For the Royals, time is rapidly running out for a turnaround in 2017


I’m not ready to wave the white flag yet on the season for the Kansas City Royals, but I have taken it out of the closet and am close to running it up the pole.

I know it is a long season, but it is getting late to say it is early. A third of the season has passed and the Royals have shown little signs of making a serious run to make it into the postseason.

In fact, entering June the Royals are not only in last place in the American League Central, but have the worst record in the AL. That is the bad news. The good news is that despite their travails they are only 6½ games out of first. If they were in the AL West, they would be trailing the Houston Astros by 14 games at this time.

I do not anticipate the wildcard to come from the AL Central, so the Royals likely need to win the division to be playing past October 1. And even if they make the playoffs, they have lost 13 of their first 20 games with teams above .500, so they have not fared well against the better teams, which does not bode well for the lengthy October run.

For those fans screaming for general manager Dayton Moore to start selling, i.e. trading, players immediately, hold your horses. Moore has the patience of Job and will likely put off any major deal for a couple of weeks.

If the Royals look buried after the middle of June, then look for Moore to do his due diligence and start dealing stars such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain for blue-chip prospects. Moore will also field calls for Jason Vargas, Alcides Escobar and Mike Minor. All six are eligible to become free agents after the 2017 season.

But that is getting ahead of the story. As manager Ned Yost is fond of saying – or maybe not so fond of saying – “nobody saw this coming.”

Injuries have played a part in the Royals’ miserable first two months. Starting pitchers Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and Nathan Karns spent time on the disabled list in May.  Duffy likely won’t throw a pitch in the majors in June as an oblique strain obstructed his season.

But Alex Gordon has yet to hit a ball over the fence and Kennedy has yet to post a victory in his first eight starts. The 33-year-old Gordon can no longer turn on a 92-mile per hour fastball. Gordon and Kennedy still have two years remaining on their Royals’ contracts this year. They will owe Gordon $44 million the next two years. Kennedy will have three years left on his five-year $70 million contract after this season.  Those may be contracts the Royals will regret.

The Royals have only one victory in Jason Hamel’s 10 starts and his ERA is north of six. He won 15 games for the Chicago Cubs last year. He won’t come close to that with the Royals.

Left-hander Travis Wood has pitched so poorly that Yost uses him only in blowouts. Wood was 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA in 77 relief appearances last year with the Cubs, but has an ERA of nearly 10 this season. Moore signed free agents Hammel and Wood to two-year contracts in February.

Jorge Soler, yet another ex-Cub, began the season on the disabled list, but has struggled hitting big league pitching upon his return. During a late May trip, Soler lost his starting spot in the outfield to Jorge Bonifacio. Soler had one at-bat and no starts in six days. All the Royals gave up to get Soler was closer Wade Davis.

Moustakas is on pace to break Steve Balboni’s single-season home run record of 36, which has been on the Royals’ books since 1985. The biggest hurdle for Moustakas is he may not be a Royal after the July 31st trading deadline.

The bullpen has been unreliable sans Davis and Greg Holland.

Moore will probably be sending out a bevy of scouts to examine the minor league affiliates of possible suitors soon unless the Royals reverse course in June.

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Article by Alan Eskew

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