In a perfect world, the Royals would have drafted significantly better and they’d still be contenders, this season. In a slightly less perfect, more realistic world that the team would probably trade almost every big leaguer with any value before the calendar twitches over to 2019. It probably makes sense to keep Brad Keller, he’s young enough and early enough in his contract. Eric Skoglund, Jason Adam, and Jakob Junis, too. Some of the others have negative trade value so they’d probably stick around; Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy come to mind. Most of the rest with negative trade value are at least free agents after this season.
Armed with their new prospects, roster space to give the guys they already have extended playing time in the big leagues, and with a dash of luck the team would be unrecognizable in 2020. It might also begin to be competitive again as early as 2021. If things went less perfectly they’d still be a heck of a lot closer next year than they are, now.
But that isn’t going to happen.
Dayton Moore, even if he decided to commit to a rebuild, just doesn’t have it in him to trade that many players. Realistically it would be hard to find that many buyers, too. Still, Dayton will probably have to trade some guys, this July and it isn’t going to be fun. But if everything works out perfectly for Royals fans and for Moore next trade deadline is going to be even worse.
If Danny Duffy can rebound and stay healthy until then and Jorge Soler can similarly stay healthy and continue to produce near the level he has, so far, this year, then they should both be traded at next year’s deadline. The reason that would be the ideal time to trade them should be fairly obvious once you consider Dayton Moore’s trade history. The best deal he ever did was when he sent Zack Greinke, an elite player with more than a year left on his contract, to a contending team at the trade deadline. That’s the kind of deal I expect him to accomplish the most with and that’s the easiest, most likely way for him to speed up the timeline on the Royals’ current rebuild.
Of course, being a longtime Royals fan, I bet I can tell exactly what you’re thinking right now because I’m thinking it, too, “That would require Duffy and Soler to be both good and healthy for the next year or so. Fat chance!” So, yeah, I understand the concept that far from the pain of trading them next deadline we could very well be dealing with the pain of having both of them on the DL and wondering, “What if?” Either way, that’s a problem for next year. For now...
This team is starting to get a little exciting
Brad Keller and Tim Hill have been bright shining beacons of youth and nasty pitching stuff, all year. Now they’ve been joined by Jason Adam in the ‘pen. Jorge Soler hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and Lucas Duda’s unfortunate energy means we at least get to see Hunter Dozier play first base every day for a couple of weeks. Adam, so far, has been far more impressive than Dozier but the tantalizing newness of both players gives us new reason to tune into baseball games, every night. Will we see one of those filthy Jason Adam pitches? Will Hunter belt his first big league bomb?
Humanity lives for the unknown and the one thing a rebuilding team can present that an established contender doesn’t always offer is the unknown. Whit Merrifield was probably in the minors for two years longer than he would have been if the Royals had been terrible in 2014 or 2015. The Royals are bad so the next versions of Whit probably will get to see the big league roster, this year or next. That’s already started with Hunter Dozier. As other guys get traded and released there’s a fair chance we’ll see guys like Ryan O’Hearn, Frank Schwindel, Nicky Lopez and Samir Duenez. Everyone is already salivating to see what Richard Lovelady and Josh Staumont can do in a big league bullpen, too.
I would contend that the best moment in baseball is when your team wins the world series. But the second-best moment is when you witness the major league debuts for potential future superstars who are just guys grinding it out in the minor leagues, for now.