James Shields is good, but that doesn't mean the Royals are ready to win right away. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Can The Royals Compete in 2013?

The AL Central has long been one of the weakest divisions in baseball, and the Royals have been the worst of the bunch for two decades. While other teams in the division have managed to enjoy successful runs from time to time, the Royals most certainly haven’t. The team’s ownership group and fans have suffered terrible team after terrible team, just waiting for one of the many rebuilding projects to pan out. A .500 season has been an accomplishment for Kansas City, but after an era of patiently waiting the organization is kind of going for it in 2013.

The Royals made their move by dealing top prospect Wil Myers and other minor league hopefuls to the Rays to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields certainly boosts the solidity of the starting rotation and gives the Royals an ace, and the team is clearly also hoping new acquisition Ervin Santana can return to his previous form and help them have their next successful squad. The methodology, in a way, makes sense because the AL Central has always been winnable. If you’re going to go for it and ditch your rebuilding process, it makes sense to do so when you feel your division or a wild card spot is up for grabs.

The problem is that the Royals aren’t good enough to try something so bold, at least not yet. Even with Shields in the fold and a Santana comeback, there are too many gaping holes and question marks littering the roster. Young future stars like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas haven’t actually enjoyed serious Major League success yet, and it’s unclear what their careers will hold. The Royals don’t have enough talented, MLB-ready players on board to give up on rebuilding just yet.

Another issue with going the direction the Royals finally did is that the Tigers are a legitimate threat in the American League. Detroit represented the AL in the World Series last fall, and all of the principal players are returning for another run. With Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder all in the their prime, the Tigers aren’t going away anytime soon and remain a dangerous team the Royals will not be able to unseat unless a series of improbable miracles begin to unfold. The wild card spots are going to be tough to get as well; both the AL West and East have multiple contenders with rosters far more stacked than what Kansas City has to offer.

I completely understand the Royals wanting to give their fans something to cheer about and change up the long-standing losing culture in Kansas City. Everyone has waited more than long enough, and everyone is ready for the Royals to recapture their glory from George Brett‘s heyday. Giving up on rebuilding at this precise moment, with Hosmer and Moustakas still unknown quantities and several stronger contenders present, just wasn’t a good idea. In the long run I would think Kansas City fans would rather wait a couple more seasons for a legitimate contender than sacrifice a future star and other key pieces for the right to win 79 games instead of 74.

If Brian’s writing strikes your fancy, read his work at StanGraphs and follow him on Twitter at @vaughanbasepct.

Tags: Kansas City Royals

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