Is it too early to start thinking about the trade deadline? That used to be an easier question to answer. The new playoff format implemented by the league last year complicates this issue somewhat. Sure, maybe if you’re the Miami Marlins you’ve been thinking about the trade deadline since early May, but for other teams it’s not that simple. This is the case for the Kansas City Royals.
Whether you like the new playoff format or not, it’s here to stay for at least the foreseeable future and complicates the General Manager’s job for at least half the teams in both leagues. Currently the Royals sit three games under 500 and five and a half games out of first place. Their record is 30-33. Certainly not the end of the world, especially with close to a hundred games left in the season.
In the wild card standings, the Royals are six games back. Three of the teams in front of them in the wild card race are in the Eastern division and one each in the West and Central. Again, not necessarily the end of the world or the end of the season. Compare this record with a team like the Astros who are currently twenty one games below 500 and the Royals chances at the playoffs seem absolutely brilliant by comparison. But ohh my, what a difference a week makes.
Coming into the beginning of the week, the Royals had a six game winning streak; this brings their winning percentage up to .476 from an abysmal .418. Add to this an eight game losing streak from the second place Cleveland Indians and all of a sudden you have a division race, not to mention that their latest victory was off of the central division leading Tigers. The Royals took two from the Tigers to win that series, their only loss was to Max Scherzer. Scherzer has lost how many games this year? Oh right, zero.
Wednesday, the Tigers sent 2011 Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander to the mound and he shut the Royals out for seven innings holding on to a two run lead. But in the 9th, Lorenzo Cain connected off of Jose Valverde for a two run homer that tied the game. The Royals would go on to win the game and the series in the 10th inning when Eric Hosmer singled in the final run.
It would seem that bullpen troubles aren’t unique to Kansas City. Detroit’s pen currently has a record of 4-12 proving that they aren’t invincible. The Royals have a 3-2 record against the Tigers with their only other loss to them coming back in April off of, whom else, Max Scherzer. These two teams will play thirteen more times before the season is over and the Tigers can’t send Verlander and Scherzer to the mound for all one hundred and seventeen of those innings.
This was a huge series for the Royals. Not only does it keep them within striking distance in the division, it provides a giant mental boost. Winning the Tigers series sends the message that the Royals can beat the supposed best team in baseball, whereas a sweep by the Tigers would have put them far enough back in the standings that Dayton Moore would probably start getting his resume ready and his replacement would be trying to figure out how to sell off some of the key pieces of this team.
It isn’t exactly certain what a selling season for the Royals would even look like. Would they trade off the pitching they just acquired at a cost of their own best prospects or would they get rid of their young talent that they have locked up during their most cost effective years? Neither sound like good options and something tells me they didn’t keep their receipt for Wil Myers.
The Royals have ten games against division rivals this month. If they can keep their winning streak going into July they will start to look like a buying team. Shoring up the bullpen would go a long way towards making a playoff run but buying players this year may be problematic as well. The once well stocked Royals farm system was thinned out quite a bit to get them where they are now (30-33). However, if it works and the Royals make the playoffs, Dayton Moore will look like a genius. If they don’t, well, at least they aren’t the Astros.