The Royals fell flat on their faces right before the All-Star break and continued the slide with an 8-4 loss against the Twins in the first game after the break. The trading deadline is just over two weeks away and this has been the time of year where the Royals’ organization decides to focus on their bottom line and trade as much high-salary earners off to playoff contenders.
The team clawed out a 2-1 one victory on Friday night with solid pitching and a two-run, ninth inning blast by Eric Hosmer with Melky Cabrera on second base. Compared to the last several years, this team has shown sparks of life against the Twins. After four games in Minnesota, the Royals will be home all next week to play host to the White Sox and the Devil Rays (both teams are close to or above .500).
Jeff Francoeur’s name has come up in trading block rumors but has made it clear to the Royals’ organization that he wants to stay in Kansas City and it is not hard to see why. He fits into the Royals’ commitment to develop younger talent (he is only 27). He plays well, has become a clubhouse leader and has become a fan favorite to watch.
Joakim Soria and Aaron Crow could also be mentioned in trade talks, as relief pitching for a deep playoff run is also essential. Soria may have had his ups and downs this year but is still one of the best closers in the American League the past few seasons. Aaron Crow has developed into a consistent setup man that can give a team more than one inning if required.
If recent years are any indication of how these quality players are going to be handled, then Francoeur might as well start packing his bags now. However, if the Royals are committed to setting the tone and contend in 2012 after taking their lumps as a bunch of rookies this year, then they need to keep him along with the rest of the team.
Right now, the Royals are one of the healthiest teams in baseball with only one current player on the DL, Jason Kendall. With no starters on the DL, the Royals should be able to get back on track and develop some momentum early in the second half. Injuries played a large role in their first half slide, with three starting pitchers coming down with injuries.
Part of any successful season in baseball is team chemistry. These young players have taken the first half of this season to get to know each other as well as themselves in terms of how they are supposed to play the game. They may not be a team that looks like they’re supposed to win a championship every year (like the Yankees or the Phillies) but after playing an entire season together, they will be well on their way to building a brighter future for Kansas City baseball.