This felt like it was going to be way too many characters for a tweet thread on Twitter, so I figured I would organize some thoughts here really quick as we’ve got just over a month until the 2021 trade deadline comes to a pass. Before we get into any roster thoughts, I hope we’ve all kind of accepted the fact that the Royals aren’t going to the playoffs this year, right? I’m one of the more optimistic “go for it if you think there’s even a prayer” Royals fans you know. I know it’s not the analytically savvy play, but I believe the team and the front office owe it to the fans to give it everything they’ve got if the team is even close. Dayton Moore and company have certainly shown us they are willing to do that. This team isn’t close, though. Even after taking a series from the Boston Red Sox this past weekend, the Royals are 6 games below .500 and 10 GB of the White Sox in the ALC, with Cleveland 7.5 games up on them for 2nd place. The Wild Card is even worse, as KC is 9.5 GB of the 2nd WC spot with 5 teams still in front of them.
This is okay, though. I’ve mentioned constantly that this team is right about where we expected them to be in 2021. They are currently on a 74-win pace which is 3 games above their preseason Vegas odds of 71.5 wins and of their 71 win projection from PECOTA. If they hadn’t gotten off to an improbable, roaring start, I think we’d all be okay with where the record stands right now. Especially considering Brad Keller has been awful, Mondesi has barely played, Andrew Benintendi has spent time on the IL, Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler have been terrible, Duffy has been out for weeks, etc. What I’m saying is, it’s OKAY that the Royals won’t be playing in October in 2021, but they have a few spots in the lineup that they have to do something about if they want to make it to the playoffs next year. I’ve said for a while that 2023 would be the first year that I thought this team HAD to make the playoffs if we’re going to keep defending GMDM so loyally. The Benintendi trade puts a little more pressure on this team to perform in 2022, given he’s a free agent after next season. I’ll stick with 2023 as my first year they have to make the playoffs, but the Benintendi trade kind means this team has to finish at LEAST .500 in 2022. The question at this point is how?
More experience from these young arms and Bobby Witt Jr. will certainly help. I won’t guarantee you that Bobby Witt Jr. will make the big league club right out of Spring Training in 2022, but he won’t be far behind. Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, Jackson Kowar, the entire “Core 4” have all made their big league debuts now. It’s fair to start to expect to start to see some production from them in 2022. Andrew Benintendi will be back. Carlos Santana is under contract. Mike Minor is under contract. Salvador Perez will be here. They have control of Jake Brentz, Josh Staumont, Kyle Zimmer, and Scott Barlow for a long time. So how can this team go from being a 73-75 (ish) win team in 2021 to a .500 ball club in 2022?
#1: Trade The Relievers
Relievers are only worth a damn if you have a lead to protect by the 6th inning. If you’re having trouble holding leads into the 6th inning, then a good bullpen doesn’t do anything for you. It seems like every time I look up I’m getting yelled at by someone else on Twitter about why they shouldn’t be trading relievers that don’t have leads to protect. Relievers, by the way, who have had such crazy paths to where they are today that Royals fans should be less worried about replacing them than literally any other position on the field. Scott Barlow was a *minor league* free agent. Jake Brentz was *cut* by the *Pirates* last year. Josh Staumont never had a season in the minors in which he walked fewer than 6.29 batters per 9 IP. Kyle Zimmer threw 111 *total* innings from the start of the 2014 season through the end of 2018. I don’t mean to imply that good relievers just fall out of the sky, but you’re more than likely to find serviceable relievers on the scrap heap than CF. Meanwhile, your every day CF has a wRC+ of 55 since April 4th. I don’t care how good your bullpen is, having an every day CF with a 55 wRC+ is getting you nowhere.
#2: Trade A Bat
If Andrew Benintendi can get healthy and back in the lineup, he could probably fetch you a decent sized haul if you add in a Jake Brentz with him. Benintendi was having something of a renaissance season, batting .283 with a 112 wRC+ (.299 with a 124 wRC+ since April 14th) for Kansas City. Given that he’s under control for another season, I could see someone like the Angels, who have young options in the OF that just aren’t ready yet, giving you something for Benintendi and an arm. I know trading him would be unpopular but he has been really bad defensively this year and you would hope Kyle Isbel could fill in LF for the Royals in 2022.
Cleveland, Boston, the Yankees and Milwaukee are right in the thick of playoff races and are getting horrific production from their first basemen right now. Maybe Carlos Santana (who is also under contract in 2022) plus a Kyle Zimmer entices one of them.
#3: Sign A Bat In Free Agency
Jaiver Baez, Trevor Story, Michael Conforto, Tommy Pham, Starling Marte, Nicholas Castellanos, and Charlie Blackmon are all free agents at the end of the season. I’m not saying they all fit specific holes in this lineup, or that they’ll be anywhere close to the Royals price range, but they’re better than KC’s present options and you’re going to need to bring in someone to compete with what you have in-house. It’s probably unrealistic, but I would be ecstatic if this team could get Michael Conforto in the lineup. If he keeps having a bit of a power outage it may not be as unrealistic as you think.
There are some obvious holes in the Royals lineup. There’s at least 3 spots that are going to need to see marked improvement (CF, 3B, DH) if the Royals are going to be any kind of serious about competing in 2022. You can count on your options in-house, but bringing in outside competition never hurt either. Hunter Dozier and Kyle Isbel kind of have to be depended on as in-house options. Isbel is your best/most advanced hitting prospect and Dozier just got a ton of money. They need Isbel to step up and Dozier doesn’t really have a choice. I already mentioned the free agent class and some guys that could step in and make an immediate impact. Bobby Witt Jr. shouldn’t be *expected* to move the needle a whole lot in 2022 but he’ll certainly help.
The Royals need to be looking for ways to add an impact bat to this lineup. Not just Nick Pratto. Not just Bobby Witt Jr. Another one. A veteran who has appeared in an All-Star Game or two. The best way to do that is through free agency. If this team is serious about contending in the next few years, they need to show us they’re serious with their pocketbooks, or by making a move to bring in a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter via trade.
I didn’t mention Mike Minor as an option to be traded because I don’t think the Royals can afford to trade him at the moment unless someone absolutely blows their doors off. Danny Duffy hasn’t been healthy, Brad Keller has been bad, the young arms can’t get deep into their starts. The Royals really need this version of Mike Minor to eat some quality innings for them every fifth day if nothing else but for the health and well-being of the rest of their pitching staff. Like I said, it’s possible someone wants to overpay for Minor, I guess, but they would have to make an offer so good that GMDM just couldn’t refuse.
Speaking of Danny Duffy, I just don’t see a way he is traded. Dayton Moore talks about loyalty and doing right by his players all the time. I would certainly think he’d be a guy that teams call about, and he may be able to fetch you a decent return, I just don’t see it happening. I hope I’m wrong. The Royals need to be listening to offers on anything that isn’t tied down, I’d just bet against it happening.
There’s a few guys I want the Royals to be targeting in trades but I won’t speculate on who they could target. CF and 3B are your biggest holes in the organization at the moment. 3B could be filled by Bobby Witt Jr. if Mondesi was healthy, but your plans for contention can’t be realistic AND include Mondesi in them anymore. At this point, anything you get from Adalberto Mondesi should just be seen as icing on the cake. There are plenty of ways for the Royals to bring in an impact type bat at 3B or SS and still work Bobby Witt Jr. and Mondesi into this lineup next year.
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