The defending champion Royals have struggled in 2016, just three games over .500 and tied for third in the AL Central, seven games back of the Indians. But they’re definitely planning to be competitive in the second half. Jon Morosi reports today that GM Dayton Moore is actively looking at starters to bolster their beleaguered rotation:
“Kansas City's rotation has accounted for the fewest innings of any in the Majors this season. On the trade market, the Royals are looking for starters capable of giving them innings; they'd love quality, but quantity is the more pressing concern.
For now, sources say the Royals are evaluating a number of trade targets who will become free agents after this season; [Jeremy] Hellickson is part of that pool, as are Rich Hill, Jorge De La Rosa and Andrew Cashner, who has made one start since returning from the disabled list.”
But that’s not giving the pitching staff credit for just how awful it’s been. The starters’ 5.02 ERA is 25th in Major League Baseball and dead last in the American League in Quality Starts. Offseason acquisition Ian Kennedy and Danny Duffy, who started the year in the bullpen, have been the only reliable starters for the Royals this year, and Chris Young was just banished to the bullpen with his 6.90 ERA. In short, the Royals need help quickly if they’re going to make the postseason for the third straight year.
The end of the pool they’re playing in, however, is not terribly appealing. Rich Hill is utterly dominant when he’s healthy, but is a ticking time bomb who could leave them shorthanded again at any moment. And Andrew Cashner just came off the DL himself. Plus, there’s the matter of him not being particularly good. Ditto for Jorge De La Rosa, who has a 5.74 ERA. Hellickson, at least, has performed decently in 2016, but is a giant question mark who may not be much help if the Royals can get back to the postseason.
Of course, Kansas City cleared out much of their farm system over the last couple years to make this run. It’s been an incredibly successful strategy for them (and they have the shiny rings to prove it). But it means they won’t be players for the kinds of pitchers that could turn their rotation into an asset unless they’re willing to budge on moving either Raul Mondesi Jr. or Kyle Zimmer. And unless they do that, they may not be able to do any damage in the postseason even if they manage to push past all the clubs between them and October.