As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Kansas City Royals: 37-38, 3rd in the AL Central
What moves have they made so far?
The Royals’ roster has remained rather stable through 2017. They’ve parted ways with two players, pitcher Chris Young and infielder Christian Colon, who were on their Opening Day roster, and they recently signed former All-Star closer Neftali Feliz and immediately added him to their big-league bullpen. Feliz hasn’t been a shutdown reliever since 2014 and is unlikely to regain that form, but if he can at least get back to being the pitcher that posted a 3.52 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 62 games for the Pirates last year, he could become a solid contributor to the Royals’ bullpen.
Are they buyers or sellers?
The Royals might not be big buyers, per se, but now that they’re firmly locked into the AL Wild Card race and could make a run at winning the division, it would be a shocker if they sold any of their key pieces. That’s a major departure from what many believed would happen during the entire month of May and the early part of June, when they were in last place and were as many as nine games under .500.
But after winning 11 of 16 games since June 10, the Royals are now back in the thick of things, and it doesn’t make much sense for them to deal free-agents-to-be Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jason Vargas unless they go on another long losing streak before the end of July. Since they have limited financial resources relative to most other clubs, it’s highly likely that their core will be broken up after this season, and GM Dayton Moore has said that he wants to make one more postseason run with the current group. With the Royals beginning to resemble the clubs that made back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014-15, that seems like a wise course of action.
Who will they target?
The Royals almost surely won’t be the big-name buyers that they were in 2015, when they went all-out and acquired Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist right before the deadline. It really only makes sense for them to target rentals, because they need all the available budget space they can possibly muster to re-sign some of their own players this offseason.
The Royals’ greatest need is pitching, though it’s worth noting that while their rotation features Matt Strahm and Jake Junis right now, they’re set to get Danny Duffy back soon and Nate Karns at some point later this summer. Perhaps the Royals will look at veteran back-of-the-rotation guys like Lance Lynn, Jhoulys Chacin, Jaime Garcia, and R.A. Dickey, but there aren’t too many starters on the market that fit their needs. If they’re going to make an upgrade, it will probably be in the bullpen, where they’ve already added Feliz and could use some more reliable middle-inning options.
They don’t have any massive holes in their lineup but could probably stand to upgrade offensively over Escobar at shortstop. If they’re in a position by late July where they’ve clearly got a great shot to make the playoffs, then perhaps they could take a look at Zack Cozart, who’s a pending free agent. In all likelihood, though, they’ll just roll forward with Escobar’s strong defense and deal with the lack of great offensive production at short.
If they remain in contention through August, the Royals will likely look to add bench or bullpen help through a waiver deal. They acquired Josh Willingham and Jayson Nix in the August preceding their 2014 World Series run, and they got Jonny Gomes in a waiver deal in August of 2015.
Since the Royals are obviously nearing the end of an era, they have an obligation to their fans to try to make a playoff run if they’re still within striking distance by the end of July. Since this team is hovering around .500, they’re not going to sell the farm to make huge additions at the deadline, but there’s a decent chance that they’ll add some pitching depth if they’re still in the thick of things next month. Unless Karns suffers a setback, it seems probable that they’ll address the bullpen before the rotation.
The Royals likely aren’t going to get elite, close-to-ready prospects for any of their rentals, anyway, so the need for them to sell at the deadline has perhaps been exaggerated by some. And while they’ll almost certainly take a step back next season, it’s not as if they have no plan in place if they lose a few free agents.
Their farm system is a bit lacking, but they have replacements with big-league experience in place for all of their pending free agents should they depart: Cheslor Cuthbert, who started for most of 2016 after Moustakas tore his ACL, at third base; top prospect Hunter Dozier at first; former Cubs slugger Jorge Soler in a corner outfield spot with Alex Gordon moving to center; 21-year-old Raul Mondesi, who is currently tearing it up in Triple-A, at shortstop; and any of Josh Staumont, Eric Skoglund, or Jake Junis in the rotation. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll lose all five of Moustakas, Hosmer, Cain, Escobar, and Vargas, but if they somehow do, the outlook isn’t totally disastrous, especially since they could also retool through the free agent and trade markets this offseason.