So the MLB Trade Deadline has officially passed and the Royals kept things pretty tame during this momentous day where plenty of stars were dealt around the league. The White Sox were the primary “winners” in the division, as the acquired Craig Kimbrel from the Cubs up on the North Side, and seem primed to fix their bullpen issues, which were on display in the Royals’ recent series win over the South Siders at Kauffman Stadium:
As for the Royals, they made two pretty low key moves over the past couple of days. On Thursday, Dayton Moore traded longtime Royal Danny Duffy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later (with the player depending on how much Duffy pitches for the Dodgers):
Then today, around the end of the Trade Deadline at 3 p.m., the Royals announced that they traded Jorge Soler to the Atlanta Braves for right-handed pitcher Kasey Kalich, a big surprise considering Soler had been on a hot streak at the plate the past couple of weeks.
As expected, the Royals did not trade any of their veterans who were signed beyond this season. Though Whit Merrifield, Scott Barlow, and Carlos Santana were generating some interest around the league, Moore opted to hold onto them for the foreseeable future. It was a polarizing decision among Royals fans for sure. Yes, those three would have generated good prospect packages in trades from opposing teams. However, it appears that the Royals are intent on competing in 2022 and want to build positive momentum in these last two months to help set up such a run. That has a higher chances of happening if Merrifield, Barlow, and Santana are on the roster for these last two months.
And thus, did the Royals do the right thing at the Trade Deadline? Are they set up well to be compete in the division in 2022 as Moore and some Royals fans think?
Let’s take a look at the moves the Royals did today, and what kind of effect it can have on this club not just for these next two months and even 2022, but beyond as well.
While the trades of Duffy and Soler did not net great returns, the fact that Moore was able to get “anything” for those two should be considered a win for the Royals. After Duffy hit the IL a second-time, it seemed unlikely that he was going to get traded anywhere, especially with his injury history. Honestly, in the minds of most Royals fans, it was expected that Duffy would not pitch at all for the remainder of the year, and thus his Royals career would end not with a bang, but a whimper.
And yet, the Dodgers took a risk on him, which could be the best situation for both sides. The Dodgers do not NEED Duffy to be an ace in the rotation (they got Max Scherzer for that). They just need him to be productive and boost them down the stretch, whether that’s in the rotation or bullpen. Duffy can do that, and he showed an ability to do that well with the Royals back in 2014 and 2015, where he embrace a hybrid role as a pitcher. It is likely that he will have a similar task with the Dodgers, should he be healthy.
As for Soler, he’s a more interesting case. I felt that Soler had a better chance to be traded than some Royals fans thought because I figured no one was really looking at Soler as an “everyday” player. He’s on a hot streak, and he definitely boosted the Royals lineup as of late with bombs such as this:
The Braves are banking on maxing out a “hot” Soler down the stretch, even if he may not be an everyday player in Atlanta. With players such as the recently-acquired Joc Pederson and the even more-recently-acquired Adam Duvall, the Braves have a lot of “offensive-oriented” outfielders who could provide a lot of pop at the plate, even if it comes at an expense defensively. That being said, if Soler can continue this hot streak, he could make things really interesting this off-season.
In 2022, the Braves will have a healthy Ronald Acuna back, but it’s unlikely that Marcell Ozuna will return to the Braves due to his domestic violence issues. Thus, the Braves could see Soler as a cheaper replacement for Ozuna, especially if Soler can finish this year strong in Atlanta and fit well in his new surroundings in the Deep South.
So, we know what the Dodgers and Braves got for Duffy and Soler, respectively. But what about the Royals?
Honestly, it wasn’t much, and probably won’t be much, even once Royals fans know who the “player to be named later” is. Kalich could be an interesting bullpen arm, as he has struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings in High-A Rome. However, his upside is maybe a Tyler Zuber, and that’s putting it optimistically, honestly.
That being said, it’s not necessarily who the Royals “gained” in this deal, but rather the space they created as a result. By trading away Danny Duffy, the Royals clear a spot for Jackson Kowar to eventually make a return to the Royals rotation. By trading away Jorge Soler, the Royals could perhaps open things up in September for Bobby Witt, Jr. or Nick Pratto to perhaps make their rookie debuts.
Honestly, that is a way bigger “win” for the Royals than any player they could have received from the Dodgers or Braves. The Royals need some roster flexibility to explore some things over the next couple of months, and moving Duffy and Soler makes that a whole lot easier for Moore and the Royals over these next two months.
Now, was that the right move to make for the Royals? Was it worth losing Duffy and Soler for roster flexibility, while not necessarily going “all in” on the roster flexibility by keeping Whit, Barlow, Santana, and even Michael A. Taylor, who will be a free agent after this off-season?
That’s where I’m a bit more skeptical, and honestly, disappointed in what the Royals did this week.
Royals Farm Report and I debated a bit about the Wade Davis for Soler Trade, and how he said it was a move that “blew up” in the Royals’ face:
I think the Tweet (and ensuing discussion) is unfair to Soler, but I think it opens up a bigger concern with Moore: Moore sometimes tries to straddle both sides when it comes to “competing” and “rebuilding”. As a result, the Royals hover in “no-man’s” land when it comes to roster composition and vision.
They do not have enough talent at the Major League level to compete currently, especially in a division that is owned by the White Sox, significantly. However, they do not have enough “proven” upside (i.e. really elite prospects, though they have plenty of “good” prospect) to compete long-term down the road. And thus, the Royals are this 70-75 win-ish team that obviously is going to miss the playoffs, but will still be good enough to just avoid the basement of the AL Central. That is not necessarily a great place to be as a baseball organization, as Cubs GM Jed Hoyer hinted in a statement today, as the Cubs have gone through their own fire sale to begin the rebuilding process this week:
This is a tough place to be as a Royals fan. As Royals fans, we like to see the winning on the field, even if it is inconsistent. I was able to attend Wednesday night’s walkoff, and that made Kauffman a fun place to be, even if the heat was pretty unbearable. It was nice to see the Royals sweep the Brewers and Tigers and take three of four from the rival White Sox, even after they had a horrendous 7-20 June. It was nice to see Salvy hit bombs and the Royals starting pitchers finally flourish after struggling during the month of June and early July.
But the time to compete for the postseason isn’t now (their less than 0.1 percent odds prove that).
Witt Jr. and Pratto aren’t going to turn this team around this year and maybe not even next. They will most likely go through their own growing pains at the plate like Wander Franco of the Rays and Jarred Kelenic of the Mariners this year.
And Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar will continue to go through their own peaks and valleys. Even Lynch has looked a lot more mortal against the Blue Jays on Friday night after his gem on Sunday. And who knows how Kowar will do, whenever he should return to the Royals pitching staff.
Thus, 2022 shouldn’t be the goal. 2023 should be. But by then, Whit will be near his mid-30’s. Santana and Mike Minor will probably be gone, as I imagine the Royals won’t exercise their options. And who knows about Adalberto Mondesi, who has been a ghost the past couple of months as Nicky Lopez has filled in admirably in his place at shortstop.
The Royals did enough to make their situation “slightly” better for the next couple of months and this off-season. They don’t have to worry about extensions to Duffy and Soler anymore (not that they were going to give it to them anyways). They will get that “consistent” production from Whit and Santana in the lineup, and Barlow in the bullpen. That will be enough to placate a lot of Royals fans for now.
That being said, the Royals had a chance to really do something bold at this Trade Deadline. They had a chance to really mold this lineup into on that could have a future for not just 2022, but 2023 and beyond. They didn’t have to blow things up like Cubs or Nationals, but they could’ve made their future a little brighter like Minnesota Twins, for example. There was a desperate market out there, and the Royals didn’t take advantage.
The Royals played it safe…and safe most likely will result in another 70-75 win team.
Ergo, another 2012-esque Royals team.
It will be entertaining enough to still keep hardcore Royals fans coming to the ballpark and watching this team regularly on Bally Sports.
But it won’t be enough to produce anything substantial in the Win-Loss column, like in 2014 and 2015…
And that’s a shame because it does feel like this team could take that next step and something more with some more “forward-looking” moves, but who knows…
Maybe Moore will prove us all wrong.
I guess Royals fans will see over these next couple of months…
Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports