Will the Royals be buyers, sellers, or window shoppers?

So far, 2012 is a disappointing season for the Kansas City Royals. Marred by injuries, a mediocre at best starting rotation and the sophomore slump of first baseman Eric Hosmer, the Royals are 37-47 and 9.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox. In an uphill struggle, the Royals are stuck in neutral and rolling back down the hill.

The Royals are getting outfielder Lorenzo Cain and infielder Chris Getz back from the disabled list. But Cain and Getz will not provide the dramatic turnaround the team needs to contend in a weak American League Central. What the Royals need is to get players via trades. But how the Royals play the next couple of weeks will determine if the Royals are buyers, sellers or window shoppers.

Buyers: If the Royals go 2-8 in the next ten games like they did in the previous ten games, they won’t be buyers until the off-season. And unless General Dayton Moore is willing to give up top prospects for starting pitching, the Royals won’t be buyers. Yes, it would be nice to think the Royals would have a chance with a Matt Garza, Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke. But at 9.5 games out and Moore’s aversion to trading prized prospects, this is a pipe dream. And would Moore trade for a front-line starter even if the Royals were in a tight A.L. Central race? I get the feeling he would say “trust the process,” and stand pat.

If the Royals go on a 8-2 run and play well the rest of the month, they might go for a Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Guthrie or Jason Vargas. But it’s likely the Royals will wait until the off-season to get a starting pitcher through free agency or a trade.

Sellers: This is the likely scenario for the Royals, a path the team has traveled too many times. The trade rumors for closer Jonathan Broxton are warming up and the trade rumors of outfielder Jeff Franceour will intensify as the trade deadline approaches.

In Broxton’s case, teams like the New York Mets need bullpen help and he might fit the bill. I wonder if the Mets would trade starter R.A. Dickey straight up Broxton? It’s doubtful, but it would be cool for the Royals to have a Dickey on the team. If the Mets aren’t interested, perhaps another team will show interest in Broxton.

Another player likely to be traded is Franceour, but don’t underestimate the love Moore has for Frenchy. Franceour’s defense is above average, but his offense has slipped from his numbers last year. And if you think we’re getting top tier prospects for Franceour, keep dreaming. But some low to mid-level prospects or a league replacement level player or two would be a fair trade.

Last month, I wrote an argument for keeping Franceour. But Wil Myers is close to Major League ready and if some other general manager gets the love jones Moore has for Franceour and gives up good players, the Royals have to trade him.

Then there’s outside trade candidates like infielder Yuni Betanourt and starter Bruce Chen. Yes, I said Yuni. Offensively, he had a great June and if Betancourt keeps it up, some team desperate for a utility infielder with some pop might be willing to trade. If that’s the case, Yuni needs to go.

As for Chen, he’s a dependable pitcher who can help out a contending team. The Royals shouldn’t give Chen away, but if the team can get some value, he needs to be traded. Chen’s exit would make way for Jake Odorizzi to join the Royals rotation and get a jump on 2013.

Window shoppers: This is an unlikely scenario, but it’s possible. The Royals wouldn’t get anyone in a trade and keep Broxton, Franceour, Chen and Betancourt. The team would shuttle starters like Nathan Adcock and Everett Teaford back and forth between Kansas City and Omaha. They might call up Myers and Odorizzi and whomever they replace will go to the bench, to AAA Omaha or be designated for assignment.

This scenario could happen if the Royals keep playing like they are or if the team doesn’t get the players they want via trades. They would play out the season and wait for 2013.

The reality is the second half of the 2012 season is shaping up like the second half of previous seasons. Middling to mediocre baseball, young players finding or losing their way in the Majors and a few bright spots in an otherwise dull campaign.

Will this ever change? I hope it does. I was heartened by the cheers fans gave Billy Butler during the All-Star Game. And when fans booed Yankees infielder Robinson Cano for not including Butler in the Home Run Derby, it showed fans still care for the Royals and they desperately want the team to win. Let’s hope the enthusiasm the fans had for Butler will carry over to the rest of the team. But the Royals have to play better baseball if they want to salvage the 2012 season.

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