DENVER—Two years ago, the Royals sent righthander Zack Greinke to the Brewers for a package of prospects, and the baseball world moaned about the team’s lack of commitment to winning.
So what happens in December? The Royals sent a package of prospects to the Rays for a pitcher to front its rotation, James Shields, and another reinforcement for the rotation, Wade Davis, and the baseball world moaned about the team sacrificing its future.
After 27 years of planning for the future, the Royals finally decided the future is now.
They have a lineup that is solid, thanks in part to the addition of center fielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar from the Brewers, and their bullpen is in good shape with the emergence of Greg Holland, who converted 16 of the 18 save opportunities he had in the final two months last year.
But they needed help, and a lot of it, for a rotation that in the last three years has a composite 4.91 ERA, ranking 28th in baseball, ahead of only the Twins and Rockies. Help is what they got with Shields, who they control for two more years, and Davis, who is under Royals’ control for five more years.
Yes, they gave up two premium prospects, but there is a reason they are called prospects—they show potential not results. Outfielder Wil Meyers, who at 21 was the Minor League Player of the Year, and righthander Jake Odorizzi, part of that package that came from Milwaukee two years ago, were the keys to the deals. Also included were Rookie-level third baseman Patrick Leonard and Mike Montgomery, considered the best lefthanded prospect in baseball two years ago, but in proving the risk that comes with a prospect label, has stumbled the last two years.
The Royals celebrated the first World Series win in franchise history in 1985, capping off a decade of dominance in which the franchise advanced to the postseason seven times. They haven’t been back since, the longest current postseason drought in baseball.
With six amateur drafts with which to stock the farm system, Moore quit looking at the future and put the focus on the present.
“It’s time for us to start winning at the major league level,” he said.
The Royals began reshaping their rotation in late July with the acquisition of Jeremy Guthrie from Colorado. He was re-signed this offseason off the free agent market. Then, in November, they acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels.
That, however, was only the prelim. The impact move came in December.
Shields is 81-65 over the last six years, and was tabbed by his Tampa teammates as Big Game James. Davis was a key part of the Rays’ bullpen last season, when he was 3-0, 2.43 in 54 games. The two previous seasons, he was a quality member of a contending rotation, going 23-20, 4.27, and the Rays won 33 of his 58 starts.
Suddenly, Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, who had been asked to fill top of the rotation roles, are battling for the fifth rotation spot.
If the Royals win a division title within the next two seasons, consider it mission accomplished. If not, well, that’s not something the Royals current regime wants to think about.
The Royals haven’t had a winning record in the six full seasons Moore has been in charge, and have lost fewer than 90 games only once. But then the Royals have had only one winning season (83-79 in 2003) in the last 18 years.
Enough is enough.
That’s why they gave up so much to get from Tampa Bay what they see as missing ingredients to a championship roster.
There, of course, are no guarantees in baseball. There is, however, hope again in Kansas City, where the franchise was once a model of success but has a left a generation of fans wishing for a winner.