Is this progress?

Barring a complete collapse, it looks as though the Kansas City Royals will not finish in fourth or fifth place for the first time in ten years and the second in fifteen. They need to play one game over .500 in their next 32 to finish with their best record since 2003. They should comfortably surrender their lowest run total since 1995 while posting an improvement in wins for the third consecutive season, something they haven’t done since 1992. All of this begs the question, is this progress?

In terms of “The Process”, you would have to say that yes, this is progress. The Royals will head into 2013 with nearly an entire line up of players that are either homegrown or traded for while they were still unknown quantities. Nearly all of these players will either be locked up under a club-friendly deals or not yet eligible for free agency. The only real exception is Jeff Francoeur, who will most likely get one last chance to start in right field and prove exactly who he is toDaytonMoore…at least until after next year’s Super Two deadline. Francoeur and Bruce Chen will both be back in 2013 at a combined cost of $12 million. Still, what Moore has always told us is that once you have a majority of the team composed of your guys, under contract on your terms, then you can have the resources to go out and spend free agent money on one or two pieces where you need them. Mr. Moore, you have exactly that heading into 2013 with a club that I’m certain you’ll sell to us as improving, so where do the Royals need pieces?

In terms of position players there are two clear weaknesses in the Royals lineup. One of them we’ve already mentioned, right field, will be manned by Jeff Francoeur, and has a clear succession plan in Wil Myers. In other words, there is absolutely no reason to go add a right fielder. The second, and more glaring, weakness is at second base. Johnny Giavotella would have to hit a ton to make up for his defense, and to this point he hasn’t shown the ability to do that in the majors. Chris Getz, the likely starter in 2013, would have to be a gold glover to make up for his bat and he is not. The most prominent free agent at second base is Robinson Cano…even if the Royals had all the money in the world; I don’t think he’s coming toKansas Cityunder any circumstances. There are no other guaranteed upgrades over Getz available on the free agent market so it seems unlikely the Royals will add a major contract for a position player in 2013.

Obviously, the Royals major hole is in the rotation. In fact, their two biggest holes are in the rotation. They have a nice collection of 4 and 5 starters, but no one that figures to be a 3 or better in 2013. With a bullpen that is set and a lineup that isn’t changing, this is where all of Dayton Moore’s attention should be focused this offseason and he’s said as much. There is no telling how much money Moorehas to spend, but let’s just use $20 million. Why that number? That’s the prudent estimate of profit for the club in 2012, and you know David Glass has always said he’s just looking to break even. There are a lot of Royals fans dreaming about Zack Greinke, not only do I think that would be a pipe dream, it would also be ill-advised. Greinke will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million, best case scenario about 100% of the Royals free agent budget. One pitcher with a 2.3 WAR does not make this pitching staff that much better. The Royals need to go out and get two pitchers at approximately $10 million a piece. I’m not going to get into who they should or shouldn’t be until the offseason, but the Royals should have them all scouted and should go hard after the two pitchers in that range they think best fit this rotation. Just throwing out two names off the top of my head, a rotation of Shaun MarcumJeremy Guthrie-Bruce Chen-Mendoza/Hochevar-Odorizzi/Smith could be a competitive rotation. Even better, the club would have the possibility of Danny Duffy or Felipe Paulino in July. That would be progress. But back to the question, is this progress? 2012? It is, but like everything else involving the Royals, it won’t mean a thing unless Glass and Moore take advantage of it.

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