The Kansas City Royals appear to actually know what they’re doing. In other news, up is down, pigs are flying and hell has frozen over.
Okay, the Royals part of that is actually true. It’s not so much surprising the team is finding success, it’s just shocking the organization is showing it knows what it’s doing. After a seemingly endless slew of botched draft picks, ill-advised trades and failed free agents, have the Royals finally figured out how to put together a winning club?
There was debate at the trade deadline on whether or not the Royals should raise the white flag on 2013 and sell all their valuable pieces. The popular opinion was the team would be better off shipping away Ervin Santana, among others. The team not only held onto its players, they also added Justin Maxwell, who has been hotter than a $3 pistol since joining the Royals.
The move to acquire Maxwell didn’t look like it was going to help the Royals’ future, nor help the team enough for a playoff push. Predictably, the front office was blasted. For good reason. Many criticized the team for trading away Kyle Smith, a 20-year-old who’s showing promise in High-A Ball. From a statistical and strategic standpoint, Kansas City seemed to have completely dropped the ball.
While it is extremely premature, the moves made (or not made) at the deadline have looked brilliant. An extended hot streak has thrust the team into the thick of the wild card race (they’re 19-5 since the All-Star break). A coinciding hot run by the Detroit Tigers has kept the Royals from advancing much in the AL Central race, though they just passed the Cleveland Indians last night.
I suspect the motive to hold on to everyone was mainly fueled by general manager Dayton Moore’s desire to save face make sure the team showed an improvement from last year’s 72-90 record. Ever since the Wil Myers/James Shields trade this offseason, it feels like Moore is working to save his job this year.
All that matters in the end, however, is the final result. The front office has put together a competitive club and manager Ned Yost is pushing all the right buttons.
This is exactly what was supposed to be happening in Kansas City. A few years ago, their farm system was crowned as the best in baseball and maybe the most impressive collection of prospects ever. Some of those players have blossomed, some have been moved for veterans, others haven’t lived up to the hype but there is still some exciting talent on its way up.
In particular, Yordono Ventura comes to mind as a player who could have a major impact when the rosters expand next month. The 22-year-old flamethrower is a starter by trade, but could certainly give hitters nightmares if the Royals decide to use him out of their bullpen down the stretch. Remember what David Price did for the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays? As it stands, Kansas City’s current cast of hurlers has the best ERA in the American League at 3.54.
Whatever you think about their moves, no matter how the season ends, you have to appreciate how the Royals are going for it. So many franchises are content to rebuild year after year. It’s been long enough in Kansas City. This season could still completely fall apart, but at least the team has shown to its fans and players that it wants to win now.
The Royals enter tonight’s action four games back of Tampa Bay for the wild card and six and a half back of the Tigers in the division. Bruce Chen will take the mound for Kansas City against the Miami Marlins and rookie phenom Jose Fernandez at Kauffman Stadium tonight. Chen had to earn his way back into the Royals’ rotation, and is 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA over five starts since moving from the bullpen.