Prior to the 2011 season, the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system was rated as the best in the history of the entire galaxy since it was formed by [insert name of the supreme deity you follow on Twitter these days]. In terms of minor league prospects, the Royals had Hosmer, Moustakas, Montgomery, Escobar, Cain, Duffy, Crow, Odorizzi, Giovatella, Perez, Myers, Lamb, and those were just the guys who were knocking on the door to the major leagues. There was another wave of guys behind them. A vault full of cash in that minor league system! They were coming for that number one spot. It was ON like Donkey Kong for the Royals. Cash in on those prospects, laugh all the way to the bank, and then all the way to the World Series. ”Ya, baby. YEAH!”
Hosmer had a great rookie season; Moose a strong finish to 2011. Escobar, Crow, Perez, and Duffy also showed promise during the season too. Even though Lamb tore his UCL, Montgomery pitched well enough to get promoted to AAA after nearly making the MLB roster at age 21. Many had said 2013 was the year the Royals should really be ready to make noise, but 2012 suddenly was starting to look like it could be the year if things fell just right and the young starting pitching blossomed. 2011 was an exciting year from start to finish and 2012 was looking even better.
Well, the young starting pitching either got hurt or regressed in 2012. Duffy is now on the shelf with a UCL tear of his own, Lamb still isn’t pitching in games due to a foot injury slowing his comeback, and Montgomery has pitched so poorly that he has been demoted to AA (where he has been iffy in a few starts since then). To go with that, Cain’s injuries (he was supposed to replace Melky Cabrera’s bat and provide a defensive upgrade in CF) and Hosmer’s disastrous first half of the 2012 season have been major factors in the Royals’ regression on offense as well. Well, that and the fact that Jeff Francouer and the Yuni-Bomb(er) have gotten major playing time in the middle of the batting order despite the existence of better hitting options at their positions (like the statue of Mr. and Mrs. K at the stadium-which undoubtedly could get on base at a better rate than either player).
So it is trade deadline 2012, and the Kansas City Royals are in a familiar place to them since the strike of 1994: last place in the AL Central, near last in the AL, and in contention for a top-5 pick in next year’s MLB amateur draft. #OurTime. Many critics are frustrated with GM Dayton Moore and blame him for the failure of the Royals this season. I’ve even seen some ludicrous claims from the Twitter and message board geniuses that the Royals are no better off today than they were before Moore was hired. That is complete nonsense. However, the thinking that Moore has to do something other than blindly “trust The Process” is absolutely correct.
So what should Moore do? He should trade some of these prospects (cash in) for two top-notch starting pitchers. Prospects are just that: prospects. There are no guarantees of anything with most prospects. I give you the following names:
- Ed Hearn
- Gary Thurman
- Thad Bosley
- Larry Sutton
- Joe Vitiello
- Jamie Bluma
- Dan Reichert
- Blake Stein
- Juan LeBron
- Chris George
- Jeff Austin
- Jimmy Gobble
- Jeff Grainger
- Jim Pittsley
- Colt Grif…..GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I’ve got to stop before I hurt someone.
In case you don’t recognize these names, they are top Royals prospects from the mid/late 1980′s, through the 1990′s, and into the 2000′s. There is a reason you may not remember them: they did not become productive everyday players at the MLB level (probably really nice guys, though. Except for Juan LeBron, because F-HIM! I don’t know anything about him, never met him, have no reason to hate him or dislike him any more than any other failed prospect. But F-HIM anyway).
If it makes you feel better, the Royals aren’t alone with their lists of failed prospects. Ever heard of Matt Laporta? He’s a very recent example of a can’t-miss hitting prospect who was obtained in a trade by the Cleveland Indians in exchange for CC Sabathia (along with pitchers Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, and a player to be named later-yeah you’ve never heard of those guys for a reason). 3 seasons after he was acquired, Laporta is still shuffling between Cleveland and AAA.
The lesson here is that prospects are not guaranteed. Sure they are a commodity for trading but you are NEVER sure that they are going to replicate their minor league success at the MLB level. But sometimes they do, and prospects are cheaply salaried and are a controlled cost for several years if they become MLB’ers, and so they are valuable to teams who care about saving MLB payroll dollars when possible (which is 28 of the 30 MLB teams). Sometimes you’ve got to spend that prospect currency to obtain proven MLB talent or young talent that is ready to play everyday at the MLB level.
With the greatest minor league system ever invented, the Royals were sitting on piles of money bags when the 2011 season started. The took some of that money and deposited it their own checking account known as the Royals 25 man roster. Just as important as these bags of money on the top of the pile were the additional prospects in the lower levels of the minor leagues (A-ball and below). The so called “second and third wave” that give this system so much depth and strength. That equates to piles and piles of money that are available to acquire top MLB starting pitching.
It is now time for Moore to tweak his plan and take those money bags out on a shopping spree. This is the whole reason he tried to accumulate that stockpile of talent. Moore knew he’d have to spend some of it to fill holes in the Royals’ system. Only Wil Myers should be held in the vault, with every other name being made available in trade talks for 2 top of the rotation guys. Can Moore do that before today’s trade deadline? WILL he? SHOULD he? Possibly, but probably not.
However, Moore MUST do it before Opening Day next year. He needs to make a trade and include ANYONE (not named Wil Myers) out of the piles of moneybags, cashing in those prospects to get those top MLB starting pitchers. If that includes a big deal today, and then another one in the offseason, then that is great. Maybe he needs to take a gamble on a pitcher who has stumbled in 2012 (I’m looking at you Tim Lincecum) or who is going to be expensive payroll-wise within the next 2-3 years (Matt Garza?).
The typical fan response to this thinking is: “I want to make a trade for better starting pitching, but I don’t want to give up [prospect name].” I used to feel the same way, but name one pitcher in the Royals system right now who is certain to be ready to be a top of the rotation starter in 2013. If you say Jake Odorizzi you might be close, but how is he any more certain than Montgomery, Duffy, Crow, or Lamb were before the 2011 season started? The Royals’ pitching prospects have been ravaged by arm injuries or regression since 2011. It is time to infuse some MLB-ready top end pitchers into this system so that The Process can stay on track. And that is not free.
The time to sit and count the stacks of money and wait for it to grow has passed. Some of that money is going to turn out to be counterfeit, and it is better for another team to make that discovery once they have obtained it from the Royals. Moore has more currency than he knows what to do with sitting in the Royals minor league but it isn’t doing the MLB squad any good for 2012 or 2013 if it continues to just sit there.
The time has come for Moore to make his move. It is time for him to say, “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have all this money man… nah I’m just playin, I’ll work through my problems.“