The Kansas City Royals are an immensely talented young team, but yet, they lost 90 games a season ago. Instead of continuing to be patient and push forward, GM Dayton Moore made a bold, and perhaps reckless, trade that netted him a pair of starting pitchers in James Shields and Wade Davis. Now, Moore and his Royals are in a tough spot: win now, or look for a new job.
Depth Chart (as of 3/13)
C: Salvador Perez
1B: Eric Hosmer
2B: Chris Getz/Johnny Giavotella
SS: Alcides Escobar
3B: Mike Moustakas
LF: Alex Gordon
CF: Lorenzo Cain
RF: Jeff Francoeur
DH: Billy Butler
SP: James Shields
SP: Jeremy Guthrie
SP: Ervin Santana
SP: Wade Davis
SP: Bruce Chen
CL: Greg Holland
The two most famous new faces in Kansas City are Shields and Davis, brought over from the Rays in an attempt to bolster a disastrous starting rotation. The team brought in a third starting pitcher in Ervin Santana before picking up Shields and Davis to start the rebuild of the rotation. Elliot Johnson came over from the Rays along with Shields and Davis, and George Kottaras was plucked off of waivers from the A's. Both of those moves will strengthen Kansas City's bench going forth.
The package of players that netted the Royals Shields, Davis, and Johnson included top prospect Wil Myers, solid prospect Jake Odorizzi, and former elite prospect Mike Montgomery. Clearly, you can see why this trade is a gamble for Kansas City. Former closer Joakim Soria signed with the Rangers after missing all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress was sold to Toronto. Vin Mazzaro was shipped to the Pirates. Honestly, aside from the trade with the Rays, the Royals didn't have a very active winter.
While the Royals are quite a young team, all of their prospects are in the low minors after the trade of Myers and Odorizzi. If you want a prospect to keep an eye on in 2013, Yordano Ventura had a fantastic 2012, striking out 123 in 105 2/3 innings while also opening some eyes this spring. If one of the veterans falters, Ventura could be the guy who gets the first shot.
Neither Giavotella or Getz is a game-changer at second base, but Giavotella at least has youth on his side during their competition for the starting second base position. I'm sure the Royals would be happy if the winner of their battle provides them with a one win season and a solid glove.
Starting pitchers Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy will both start the year on the DL following Tommy John surgery last summer, and with the sudden glut of capable arms in the rotation that the Royals have right now, neither will really be counted on to be rush back. Aside from those two, it's a pretty healthy club in Kansas City, though the Royals will likely be keeping an eye on Sal Perez's knee and Lorenzo Cain's groin.
Are the Royals' upgrades in the rotation enough for them to compete with the Tigers and White Sox at the top of the AL Central?
The best case for the Royals is a meteoric rise towards contention, bolstered by a combination of their young hitters and their solid veteran pitching staff. The goal in Kansas City is to win the division, and that's certainly a possibility if everything breaks the way that the Royals imagine that it will.
2012 all over again, with another 90 loss season despite the upgraded rotation and the Royals' young players not producing like expected.
I could see the Royals finishing somewhere between 70 and 90 wins. I think they'll end up splitting the difference and finishing somewhere around .500, but they can easily fall on either side of that mark. I just don't think this team is good enough right now to compete with the big boys in the division despite their offseason wheeling and dealing.