MLB Trade Deadline Rumor Buy or Sell: The Royals not selling, will keep their stars
Will the surging Royals keep their veterans leading up to the trade deadline?
Welcome to CBSSports.com's Rumor Buy or Sell. With the July 31 trade deadline slowly approaching, we'll break down any notable trade rumors that come your way during the summer months.
Here's this from ESPN's Buster Olney ...
Some of [Royals GM Dayton] Moore's peers with other teams understand Moore's loyalty and appreciation of this group of players. They believe that unless the Royals completely collapse and fall far behind in the race, there will be no Kansas City sell-off; they think there is no way the GM would break the Royals in the middle of this season without giving them the last, complete opportunity they've earned at the end of one of the greatest eras of success in team history.
So will the Royals, burdened by a slow start and with a lot of expiring veteran contracts on the roster, sit out the upcoming July 31 non-waiver trade deadline? Let's dig in ...
As just noted, the Royals began the 2017 season in dismal fashion. They started 0-3 and by May 7 were 10-20. Through the first two months of the season, they spent exactly five days not in last place in the AL Central. Set against the tragic offseason death of Yordano Ventura and injuries to Danny Duffy and Nate Karns, it looked increasingly like a lost campaign in Kansas City. Throw in the fact that core veterans Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar are all set to become free agents this winter, and you had plenty of motivation to sell leading up to the deadline.
Then, though, the Royals "inconveniently" started winning. After a 7-16 April, they went 15-14 in May. Thus far in June, they're 13-6 with a +19 run differential (compared to run differentials of -37 in April and -16 in May). In matters related, Hosmer has been on fire after a brutal April, and so has Lorenzo Cain. Salvador Perez is putting up the best offensive numbers of his career, and Moustakas in on pace for a 40-homer season. They'll open play on Friday with a shot to reach the .500 mark for the first time since April 19. In other words, the competitive landscape looks a lot different Kansas City than it did just a couple of weeks ago.
Buy or sell?
Buy. While the Indians are playing much better of late, they've yet to put the expected distance between themselves and the remainder of the AL Central. Going into Friday's action, the Royals are just four games off the pace in the Central and just two game out of the second AL wild card spot. Yes, multiple teams are in front of KC in the wild card queue, but they're very much within range.
That brings us to this, which is how the Royals have improved their standing since that 10-game-below-.500 low point in terms of the SportsLine playoff odds ...
Royals on ...
SportsLine playoff odds
May 7 (10-20)
June 23 (35-36)
That, obviously, is a big increase. The Royals of course remain solid playoff underdogs, but since they were in that 10-20 crater they've improved their chances of making the postseason by, oh, 3000 percent or so. They're in play as a contender, that is. Also, Duffy makes a Triple-A rehab start this weekend, so the return of their projected best starting pitcher is within sight. Another factor to consider is that, among AL teams, just the Indians and Astros have easier schedules the rest of the way, at least when it comes opponents' average winning percentage in 2017. As long as this roster stays together, it's perfectly plausible that the Royals could wind up with a win total in the mid-80s, and in the era of the second wild card berth in each league that's enough to make you relevant.
Beyond all that, this Royals core is of course deeply beloved in Kansas City. Without Hosmer, Cain, Moustakas, and Escobar, those two pennants don't happen and that 2015 World Series trophy isn't theirs. Especially in light of the Ventura tragedy, keeping these guys together for one more run, even if it comes to grief, is tremendously appealing on a human level. You can certainly argue that holding on to these guys in the name of a 16 percent chance of making the playoffs is not in the long-term interests of the franchise. I'd possibly agree with that in a vacuum and considering that the trade market for, say, Moustakas could be a healthy one. But we're not in a vacuum.
Note that the Olney excerpt above includes the qualifier that the Royals must avoid total collapse between now and the days leading up to the deadline. Yes, if the wheels come off over the next month, then Moore needs to recalibrate. Right now, though, let's allow these KC stalwarts to take one more swing at it before free agency scatters them to the four winds.
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