The Kansas City Royals’ trade deadline acquisitions of Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist have been strokes of genius for Dayton Moore, who should be baseball’s Executive of the Year without even a vote.
Cueto has been everything the Royals have wanted. He’s started four games, going 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and just four walks in 30 innings. He could easily be 4-0, as he left his first start with a 6-3 lead, only to see the bullpen implode, and his only loss was a 2-1 decision. In his other two games he has combined to give up one run.
He’s also rubbed off on his teammates as he’s a steadying influence for unbroken colt Yordano Ventura and has been reunited with former Cincinnati teammate Edinson Volquez, who easily has been the best starter for the Royals this season. Maybe feeling so comfortable around his fellow countrymen could lead him to re-signing with the Royals after the season since he’s a free agent.
And he’s had an influence on Jeremy Guthrie, who has employed some of Cueto’s pinwheeling style in his repertoire in an effort to get back on track. Guthrie is 8-7, but has an astronomical 5.63 ERA, while allowing 157 hits in just 124 innings as he’s been fooling no one.
Cueto certainly will be the Royals’ starter when they open postseason play. My guess is that he’ll be followed by Volquez and then Ventura, who is slowly showing signs of reverting to last year’s form once he gets his head cleared. Danny Duffy is the fourth starter if manager Ned Yost decides to go with a four-man rotation, but Duffy is a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.
Zobrist is the epitome of a pro’s pro. His stunning home run off the seemingly invincible Aroldis Chapman tied last night’s game with the Reds and they went on to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
All Zobrist has done is hit .344 with four homers and 12 RBIs in just 17 games. He’s also walked 12 times in 61 appearances and maybe some of the other Royals will see that and realize they can get on base more by being patient. Amazingly, Zobrist has more walks in his brief time with the Royals than Omar Infante (9) and Salvador Perez (8) have had all season, not to mention Alex Rios (11).
Zobrist’s success and the impending return of All-Star left fielder Alex Gordon could offer up a dilemma. Zobrist has to be in the lineup in the playoffs and most likely he’ll be in right field, as Rios has been an id="mce_marker"1 million mistake. Yes, he broke his hand after a good start, but he’s approaching 300 at-bats and shows no signs of being the player he was with Toronto and Chicago.
Zobrist could also play second base, as Infante has had the worst year of his career offensively. However, Yost is big on defense and he works so well with Alcides Escobar that you really don’t want to sacrifice that run prevention.
If a lefty is on the mound, Yost could even play Zobrist at third base. I know Mike Moustakas is entrenched at the position and had a big postseason last year. But he’s been a virtual zero since the All-Star Game, as he hit only .188 in July and is even worse halfway though August with just eight hits in 44 at bats (.174). He’s gone away from what had his average over .300 heading into July. But his offensive woes have been masked because of the production of his teammates and he still plays good defense.
The beauty is that Yost has so many options and none of them are bad. That shows just how deep and talented the Royals’ roster is this year. From 1 to 25, they may have the best in baseball.