For several years now the Royals have had one of the better farm systems in Major League Baseball. Most teams should be so lucky. The Royals however haven’t been able to translate this advantage into success on the field and there would seem to be one very good reason for this.
You can’t win the World Series with the AAA Storm Chasers. It takes time to scout and develop major league talent. While developing young talent can be exciting, it usually comes with long periods of growing pains while the fans wait for the team to assemble all of the necessary pieces to win consistently. And if you’re a mid-market team like the Royals then you hope that you have enough players developed each year to keep costs down.
In a weak division, the offensive core might be enough to keep the Royals out of the basement for the foreseeable future but to be yearly contenders they are still missing something. Pitching, pitching and maybe a little pitching. This is where general manager Dayton Moore earned his paycheck this offseason.
Moore started his offseason by acquiring Ervin Santana (and cash) from the Angles in exchange for LHP Brandon Sisk. The Angles are of course currently attempting to outspend every other team in baseball and thought they could do better than Santana. Forced to exercise his buyout option, the move seems more about dumping Santana to try and buy up more expensive pitching arms than it was about picking up prospects. Santana isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a team ace but he can definitely eat up innings and has the potential to strike out a ton of guys. Unfortunately he also has the potential to give up a lot of runs.
Santana is coming off of a pretty bad year where he gave up a league leading 39 of said home runs as well as one of the more undesirable ERAs (5.16). The Royals are hoping that the Santana they get is the Santana that can strike out 200 plus batters while posting a 3.49 ERA like he did in 2008 and so far so good. In 7 starts, Santana has a 2.79 ERA. What probably scares the Royals is that fact that almost half of his earned runs have come off of the long ball. Still, it seems like a smart move, especially since Sisk, the minor league pitcher they gave up to acquire Santana, now needs Tommy John surgery.
Sisk, who has been a career minor league pitcher, seemed ready to come up and take on a bullpen position. He posted a 2.54 ERA at the AAA level in 2012 but elbow surgery puts his future into question. The Angles did place Sisk on their 40 man roster which means they still see potential, but for now the Royals seem to have come out on top of this trade.
But by far the biggest move for the Royals this offseason was the 6 man trade with Tampa Bay. The trade sent starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City in exchange for minor leaguers Patrick Leonard, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Wil Myers.
Wade Davis probably isn’t going to win over the hearts and minds of the ever patient Royals fans. Just another arm for an under achieving starting rotation. James Shields is another matter as he’s the closest thing to an ace the Royals have had since the departure of Zack Greinke. He’s had a strikeouts per 9 innings rate of over 8 since 2010 and pitches deep into games. But even if he’s everything the Royals hope he will be, he is only signed through this year with a $12 million dollar option for 2014.
The Royals gave up the 2012 minor league player of the year for what seems to be a 2 year shot at winning a weak division. The Rays, who can’t draw a crowd and can’t ever hope to spend the kind of money that other teams in their division do have to rely on smart moves in order to compete and this is one of them. The Royals have an incredibly deep farm system but giving up what some people consider to be baseball’s best prospect for an outside chance at a championship is risky but it does send a message. The Royals want to win and they want to win now. They haven’t been to the post season since they won the World Series in 1985 and they want that to change.
Early in the season they hold a winning record but their hopes of making the playoffs are probably tied to beating the Tigers. Their offensive core will remain in Kansas City for the time being but the pitching that they have literally bet the farm for will not. The silver lining here is that the Royals fans finally have something to be excited about, that is unless Wil Myers turns out to be an annual MVP candidate. If that turns out to be the case, nothing short of a World Series will be worth the cost.