• ROYALS STICKING WITH MOUSTAKAS — The Kansas City Royals basically sent the much-maligned Mike Moustakas a message on Monday — we’re going to sink or swim with you playing third base.
Due to a recent surge, at least by Moustakas’ standards (.231 since his recall from Omaha), the Royals are telling him he’s the third baseman for the foreseeable future. He had been sharing time with Danny Valencia, but the Royals traded him on Monday to Toronto.
The move, in my opinion, was twofold. They didn’t want Moustakas looking over his shoulder in terms of his playing time and also wanted to recall former No. 1 draft pick Christian Colon, who can play three positions. He once was the No. 4 overall pick in the entire draft (the Royals passed that year on Chicago’s Chris Sale, a Cy Young candidate), but has been slow in developing. A lot of baseball experts believed at the time the Royals made a reach and the consensus was he was picked because of his signability.
Moustakas has been an enigma as he blazes away in spring training, then leaves his game in Arizona once the regular season starts. He once was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft (and Dayton Moore’s very first No. 1 pick as Kansas City GM), but has never hit for a high average. He is still under .200, but has hit enough homers and driven in enough runs to stay in the lineup, not to mention he’s a good defender despite limited mobility. There are just so many holes in his swing and big-league pitchers don’t need a lot of time to figure them out.
If the Royals are going to make the playoffs, Moustakas has to figure in heavily. He’s one of the very players on the team who can hit the ball out of the park.
• WHAT TO DO WITH SHIELDS? — With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, you don’t hear much talk about the Royals peddling ace pitcher James Shields.
It’s been well documented that Shields is in the final year of his contract. The Royals knew his deal when they traded for him before last season and their goal was to make the playoffs at least in his second year, which would tempt him to re-sign.
Kansas City is in the playoff hunt, but quite honestly I don’t think even with the expanded wild-card system it’s going to make it. The pitching and defense have been playoff-caliber, but the offense has too many nights where it produces two or less runs. It all goes back to being able to hit the ball out of the park, which the Royals do worse than any team in baseball.
Getting back to Shields, if the Royals don’t trade him before the season is over, they’re sure to lose him with only a draft choice as compensation from the team that eventually signs him. He’s looking for that one last big payday and somebody out there will certainly give it to him, but it won’t be the Royals. I’m guessing his asking price will be id="mce_marker"5 million a year and like any pitcher, he’ll probably be looking for four years. Kansas City simply can’t pony up that wad of cash to a pitcher who basically never wins more than 15 games.
Shields’ impact on the Royals during his stay can’t be overstated though. He has provided quiet leadership and taught some of these younger players how to win, just as he did when he was at Tampa Bay. But honestly, he’s in the home stretch of what has been a solid career and probably has two or three good years left at the most. If the Royals trade him, however, it tells their fans they’ve given up on the season.
• BIG SERIES COMING UP — Staying on the Royals theme, it would behoove them to sweep the struggling Minnesota Twins in the three-game series that begins tonight at Kauffman Stadium.
When you look at the upcoming schedule, it’s rather frightening. Between now and Aug. 14, Kansas City has a whopping seven games with baseball’s best team, Oakland. Toss in another three with probable playoff team San Francisco and you could be looking at a stretch of games that shapes the Royals’ future.
The Royals need to beat up on teams like Minnesota and Arizona, which it plays three times before the San Francisco series. They need to stay close until the final three weeks when they basically play nothing but teams in their own division. Their final 13 games are against AL Central foes.