Well, that’s different. For the first time since George Brett retired the Kansas City Royals are going to try to win immediately. Color me surprised to see the Royals, who have been telling us for years that they have the best farm system in the majors and it’s only a matter of time before the young ones take over, confess that it will never happen.
The Royals mantra to their long-suffering fans (one winning season in the last 18 since 1994) has been “Be patient.” That gambit might have played if the Royals had ever shown any signs of improvement. But nah, they not only haven’t been able to win anything of note, they haven’t been able to win at all, or get close to .500.
There was no proof that the Royals were getting better as they stuck to their low-payroll, count-on-the-prospects plan, and there was no proof that the Royals were going to ever get better without a radical change. So now we have the radical change. Kansas City swapped prospects for players. They put their faith on red and spun the roulette wheel. When it stops spinning next September we’ll know if management should enroll in Gamblers Anonymous or the men who run the front office in K.C. are smarter than the average bear.
General manager Dayton Moore has been on the job since 2006. He is the architect of the homegrown strategy that hasn’t yet produced dividends and he is the man on the hot seat after making an attention-getting trade with the Tampa Bay Rays the other day. Moore traded away four young, inexperienced players with blank futures in pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, third baseman Patrick Leonard, and Wil Myers for experienced right-handed pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis and either a player to be named later or cash.
One thing refreshing about this for K.C. is that for once the fans might have heard of the players they obtained. Shields, 30, is 87-73 and averages around 15 wins a year. Davis, 27, is 28-22, and could be good for 10 wins a year. Odorizzi, 22, is lifetime 0-1. Montgomery, 23, is lifetime 25-33 in the minors. Leonard, 20, has only played rookie ball. Myers, 22, is supposed to be the second coming of Mickey Mantle and has a minor-league lifetime average of .303.
Are the Royals admitting that their scouting judgment was faulty and that these young players were never going to amount to much? Right now, at least, they amount to just so much potential, even if they do end up being somebodies for Tampa Bay.
It’s hard not to believe that the Royals are desperate. They have had nine straight losing seasons and much of that time they have been flying so low beneath the radar that many fans don’t remember they’re in the American League, not the International League. Moore’s contract runs only through 2014, so if he doesn’t show some results soon he will be gone.
But if you don’t think that the Royals reached critical mass, one comment that Moore made on trade day will make you think again. “It’s time for us to start winning at the Major League level,” he said.
Already this off-season, the Royals acquired Ervin Santana from the Angles and re-signed Jeremy Guthrie instead of allowing him to leave in free agency. Add in Shields and Davis and you might have the makings of a pitching rotation.
Even with these additions, it’s hard to see too many prognosticators getting giddy over the Royals’ AL Central Division chances. The Detroit Tigers are the class of the division and Kansas City has some catching up to do to match up with anybody. Moore might have gone through all of this upheaval only to see the Royals finish 80-82. Will that pacify the fans? Not likely.
Still, that would be an improvement over last year’s 72-90 finish. Over those nine straight losing years Kansas City has lost between 87 and 104 games and attendance has settled in at around 20,000 people a game. Moore had to give them–plus the never-shows–some kind of hope starting a new season.