The Kansas City Royals were already rolling along at the head of the pack in the American League Central. While the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels were also putting up strong records and looked to be solid challenges to the Royals for supremacy in the American League. At the trade deadline, the Royals had a record of 60-38, holding an eight-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in their division. This is the largest division lead that any team in MLB has at this point in the baseball betting season.
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So did the Royals sit back and remain content to play out the season? They remember that demoralizing loss in the World Series to San Francisco, and so they have added a couple of crucial pieces. They sent three left handed pitching prospects to the Cincinnati Reds for Johnny Cueto. This brought them a legitimate leader for their pitching rotation. They needed to bolster the rotation after a couple of injuries – and the rotation had already been a little weaker from the start thanks to the loss of James Shields to free agency. The Royals had to send Yordano Ventura, a big contributor to their success last year, down to Triple-A Omaha because of his big ERA (5.19). The Royals’ rotation had ranked fourth in the American League for ERA with a 3.60, but this year had sunk to 12th (4.30). The rotation stood dead last in innings pitched (530) in the American League and were also 12th in strikeouts per nine innings (6.1).
It’s true that the Royals had a deeper bullpen with the arrival of Franklin Morales, Luke Hochevar and Ryan Madson to complement the work of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, but the truth was that this team needed a clear Game 1 starting pitcher for a playoff series. Chris Young (3.32 ERA) and Edinson Volquez (3.15 ERA) have pitched well, but neither has shown that dominant ability to take over a game and pitch deep into it. Jeremy Guthrie has a 5.35 ERA, and Jason Vargas is now headed to the operating table for Tommy John surgery. Vargas had only posted nine starts while going to the disabled list three different times.
The Royals have also picked up utility specialist Ben Zobrist from the Oakland A’s for minor league pitchers Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea, reports Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Zobrist is a rental, as he becomes a free agent at the season’s end. He will start in the outfielder, taking the place of Alex Gordon, who is currently out with a strained groin. However, once Gordon returns, the Royals are likely to put Zobrist at second and shortstop to fill in for Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar. A two-time All-Star, Zobrist currently has a .268 average with 33 RBI and six home runs. So the Royals have made two moves that will plug a couple of holes.
Are these moves at the cost of the farm system? That’s true, but that’s why you have a farm system – to provide you with prospects that you can use when the big league club needs some proven help. Prospects are called prospects for a reason. There are a ton of players who have wowed scouts in the minors and then failed to produce much of a meaningful difference at the big league level. By making these trades, the Royals have taken a huge step toward showing the rest of the league that their 2014 march to the World Series was anything but a fluke.