The Kansas City Royals’ recent surge, Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to Boston notwithstanding, has been fueled by Jason Vargas, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain.
Vargas is the unlikely leading winner in all of baseball along with Clayton Kershaw, Moustakas has been hammering home runs at a Royals record pace, Hosmer is hitting .300 and providing occasional (but not enough) power and Cain is showing why he’s the best athlete on the team, not to mention he’s hitting more homers than normal.
The Royals are smack in the middle of the AL Central title chase. But they have to stay hot because Cleveland is starting to play like the team I picked to win it all at the start of the season. You knew it was only a matter of time before its superior talent level took over, though it hasn’t run away and hid.
But with that before-mentioned core four providing the impetus, the Royals at least have brought back their fans’ interest. Don’t forget, we’re still less than two years removed from that memorable World Series of 2015 when KC took out the New York Mets in a tidy five games.
But what a conundrum Royals General Manager Dayton Moore is facing. Those four players, along with Alcides Escobar, are all free agents after this year. We’re a little more than a month away from the trade deadline and chances are if they’re still with the Royals on Aug. 1, they probably won’t be in the Royals’ lineup on Opening Day of 2018.
Looking at each:
• Vargas — There’s no better time to have a career year than your walk year. Vargas could very well start the All-Star Game if he keeps on his current pace. History tells us he’ll eventually come back to the field as cunning and guile can only take you so far. And he’s coming off Tommy John. Pretty hard to shell out big bucks for a player who’s so iffy.
• Moustakas – He’s the guy I think the Royals have the best chance of signing. He’ll never hit .300, but he’s finally providing the consistent pop the team envisioned.
• Hosmer — Forget it, he’s gone. While he’s not the big homer guy he should be (how does he not hit 30 a year as hard as he hits the ball?), somebody is going to overpay. He’s a great fielder and just reaching his prime. KC just can’t afford him.
• Cain – Lo Cain is up in the years and injury prone. It looked early in the year he was starting to slide, but he’s been torrid in June.
• Escobar — The Royals have a Escobar clone at Omaha in Raul Mondesi Jr. They can exchange one slick fielding .190 hitter for another.
Maybe no team in baseball faces a tougher offseason. I’m sure Moore is working the phones, trying to make the best possible deals he can. Hosmer would obviously bring back the most, while Moore could get good prospects for Moustakas and Cain. I think most GMs in baseball know Vargas is pitching way over his head and probably won’t offer much. Escobar would bring back little as he has no plate discipline and has it in his head he’s a home run hitter. He has few peers in the field, but he’s showing signs of slowing down in terms of range and he’s no longer a basestealer like he was in his earlier years.
Even if the Royals fall out of contention, they’re going to be a team to watch because if they do have a fire sale, they could have a say in who wins the World Series in October.