Since the Kansas City Royals are so bad (as in, on pace for 110+ losses bad), it takes quite an event to make a writer hate-write an article at 11:13pm but, well, here we are.
What you should be reading right now is an article about how the Baltimore Orioles are so bad that trying to beat them to the first pick in the 2019 MLB draft by losing even more is not worth it. But what you are reading right now is a depressing reality check because of what is possibly the worst single move in all of General Manager Dayton Moore’s tenure.
Why you are reading this now as opposed to later is because Brandon Maurer blew a save. This is not difficult to wrap your mind around. Water is wet. Maurer is a bad pitcher. So it goes. The Detroit Tigers, who themselves are a laughably bad baseball team, scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning. Maurer started the inning, facing three batters and recording precisely zero outs. Ned Yost turned to Jason Hammel, who himself has been pretty despicable this year, and Hammel was predictably unable to completely stop the bleeding.
One more inning as a Royal is one inning too many for Maurer. The 28-year-old’s career ERA is 5.37. His ERA this year is 14.25. Hell, he carried a 5.48 ERA in Triple-A Omaha in his 23 relief innings there because he was too bad for a 110-loss pace team. Maurer has the worst ERA among any and all Royals with at least 30 innings pitched for the team.
Worst ERA in Royals history, min. 30 IP:— Royals Review (@royalsreview) July 24, 2018
Brandon Maurer 10.41
Victor Marte 9.30
Tim Byrdak 8.27
Hector Wagner 7.83
Jonathan Sanchez 7.76
Miguel Batista 7.74
If you want to get further into advanced stats, go ahead, but it’s equally grisly. Maurer is awful. Maurer is no longer a Major League Baseball player. To be fair to him, he used to be, and to be doubly fair to him even the best baseball players aren’t MLB-calibur players. But the best league in the world has the highest standards in the world, and Maurer clearly fails to reach them.
You know who does reach them, though? A gentleman by the name of Matt Strahm. He’s a San Diego Padre. And Strahm has been very good this year. In 36.2 innings over 20 games on the west coast, Strahm has a 2.21 ERA. He’s 26, making the league minimum salary, and won’t be a free agent until 2023. Doesn’t that sound like a good player to have?
Oh, and Strahm is a former Royal. Acquired for Maurer, actually. Maurer and current Oakland Athletics Trevor Cahill (8.22 ERA with Kansas City, whoops) and Ryan Buchter.
That trade, which happened one year ago today, was and is a farce. Cahill and Maurer actively hurt the 2017 team, and of the three mostly useless reliever arms that the Royals eagerly acquired only Maurer remains. The cherry on top of this depressing ice cream cone of sadness, of course, is 19-year-old infielder Esteury Ruiz offered as the throw-in to the deal, who crushed rookie ball last year in the San Diego system and is playing well in Low-A ball this year.
It sure would be nice to have Strahm right now. He’s exactly the guy you want pitching for you in a lost year—he’s still relatively young and has good upside. Unfortunately, Moore and his front office just gave him away, and there’s no going back.
“Oh, but how could the front office know it would turn out this way? Nobody else thought it was terrible.” While it is true that nobody dunked on the trade at the time, remember why it is true: we writers are not paid to perform moves. Front offices know more than any of us and simply have access to significantly more information than we do.
Ultimately, the Royals front office and scouting department did their work, thought through the process, examined the medicals, and decided that Ryan Buchter, Brandon Maurer, and Trevor Cahill were worth acquiring. They also decided that Matt Strahm and Estuary Ruiz were a reasonable price of acquisition.
Rebuilding years naturally are soaked in optimism, but the front office hasn’t done almost anything right in years. They gave Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy giant, albatross contracts that have exploded almost instantly and needlessly locked up more money in Salvador Perez when he had no negotiating leverage. Joakim Soria, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Drew Butera, Alcides Escobar, and Nate Karns have been varying levels of disastrous. And that is to say nothing about top-ten overall first round picks Christian Colon, Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, and Hunter Dozier, who have turned out to be the Four Busts of the Apocalypse.
We’ll see if the Royals can turn it around, but the same guys who thought that Brandon Maurer was good and that Matt Strahm was worth giving up are still in charge. Maybe some tempered enthusiasm is appropriate.