The Kansas City Royals have no choice. They've come too far now. They have to push in all their chips for that one last big pot.
The Royals have been the best team in the American League over the last 30 games and now find themselves in the middle of the AL Central Division race. They are also the second wild-card team at this point, a half-game behind the plunging New York Yankees.
Not bad for a team that was 10-20 after 30 games as flashbacks to those 100-loss days were starting to pop up.
Of course there’s a lot of talk about the Royals’ five pending free agents and how many they’re going to deal before the July 31 trade deadline.
All five have been immense in the surge.
• Mike Moustakas — Moose appears to be a lock to break the Royals' longstanding team home run record of 36 by Steve Balboni. He has been simply torrid and now has 25 bombs on the year.
• Jason Vargas — Vargas simply didn't have it last night, but his teammates picked him up for a no-decision. Everybody has to have a clunker now and then. He's 12-3 with a shot to win 20.
• Alcides Escobar — He was in the .180s about a month ago, but is finally up to .225 and has finally quit trying to hit everything out of the park. His glove work is never in question.
• Lorenzo Cain — Another solid year for Cain. He's at .276 with 11 homers. He's generally in the middle of the Royals' big innings.
• Eric Hosmer — Few have been hotter. His average has climbed to .313 after being in the low .200s in May. He's even hitting more homers, on pace for about 20.
Given where they are now, I look for General Manager Dayton Moore to hang on to his stars and hope to sign them in the offseason, though I'd bet the farm all won't be back. Kansas City simply doesn't have enough money to make them all happy.
Why wouldn’t most of them want to come back? They have been a part of two World Series teams and now have their sights on getting back for a third time. Even if they stay with Kansas City, they’re going to be make millions. I’d like to think being comfortable sometimes overrides the almighty dollar.
At the start of the year, I thought Moustakas was the most likely to come back. But now that he's turned into Babe Ruth, his price is skyrocketing. He's also more than adequate defensively. But he's a California guy and those West Coast teams will certainly make a run at him.
As for the others, I've been practically sure that Hosmer and Cain will be gone. Hosmer has Scott Boras for an agent and nobody holds owners hostage more than the notorious Boras. Hosmer has done nothing to hurt his value with a huge bounceback after two slow months to start the year.
Cain is getting up in years and has suffered numerous injuries. He's looking for one big payday to ride off into the sunset.
Escobar is the easiest to replace, but never devalue his contributions. He's not an All-Star, just a solid player.
Vargas is having a career year, likely to never be duplicated. His age and coming off Tommy John surgery make him risky.
Just imagine the Royals without these five players. Or four. Maybe even three. That's why they need to stick to their guns and go for one last run and let the chips fall where they may.