Because it is mid-to-late July, I am obligated by the Internet Sportswriter Code to talk about whether my city’s baseball team should be A) buyers, B) sellers, or C) do nothingers as the league’s trade deadline approaches.
The Royals are doing their part by 1) floating rumors about the departure of Billy Butler, 2) making dink-and-dunk moves like the signing of two old bullpen guys, and 3) hovering in a gray area of, “maybe they’re contenders, maybe they’re not,” which is the worst thing of all because SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT.
And this is only a discussion—whether they’re buyers, sellers or neither, I mean—because they’re a .500 baseball team who has had a ten-game winning streak this season, and is also in the “time to win is NOW” mindset. If you took this very same team and moved them back five years, I think you’re sellers, for sure. Four years ago, same. Three? Probably.
Okay, look, I think this team would be a seller almost any other year under similar circumstances, the exception being last year, and this.
But this is it, right? James Shields is gone after this year. Everyone is a year older. You know what you’ve got. And frankly, you’ve got a very average ball club. The thing is, I don’t know if the powers that be feel this way. That’s why I feel like they could inadvisably be buyers.
And then all of the Billy Butler talk.
Any sort of move involving Billy Butler would be some sort of push, I suppose, depending on how you view his contributions to the team and how you view any potential return from the deal.
The name most often bandied about would be a swap for Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin. Franklin—who was mostly a second baseman until the Mariners signed Robinson Cano—has lots of potential, and a lot of power. He also hasn’t yet found his footing, hitting only .215 in 416 major league AB. Because he’s a middle infielder, and he’s only had 400+ plate appearances without doing much with them, lots of Royals fans are quick to make the comparison to Omaha’s own Johnny Giavotella.
The reason this isn’t quite apt is simple: the much maligned Gio is almost a full four-years older than Franklin. Franklin still has time to become something; given that the Royals have no apparent interest in Giavoltella being a long-term solution at the big league level, he will only ever become something if he catches on with another organization. (And soon. Understandably, few teams are interested in a 27-year-old “prospect.”)
Butler has indicated that he’d like the Royals to pick up his $12.5mil option for next season. For a light-hitting DH who might be on the downside of his career, this is adorable. (I’m not NEARLY as bothered by Butler as some, but even I think this is ludicrous.)
Frankly, I think the Royals would be better off this season and going forward if the jettisoned Butler for Franklin, and I think this argument can be made whether they consider themselves buyers or sellers.
So say they trade Butler. Then what?
Well, I think that they’ll target someone like Gomes, unfortunately. I think they’ll continue to rework the not-very-good lineup on a daily basis and Jarrod Dyson still won’t get a fair shake as a regular outfielder and I think they’ll hover around .500 and ultimately finish a few games above. They could easily set the record for the most losses in one-run games because, while they’re very respectable in terms of batting average, they don’t know how to hit homeruns or take walks or do any of the little things that successful but power-bereft teams do.
So that’s what I think they’ll do.
What I’d like them to do, however, is considerably different.
I’d LIKE David Glass to fire Dayton Moore and Ned Yost (and then sell the team to Cerner, but that’s probably me just being greedy). Then, I’d like him to hire Farhan Zaidi, Assistant General Manager/Director of Baseball Operations for the Oakland A’s. Then I’d like Zaidi to deal Butler, and Shields, and anyone over 35 (looking at you, Raul Ibanez), and Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
As much as I love some of these guys—well, all of these guys, but for very different reasons—none really have a part in the future of this team. And while Ibanez won’t really generate any interest (in fact, he probably just needs to be released, sad as that may be), a good GM can swing some pretty hefty returns for a proven frontline starter and two of the absolute best relievers in baseball.
So welcome to KC, Jonny Gomes! I look forward to the four homeruns you’ll add and all of the fleeting excitement they may bring.