It’s been known for some time now that 2018 was going to be a rough season for the Royals, so 2017 was seen as a possible last hurrah for this core group of players. Things didn’t quite start that way, when the Royals this time, finally, were as awful as the pre-season projections expected them to be.
Don’t get too excited, nerds (he says with love in his voice you cannot glean from this written word): There are two months of season left, and the Royals’ last two months went pretty well.
Kansas City knows it, too, as they’ve already traded for Trevor Cahill, find themselves in other rumors for starting pitchers, and are clearly going for it while they can. Should they, though, when they could trade their pending free agents to help kickstart a rebuild? Let’s dig in.
The Royals, who started the year out playing like absolute trash, were outscored by 53 runs combined in April and May. That led to a 22-30 record they were honestly kind of lucky to have. Since then, though, the Royals have been whatever the opposite of trash is to fit this analogy, going 30-17 since June 1 while outscoring opponents by 43 runs.
52-47, as of Wednesday morning.
Their expected record based on runs scored and runs allowed
48-51, which is not surprising considering those first two months referenced above.
Their expected record according to BaseRuns
48-51, with the same follow-up text as before.
(A definition of BaseRuns can be found here.)
Games behind first place
They’re just 1.5 games back of the Indians.
Games out of second wild card
The Royals have a one-game lead on the second wild card, and are half-a-game behind the Yankees for the first one.
Pending free agents
Farm system rank before the season (Baseball America)
The Royals ranked 26th. That is not good, just in case there was any confusion.
What it would take to contend next season
Well the Royals basically have no prospects and don’t have room in the budget to re-sign all the major contributors who are going to leave through free agency, and wouldn’t get enough back in trades to put them right back into contention so ... a lot of unexpected things would have to go right.
That might sound like a lazy way off this section, but think about it: Hosmer has a 124 OPS+ and has hit .318/.379/.542 over his last 47 games. Mike Moustakas is slugging .630 with 16 homers in that same stretch. Lorenzo Cain has been back to being the Lorenzo Cain that helped the Royals to consecutive World Series appearances. Those dudes are potentially all gone in four months, as is one of their only good starting pitchers from 2017.
The Royals should do whatever they can while they can, because 2018 is looking grim as hell. The farm system isn’t going to save them in the near-term, they just might open up a ton of holes on the big-league roster thanks to free agency, and they’ve actually been a pretty good team for nearly two months now. If the Royals keep acquiring pitching help on the cheap to keep them in the wild card and AL Central race, then they’re doing things right. The lineup and bullpen have been holding things together the last two months, but the rotation has a 4.81 ERA since June 1.
Kansas City is only going to get so much back for rentals, and they’re managing to play well now despite the best efforts of Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon. Keep rolling those dice, Royals, it’s worked this long.