UPDATE: Cheslor Cuthbert has been placed on the 10-day DL with a wrist sprain and Jorge Soler has been called up
To contend or not to contend. That is the question. The Royals briefly poked their head back above water, eclipsing the .500 mark earlier this week, but after Tuesdays loss to the Tigers, they find themselves back below .500 again. Despite their residence in the land of mediocrity, they only sit 2.5 games out of the division lead.
With the division still in play and a team formed with the intentions of giving it one last go, this still remains a club far more in buy mode than one willing to blow it all up and build for the future.
These players arent going anywhere. Not yet anyway.
The next question becomes if the Royals truly want to BE contenders, where can they upgrade their product and make a push. Economically it might be tough to upgrade, say, an Alex Gordon or an Alcides Escobar, or filling a hole in the rotation. The easiest answer in the case of the Royals comes at designated hitter, where the position labeled as "his only job is to hit" has performed at "pitcher hitting" levels. (You think I am joking? Madison Bumgarner has a CAREER line of .185/.233/.324 and 16 home runs in 460 at bats…compare that with the numbers coming up)
When the Royals announced the signing of Brandon Moss, even the most pessimistic of fans felt pretty "meh" by the move. With a guaranteed contract of only $12 million, it wasn't weighty enough of a contract to ever feel like an albatross, at least not in the same sense as say….an Alex Gordon contract.
For the 2017 season, Moss is only making $3.75 million. An incredibly frugal option to fill the hole the Royals had at designated hitter following the departure of slugger Kendrys Morales. With a career batting line of .237/.315/.450, Moss looked to be an unspectacular but serviceable replacement.
Thus far, it has been an unmitigated disaster. He has hit .179/.256/.370, and with having a grand total of 52 innings in the field he does so without the benefit of at least providing value with his glove as Gordon and Escobar have done despite their anemic hitting. His .626 OPS is 56 points higher than that of Royals reliever Travis Woods .570 OPS since 2013 in 161 at bats. Wood actually has a HIGHER batting average at .199, and just a slightly lower OBP of .241 than what Moss has managed so far this year. Maybe the answer to our frustrations with Wood as a reliever and Brandon Moss as a DH would be remedied by simply switching the two….I kid I kid but….at this point what can it hurt right?
The easiest answer for upgrading Moss would be a player the Royals already have. Jorge Soler was acquired in the off-season when the Royals sent closer Wade Davis to the Cubs. The Royals gave Soler every opportunity to seize the role back from Jorge Bonifacio after Soler began the season on the DL. Soler failed, managing to only hit .164/.292/.273 in 18 games of work. He was then sent to AAA Omaha where he has absolutely torn the cover off of the ball.
In 31 games at Omaha, Soler is hitting .324/.453/.667 and has 11 home runs. The Royals possess the flexibility to bring Soler up and still not cut bait with Moss by optioning the not oft used Ramon Torres.
Or for that matter, DH Ramon Torres…or Raul Mondesi Jr (who is hitting .337/.369/.558 in AAA and would provide a TON of flexibility for the Royals)…..or Travis Wood….or Cheslor Cuthbert who managed to hit .274/.318/.413 last season in 128 games filling in for the injured Mike Moustakas.
The point is almost ANYTHING is better than what the DH position is currently producing, and the upgrade would cost absolutely nothing — there are several options in house.
Should the Royals choose to let go of Brandon Moss, the fear then becomes he finds his groove again and is now being paid by the Royals to potentially beat them in a playoff race or in the playoffs themselves. That's a tough sell to an owner who agreed to shell out $12 million dollars on a guy to see him cut loose only a couple of months in to his contract.
Regardless of how hard it is to cut him loose, the Royals still have the the ability to cut his at bats. Stop the bleeding. If they could get production from the DH spot again, coupled with the return of their 2 injured starting pitchers including Ace Danny Duffy, the Royals would be in the enviable position of being able to make huge upgrades to a team that has been winning and it will cost neither money nor prospects. Alls they have to do in the mean time is tread water. Stay at or around .500, and they have shown they are capable of doing that. With July comes the time for changes.
The hard part now is waiting to see if and when that change will be made.
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