If you need any further evidence that the Kansas City Royals are in full-blown rebuilding mode, the trade of Jon Jay on Wednesday should clinch it.
The Royals, who have the second-worst record in the American League at 21-41, traded their most consistent hitter to Arizona for two minor league pitchers, neither of whom should help anytime soon.
Jay is 33, though, and never figured in the Royals’ long-term future. He’s a true professional and had far exceeded expectations this season with a .307 average, but had only 10 extra-base hits and just recently ended the longest homer-less streak of any player in the majors.
The Royals received an 18-year-old pitcher named Elvis Luciano and 23-year-old pitcher Gabe Speier, who has been in baseball six years but will be placed at the Double A level, while Luciano will be in the Rookie League. Not exactly a haul for a player who was among the top hitters in baseball during the month of May.
The Royals are trying to find arms wherever they can. Their pitching has been horrendous and in the Major League draft earlier this week, they stockpiled arms.
Right now, the alleged top three pitchers in the rotation are Danny Duffy (2-6, 5.81 ERA), Ian Kennedy (1-6, 5.76 ERA) and Jason Hammel (2-5, 5.17 ERA). The revelation has been Jakob Junis, who is 5-5 with a highly creditable 3.62 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 74 innings. The big concern is going to be durability, as he’s on pace for about 200 innings, which is no-man’s land for him.
The fifth starter is now Brad Keller, who has looked good since moving from the bullpen. He’s 1-2 with a 2.12 ERA and has 19 strikeouts in 29 innings.
But when you have only five victories from your three veterans at the head of the rotation, it’s a sure sign of a 100-plus-loss season.
Offensively, the Royals have at times been decent. My guess is that with Jay now gone, Whit Merrifield will move to center field and Ryan Goins will be inserted at second base. With Jay departed, Merrifield now leads the team in hitting at .289 and has 14 steals.
Mike Moustakas is cobbling together a resume that probably will get him traded at the July deadline as he would fetch a nice return. He’s been solid with a .272 average with 12 homers and 40 RBIs. He’s on a one-year deal and honestly the Royals were lucky to have him back this year.
Jorge Soler has blown hot and cold, but at least he’s a presence. Salvador Perez has 10 homers and 31 RBIs, but he’s in a real skid where he’s getting himself out on bad pitches and has been hitting into too many doubleplays.
Alex Gordon, who is costing the Royals millions, had a flicker of his old form earlier this season, but has only 14 RBIs in 46 games, which is not what you expect from a guy making on average id="mce_marker"8 million a year.
Right now the Royals are a team of spare parts. There’s too much pressure on the offense due to the starting pitching and the once-heralded bullpen is among the worst in the game. Kelvin Herrera is having an All-Star type year as a closer, but he’s just not getting many opportunities.
It’s going to be a long, hot and dull summer in Kansas City.