The Royals won their sixth straight last night, 5-3 in 12 innings, thanks to Salvador Perez (20) and Mike Moustakas (29) back-to-back DONGS – marking the first time in Royals history they’ve had three straight games hitting back-to-back HR. They’ve peaked at four games above .500 (51-47) for the second time year (44-40). In between, the Royals lost seven of eight and were the ongoing “buy or sell” debate – what the Royals SHOULD do, and what they WILL do – raged on; “look at their record!” “But, look at the standings!”
But that question was answered by Dayton Moore yesterday, as minutes before the first pitch of the 9-game road trip, news broke that the Royals acquired pitchers Ryan Buchter, Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer from the Padres in exchange for pitchers Matt Strahm, Travis Wood (!!!) and minor-league bat Esteury Ruiz. The Royals also sent $7.2 million to the Padres just to get rid of him.
It’s not a flashy deal, but it is meaningful. First, as we recently wrote, the Royals need to upgrade their starting pitching, and with the addition of Cahill, they’ve added a starter better than any internal option they had (Eric Skoglund, Jake Junis, Luke Farrell and now the former Royal, Wood). Cahill (4-3) has a 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP in 61 innings (11 starts – only four which are quality. He did have shoulder issues earlier in the year that are reason for concern, but the Royals medical staff is comfortable enough that this injury is not going to hamper him this season (maybe, as you will see below), and many think he is back to him old self. He has a good K rate (10.6/9), but has also walked 3.5 per 9 as well. His FIP is 3.39 so indications are his ERA is about where it should be within reason, and with the added benefit of the Royals defense, he should do well in Kansas City provided he stays off of the DL. Cahill, the 2010 All-Star, will become a free agent at the end of this season, and is due just $1.75M this season, and the Royals owe the pro-rated amount. Secondly, it signals that the Royals are all-in, indicating that Moore and company are perfectly content to watch the free agent-to be members of the core (Eric Hosmer, Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar), to quote Doc Holliday, “walk out of out our lives, forever.” And, none of us will care, if they make the postseason, again. Three playoff appearances in four years, and “nothing to show for it?” They can ride off into the sunset after, for all I care.
One thing that can’t be overlooked is the the addition of Maurer, who has spent the last 162 games as the Padres closer. He has converted 20 of 23 chances with a BAD 5.72 ERA in 39 innings, but his WHIP (1.19) and advanced stats, such as a 3.22 FIP, seem to indicate this may be due to a bit of bad luck and strikes out close to a batter per inning. He certainly falls under Kelvin Herrera in the bullpen pecking order, and will likely will settle in to the seventh inning-type rile. And, even better news, he will remain under club control until 2020.
Add in Buchter, a 30-year old with a 3.05 ERA, 1.20 WHIP (11 K/9 innings, but 4.2 BB/ 9), and the bullpen is really solidified with great depth with several guys who can do several things and three lefties that are more than lefty specialists.
And…Travis Wood is gone. He was signed this offseason for 2 years and it was a disaster. Despite his past track record, he struggled so far in 2017, posting a 6.91 ERA in 41.2 innings of work mostly out of the bullpen with three spot starts. Before his move to the rotation, he was better, amazingly posting the longest stretch without allowing a runner (6.2 IP) of any Royals reliever in 2017. He won’t be missed by Royals fans.
Strahm is the biggest piece in the deal. He is missing the rest of 2017 with a torn patella. The Royals seemed unsure if he was a starter or reliever, but he is promising left-hander, just 25 years old, despite his 5.71 ERA after a dominant run in the bullpen down the stretch last season. Ruiz is a relative unknown. Just 18 years old and 4-6 years away from the bigs, the Dominican second baseman is hitting .404/.432/.753 for Royals Rookie ball down in Arizona. But, it’s hard to project an 18-year old. Who knows what he will become.
As expected, Jake Junis was optioned back to the minors after earning the win in his one-inning of work last night, but, and the Royals are left without a swing man/long man/sixth starter, but that could change, as reports that the Royals are still searching for a cheap, reliable starting pitcher, which would send Cahill to the pen, as with his injury history, the Royals could be searching for insurance.
They Royals are going for it, and, rightfully they so. They have the second best record in the AL (44-31) behind only Houston since May 1, and the fourth best record in baseball in that span. What they have done in the last 75 games is more telling then what happened in their 7-16 April. And, as of today, they sit 1.5 games.
Who would have thought this as the Royals won just 10 of their first 20 games?
Now, there’s only one last thing to do:
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