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July 31, 2013

On the Royals and trades and uncontrollable factors (and some outrageous pitching numbers)

Happy trade deadline day, and for the first time in a decade — this is so long ago that Lance Armstrong had just won his fifth Tour de France and was still a hero — the Royals are above .500.

Happy trade deadline day, and for the first time in a decade — this is so long ago that Lance Armstrong had just won his fifth Tour de France and was still a hero — the Royals are above .500.

Actually, putting it that way does a disservice to how bad they’ve stunk. Today, with the Royals 52-51, is the first non-waiver trade deadline in a decade where the Royals have been better than nine games under .500.

And, I probably don’t have to tell you that streak would go back much further if not for the amazing fluke that was the 2003 Royals.

Anyway, my basic stance hasn’t changed since writing last week that the Royals should see what Ervin Santana could bring back in a trade. They’ve won seven in a row and gained one game in the standings, and even if you focus on the wild card – five back with three teams to pass — yesterday we went over how often teams make up this kind of ground. I’ll save you a click: not very.

I do want to make one simple point, though. It’s a point I think we would all do well to keep in mind when talking about trade possibilities, especially when we hear people saying things like: "That team MUST trade (for) THAT player or the whole operation is being run by nincompoops!"

Trades are hard to pull off.

I’ve told this story before, I think, but many years ago I essentially told a baseball executive that I could come up with a realistic trade to improve his team. He smiled, said sure, let me know. I put a lot of thought into it, wasted a lot of time, wore out many pages on Baseball-Reference and Cot’s Contracts and a million other places. If memory serves — and there’s a good chance it doesn’t — I quit after the third trade.

It’s not that any of my ideas were outlandish. The values were roughly equal, each team would’ve received something to (at least in my mind) put them in a better situation. But each time, the executive told me about some factor I had no way of knowing. A no-trade clause. A player who only wants to be on the West Coast, or close to family in the Midwest, or whatever. A personality quirk (or raw history) between a player and his would-be new teammates.

Now, sometimes it’s the job of executives to simply work through or around those obstacles. And maybe one of my ideas could’ve happened, if both sides had the motivation. Who knows.

Point is, no matter how much I lined up stats and scouting reports and contracts and ages, there were prohibitive points that I couldn’t know.

I try to remember this always, but especially this time of year. You might’ve seen in Bob Dutton’s notebook here that Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick has a limited no-trade clause that includes the Royals.

Kendrick otherwise makes a lot of sense for them. The Royals have an enormous need at second base^, the Angels are a mess, and before arbitration guys (assuming Chen and Hochever don’t come back) the Royals have a net of about $8.5 million coming off the books this offseason^^.

^ Not sure which is worse. That the position is hitting .232/.281/.312 this year, or that before I looked it up I expected the numbers to be much crappier.

^^ Gordon gets a $1 million raise, Shields $3 million, Guthrie $6 million (!), Davis $2 million, and Perez $500k. Coming off will be Santana at $12 million and, in my scenario, Chen and Hoch (basically $4.5 million each).

But, well, none of that matters because Kendrick negotiated a no-trade clause that the Royals had no control over and no knowledge of.

It’s also a reminder that the Royals play by a different set of rules than many other teams, and not just with money.

We close with a comparison of the Royals’ current seven-game win streak and their eight-game losing in streak in May, the lowest point of that 4-19 turd that effectively got the old hitting coaches fired, George Brett on for seven weeks, and lots of people wanting Dayton Moore fired.

The hitting has been better; the pitching and defense outrageous.

Win streak (three against Baltimore, three with the White Sox, and one with the Twins)

Hitting .273/.323/.408 with 18 extra-base hits, 17 walks, 46 strikeouts and 31 runs.

Have given up 11 runs (nine earned), 47 hits and 15 walks while striking out 45 in 66 innings (1.23 ERA).

Losing streak (one against the crappy Astros, four with the Angels, three with the Cardinals)

Hit .231/.284/.303 with 14 extra-base hits, 18 walks, 44 strikeouts and 16 runs.

Gave up 40 runs (39 earned), 77 hits, and 26 walks while striking out 51 in 70 innings (5.01 ERA).

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