The month of July is an exciting one for baseball fans. The season hits its halfway point about that time every year and most teams know whether they’re likely to be in the playoff mix or not. Teams that are in the playoff mix vie to snare the best players from the teams that aren’t to better ensure their odds as the season continues. Baseball news becomes a 24/7 cycle until the trade deadline is hit because the game results aren’t the only things that matter when star players could be putting on new uniforms.
However, as a Royals fan since 1997, I hate it.
While it’s exciting to wonder if your team might get a new superstar, I’ve only gotten to experience that feeling once in 25 trade deadlines. In 2015, when the Royals went all-in and got the best position player and the best starting pitcher on the market - Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, respectively. I have to admit, that was a fun trade deadline to experience. My team was rumored to be after every decent player on the market and when the dust settled they had walked away with two of the best prizes. But the other 24 years of my fandom have not been as fun. When your team is non-competitive, cheap, or both the trade deadline is a very different animal. Being non-competitive is obviously the worst-case scenario.
The 2022 Royals are non-competitive which means they’re in a position where the most logical move is to sell off all of the veterans who have performed well this year. Generally speaking, this means two things: the team is likely to be even worse after the trade deadline than it was before and that guys I’ve grown attached to will soon be playing for some other team.
I chose the header image for this article very intentionally; Hunter Dozier is a player I’ve grown to really enjoy. As a Royals fan you might guess that I’m more susceptible to an underdog story than most and while some portion of the Royals fanbase absolutely hates the guy, I appreciate that he never made top prospect lists but has had a couple of reasonably successful years in the big leagues. Compared to his peers, he’s hitting nearly as well this year as he did in his career year of 2019. The fact that his OPS is 100 points lower says a lot more about the state of the sport this year as MLB continues to mess with baseballs than it does about his value on the field.
The thing is, Dozier is on the wrong side of 30 and is unlikely to continue to be a relatively good hitter for very long. If the Royals trade him for a prospect or three, it would almost certainly be the right decision for the future of the franchise but it would be a huge bummer for me to watch him go try to help some other team win it all after rooting for him to find consistent, big league success for the past several years. This goes for players like Scott Barlow and Andrew Benintendi, too.
The cheapness of the Royals during the majority of my fandom is why, even though they’ve had more than one season where they looked competitive in July, I’ve only gotten to enjoy one trade season. The 2014 and 2017 Royals, for example, looked like they might have something. But the Royals made minor and/or risky moves to improve the roster. The 2014 Royals needed an extra hitter. They went out and got...Josh Willingham. The 2017 Royals needed pitching so they went out and got Trevor Cahill, Ryan Buchter, and Brandon Maurer. They also needed an additional outfielder so they got a 32-year-old Melky Cabrera well into his decline. The Willingham deal worked out about as well as you could expect, the 2017 trades exploded in the Royals’ faces.
Then, of course, there are the years when the team is both non-competitive and cheap. It’s hard to forget how the Royals had one of the most valuable trade chips of the 2018 season in Kelvin Herrera and they traded him for three minor leaguers of no pedigree because they would only deal with a team willing to take on his salary as well as his talent. (In case you’re wondering, two of the players from that deal flamed out and were released by the Royals, one without ever reaching the big leagues, and the last is 21 and pitching to a 7.36 ERA as a reliever in High-A.)
And who could forget the fatal flaw of Royals president Dayton Moore. Under his tenure, the Royals were usually non-competitive and they were usually cheap but they always showed extreme deference to franchise veterans. You might think I’d be happy about how the Royals have failed to trade guys like David DeJesus, Joakim Soria, and Whit Merrifield over the years but the problem is that the Royals still don’t keep those players (with the possible exception of Merrifield, but that’s more a factor of his age than anything else.) They just get nothing back for them. The only thing worse than trading a beloved franchise player for prospects who are not likely to ever pan out is watching that player go to free agency while my team gains absolutely nothing and just continues getting worse.
So, yeah, I hate trade season. As a fan of the sport in general, I can see why it’s so exciting for so many other fans. As a fan of the Royals, however, it’s been nothing short of miserable. I am not falling for trade season to be eliminated, that would be pretty dumb. I just wish my team would spend a few seasons on the fun side of it for once.