second, the Royals really lucked out not being sellers in this market. The market for rental hitters absolutely shriveled up this year.

J.D. Martinez is one of the top sluggers in the league and he was dealt for four underwhelming prospects. Lucas Duda has a higher OPS than Eric Hosmer, and he was dealt for a minor league relief pitcher that was ranked #30 in the Rays organization, according to Deals for Melky Cabrera and Jonathan Lucroy also bore little fruit for their clubs.

Instead, the Royals will now get a chance to compete for a championship, and net some compensatory draft picks this winter, rather than settle for some underwhelming prospects. The Royals may not have landed the additional starting pitcher they were seeking, but they could still swing a deal in August for any player that clears waivers. As it stands now, the Royals look to be well-positioned for their pennant run, with a 60% chance of making the playoffs now, according to Fangraphs. That is not a guarantee they will be playing in October, but Royals fans should feel pretty confident that Dayton Moore has given this team the opportunity it needs to make another magical run.


How would you grade Dayton Moore’s trades this July?

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