Royals targeting arms before Trade Deadline
Starting pitching is No. 1 need as club looks to rebound in second half
KANSAS CITY -- Now that the All-Star Game is in the Royals' immediate past, the immediate future holds another event of intense interest: the Trade Deadline of July 31.
Even though the Royals sat 10 games under .500 at the break, they're not in a sell-off mood. No, the unbridled optimism remains that this is a team on the rise and there are missing parts to be added.
"It's no secret what we've got to do, we've got to get some starting pitching," general manager Dayton Moore said. "Is it all going to come from within the system? That's just not the case. We've got to have it come from within, yes, but we've got to be aggressive through free agency and we're going to have to do some things to solidify our rotation."
The Royals lost left-hander Danny Duffy and right-hander Felipe Paulino to Tommy John surgery this year and the rest of the rotation has been spotty. None of the Minor League prospects, such as Jake Odorizzi or Ryan Verdugo, seems quite ready to make the leap right now.
The Royals' starters, at the break, ranked 13th out of 14 American League teams with a 5.16 ERA. Only the Twins were worse at 5.68; the Athletics were first at 3.67.
The Kansas City relievers, on the other hand, ranked eighth with a 3.22 ERA.
Just how much could be done via trades at this time of year is questionable. Contenders, of course, aren't trading good starters and, in fact, probably are looking for more rotation arms themselves for the stretch run.
So, realistically, the Royals' quest for starting pitchers outside the organization might have to wait until the free agent market opens in the offseason.
"I'm confident we'll receive support from [owners] Dan and David Glass to do what we have to do," Moore said.
For right now, the popular assumption is the Royals might be ready to trade right fielder Jeff Francoeur to make way for Wil Myers, the hot hitting prospect at Triple-A Omaha. Francoeur has fallen off from his bounce-back success of last year and batted .251 with seven homers and 25 RBIs before the break, production numbers that recently got him dropped to seventh in the batting order.
The Royals also have Lorenzo Cain returning from injury for the second half and he also could shift from center field to right if Francoeur were to go. But dealing Frenchy would also involve the acquiring team to take on the remainder of his two-year, $13.5 million contract that runs through 2013.
Another popular name on the rumor charts is sure to be closer Jonathan Broxton, who stepped in to snag 21 saves as successor to sidelined Joakim Soria and to rejuvenate his career. He's coming up on free agency so that puts him in the possibilities bin.
The base of the Royals' lineup seems secure.
"We have to look at this thing realistically: We've got a great, young catcher [Salvador Perez], we've got our corners [first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas] that are very young and talented, we have our shortstop [Alcides Escobar], our left fielder [Alex Gordon] and our DH [Billy Butler] signed long-term. So we're very encouraged by the position we're in," Moore said.
Moore has made it clear he won't be dealing any of his core players.
The focus is on adding enough ammunition, particularly starting pitchers, to put the club in the race by next year or certainly 2014. So they'll be sorting through their options carefully but thoroughly as the Trade Deadline approaches.
"It's case-by-case. It's very important that you're open-minded and listen to other people's thoughts within the organization, and certainly outside your organization as well, and explore every opportunity to improve your team," Moore said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.