Royals hope ‘Last Dance’ for key players is a ‘Victory Lap’ and World Series Championship

royals trade aquisitions

In 1972 a classic Marlon Brando movie “Last Tango In Paris” was released. In 2017, it is the “Last Tango In Kansas City” for several Royals. We all know, from owner David Glass, general manager Dayton Moore, manager Ned Yost and the players, this group of Royals will be scattered to several directions next year.

This will be the last season for Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, the core group for six years, will be teammates. The latter two are signed to be Royals next year and beyond, the other four are destined to be free agents in November. Keeping them all is infeasible.

As the calendar flipped to August, the Royals are six-game above .500. They trail the first-place Cleveland Indians by two games in the American League Central. They hold down the second spot in the wildcard race.

After losing 20 of their first 30 games, to be where the Royals are today seemed like mission impossible.

But after playing three months of winning baseball – 16-10 July, 17-9 June and 15-14 May, the Royals overcame their awful start and actually have a good chance to extend their season beyond the October 1 regular season finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is the first time since 1991 the Royals compiled back-to-back months with a winning percentage of .615 or better.

“We know we’re on a run and we’re all clicking at the same time,” Moustakas said. “We’re a second-half team, always have been. We can be dangerous.”

To assure this final tango might have a chance to make a deep October run, owner Glass agreed to increase payroll and Moore made some shrewd moves.

“It just shows you how much Mr. Glass and Dayton are committed to giving us everything that we need,” Yost said. “Not only us, but the city.”

First, he acquired three San Diego Padre pitchers – left-hander Ryan Butcher and right-handers Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer.

The 31-year-old Cahill can become a free agent after this season, but he is an affordable rental, making only $1.75 million this year. He should be an upgrade over the plethora of No. 5 starters they have run to the mound this year after Nathan Karns went on the disabled list and last month would need season-ending surgery.

He was an All-Star in 2010 with Oakland. He was on the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series staff, going 4-4 with a 2.74 in 50 appearances. He had made 186 starts in the majors.

Maurer, 27, had been the Padres’ closer, converting 20 of his 23 opportunities. Dating to July 1 last year, Maurer has earned 33 saves in 37 chances.

Maurer, who has an upper 90 mile per hour fastball, earns $1.9 million this year and still has two more years of arbitration before becoming a free agent.

Butcher, 30, is under the Royals’ control through 2021. He had a 2.93 ERA in his time with San Diego. He averages 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings, but on the flip side averages 4.4 walks per nine innings.

Then the Royals added a middle of the order bat when they acquired outfielder Melky Cabrera from the Chicago White Sox for two minor league pitching prospects. Moore called it a “perfect fit.”

Yost immediately inserted the switch-hitting Cabrera into the third hole, between Cain and Hosmer, and in right field. Yost labeled Cabrera an “outstanding run producer, a quality at-bat.”

While Gordon continues to struggle mightily at the plate, Yost opted to start Cabrera in place of rookie Jorge Bonifacio.

“As a staff, we’re always discussing and talking, but I think everybody right now values Alex’s defense,” Yost said. “He saves pitchers pitches. Pitchers and defense win ball games.”

Yost noted the Royals’ put eight runs on the Fenway Park scoreboard, but lost 9-8 to the Red Sox.

“Part of the reason they scored nine was because we didn’t make the defensive plays,” Yost said.

Cabrera, 33, was with the Royals in 2011, hitting .305 with 18 home runs, a career-high 44 doubles, 87 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He was just establishing himself as a major leaguer in his first Kansas City go-around. Now they are counting on him to get them back to the postseason. Cabrera has post-season experience, 22 games, all but three of them were with the New York Yankees. He has not been in a postseason game since 2010 with the Atlanta Braves.

Cabrera has a career .283 batting average in 125 games at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals traded him to the San Francisco Giants after the season for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. In 2012, he was a National League All-Star and won the MVP of the game at Kauffman Stadium, but was suspended later in the season for taking a performance enhancing drug.

Whether the three pitching additions and Cabrera’s bat will be good enough to get them back to the World Series, the Royals are all-in this season.

They still may not be good enough to beat the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the American League playoffs, but they’ve been there before. They know what it takes. They will be a confident team, an opponent other teams will fear.

In late July, the Royals announced ticket playoff for a potential 2017 postseason. Nobody saw that coming in early May. The Royals went from possible sellers to buyers.

They didn’t break up the band, but kept them together for one last dance. No matter how it ends this year, it has been a great ride, back-to-back World Series in 2014-15, after a 29-year playoff drought.

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Article by Alan Eskew.

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