The water is murky, but the Kansas City Royals need to go all-in on 2017.
In the middle of June, I wrote in this column that if the Royals were within striking distance of the division championship – a position I defined as three to five games within first place – by the beginning of July, then General Manager Dayton Moore should go for it this season.
Here, in the middle of the month, Kansas City is 45-46 as of Tuesday morning and just three games behind Cleveland in the Central Division.
With the unpredictability of minor league prospects and their future worth in the major leagues, trading off Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and others to replenish the farm system isn’t a guarantee of future success. When you have a core group that has the proven ability of a strong second half to the season and postseason success, you have to believe in it happening again. Don’t turn the possible success of 2017 into a 50/50 shot of being good in 2020 and beyond.
Maybe that seems shortsighted, but winning is never a guarantee; the Royals might get well-respected prospects in trades this year just to see them all bust in the next few years.
So what would going for it entail? The Royals have plenty of areas they can improve upon. Hitting and pitching, both starting and relieving, could use an upgrade.
The one major player available on the trade market that I could see KC going after is Sonny Gray, a starting pitcher for the Oakland A’s. The A’s love to deal proven players for future prospect, and since they’re already 20 games behind Houston in the West Division, they aren’t banking on making a run in 2017.
Oakland will have plenty of teams interested in Gray, so the price might be high. Bubba Starling has shown improvement in AAA for the Royals, so he could be a piece of a trade for Gray. The Royals have a couple promising pitchers in the minor leagues, including Josh Staumont, who might also play a role in a big trade.
If Gray falls through or if Moore decides he doesn’t want to lose his biggest minor league assets, trading for a relief pitcher would make the most sense.
Don’t expect KC to go after a field player. Instead, they’ll likely bank on Alex Gordon and Brandon Moss finally hitting up to their potential, or at least closer to their potential.
The worst thing Kansas City can do is nothing. The current version of the Royals seems to be a .500 club, which would mean no postseason and no future prospects. Something has to be done before the July 31 trade deadline, and I say make a play for October 2017.
Kansas City plays the Tigers and White Sox a combined 10 times through July 26. Those are games they need to win the majority of to make a run. If, somehow, KC slumps through that stretch and loses ground on Cleveland, they’ll still have a few days to consider trades for Hosmer, Cain, Moustakas and others.
I still believe selling off should not be the priority, though. Make a play for someone useful in a trade and make 2017 another dream season.