Dayton Moore and the Royals management need to pay heed to the advice of The Gambler as the mid-season trade deadline draws near. For as there is a time to fold ‘em, there also comes a time to hold ‘em.
The Royals have perennially been a seller at the deadline, trading off players as they approached free agency. Often the moves were necessary, and occasionally the Royals improved their franchise in the dealings.
But this is a new era in KC, in spite of the team’s dismal record. “The process” isn’t just beginning. It has begun. It’s no longer time to abandon decent major league players for the sake of acquiring cheaper, younger prospects.
Last year the Royals dumped David DeJesus, partly clearing the way for prospects, but also in part simply because they didn’t expect to resign him. The loss of DeJesus, it turns out, hasn’t hurt the team. The current outfield has proven to be the strength of the big league team, while DeJesus has struggled.
The situation with Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur is different.
Cabrera, eligible for arbitration after this season, has been a spark plug both offensively and defensively. He might draw some interest from a contending club needing an outfielder.
Francoeur, under a contract with mutual options through next season, has some pop and plays solid defense as well. He could also fetch something on the trade market.
But this revolving door has got to stop, and now is the time. The young players coming up in the system can’t succeed if there is no stability around them.
At some point, the Royals have to start keeping good players, even if they aren’t great players.
So Lorenzo Cain is ready. Can’t the team find him some playing time without dumping Cabrera? Do the Royals really have to clear a path a mile wide just for David Lough to have a shot at the big leagues? So Wil Myers has shown great potential? Does that mean he should be handed a job he’s not even nearly ready for?
Not everyone likes Cabrera and Francoeur. But the fact is, they are still young, talented, experienced players with team-friendly contracts. They are hungry to show they belong in the big leagues. In terms of proven big league players, they came to the Royals as a bargain.
They could both certainly be dumped for pitching prospects, which the team desperately needs. But DeJesus brought a couple of pitching prospects, and look how that turned out. Alberto Callaspo was dealt for pitching prospects. Same result.
It could be argued that Callaspo was blocking Mike Moustakas’ rise to the big club. But what’s wrong with letting Moustakas earn a spot in the show, rather than having the way paved for him?
It would seem that the way to develop a winning team wouldn’t be to have too few good players, but to have too many. Imagine if in two years, the Royals had an outfield rotation of Gordon, Francoeur and Myers on the corners and Cabrera and Cain in center, all under team-friendly contracts. Not only could they have solid defense and speed, with options for platoon, but then they could really trade from a position of strength.
Francoeur recently stated publicly that he would like to stay in KC and help the team develop. A decision on his status isn’t as pressing, as he is under contract for next year. Cabrera might not fetch as much via trade as he is worth in a Royals uniform. He shouldn’t be given away, like DeJesus and Callaspo were.
Should some team come with proven big league starting pitching in return for either of the two outfielders, of course the team should jump without hesitation. But anything short of that, and the Royals should take the old gambler’s advice and hold ‘em.