The offseason is always full of surprises and none have been bigger in this first inning of hot stove action than the activity by the Kansas City Royals. General manager Dayton Moore has already moved quickly to acquire a pair of middling starters, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie, to plug into what was a woeful rotation this past year, and he doesn’t appear to be done yet. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that the Royals my consider dealing Wil Myers, the consensus best hitting prospect in baseball, for some elite-level pitching if the opportunity presents itself.
After watching the success of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, two other young outfield proteges, it comes as a shock that Kansas City would think of dealing away their own uber-prospect before he even hits the Major Leagues. Myers split time between Double-A and Triple-A last season, while winning a variety of Minor League Player of the Year Awards for his .314/.387/.600 triple slash, 37 homers, and 109 RBI. That kind of production makes scouts weak in the knees, so why are the Royals even thinking about a deal like this?
Kansas City’s hitting attack clocked in at 12th in the American League in runs scored in 2012. That kind of offense just isn’t going to cut it if you want to make the playoffs, even if you have a staff like the one in San Francisco. A big part of those struggles can be attributed to Jeff Francoeur, who hit an unsightly .235/.287/.378 a year ago. Francoeur’s .287 on-base percentage ranks 139th out of the 144 hitters who qualified for the batting title and his -2.7 WAR was good for dead last in baseball. In fact, his -2.7 WAR ranks as the worst season by any position player in this century, which says something not only about Frenchy but the Royals as well. And no matter what you think of Wins Above Replacement as a statistic, even it’s most ardent detractors have to be a little disturbed that out of over 1000 individual player seasons, Jeff Francoeur’s 2012 ranks as the worst of any position player.
Luckily Wil Myers just so happens to play right field and at 22 he seems primed to step into the big league clubhouse and contribute. But it wouldn’t be the Royals without them finding a way to bungle up a situation as easy as this one. It’s simple. Stick Francoeur on the bench and see what that big bundle of talent can do. Your basic run-of-the-mill, there’s-nothing-to-see-here replacement player would nab the Royals a couple more wins, so how many wins could the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year be worth? Five? Six? Even seven?
And the absolute best part about all of this for the notoriously thrifty Glass family, is that adding Myers to the roster has no impact on the bottom line. Sure you’re wasting $7.5 million watching Francoeur waste away on the bench, but isn’t that infinitely better than flipping Myers for an elite pitcher and then watching Frenchy sabotage said pitcher for the entirety of 2013? Cost controlled, 30 home run hitters with the potential to get on base at an elite clip are rare. Just about the only thing more difficult to find is a dominant left-handed ace. So unless the Rays want to trade David Price or Matt Moore straight up or the Mariners suddenly get the urge to deal King Felix away, the Royals need to stand pat. Those are the only types of players Dayton Moore should be looking for. No Jon Lesters, no James Shields types. While they are both good pitches, they just won’t offer enough in return to justify trading away a potential future All-Star who’s going to be on a rookie deal.
It’s also worth considering the fact that Kansas City had the youngest offense in baseball a year ago and although they struggled to score runs at times, potential is still oozing out all over the place. Eric Hosmer turned 23 last month and had his 2012 performance murdered by one of the lowest batting averages on balls in play in baseball. He hit just .255 when he put the ball in play this season after hitting .314 his rookie year. If Hosmer can find a balance somewhere in between, he should see his averages go up. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward had some dip in performance during his sophomore season only to rebound nicely with a 27 homer, .814 OPS campaign in 2012. Hosmer may not ever be as good as Heyward but he has some similar skills with the bat and is a good bet to rebound in a similar way.
Mike Moustakas is only 24 and has flashed good abilities at the plate and at the hot corner. Salvador Perez is just 22 and looks a bit like a young Yadier Molina. He has just 115 games at the Major League level under his belt and base runners have already taken notice of his Howitzer arm He’s also shown some prowess at the plate putting up a fantastic .810 OPS in nearly 500 career plate appearances. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are just getting to the real meat of their careers and already rank among the best in the American League at their respective positions. This is a team with a ton of potential for growth and I haven’t even mentioned other young talents like Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. Myers is the crown jewel of all of this. Add him to the mix and you have every single position outside of 2nd base locked down for the next 4 years. Nearly every team in baseball would be envious of this conglomeration of talent. There is no logical reason to blow any of this up.
As I’ve said before, now is the time for Kansas City to actually spend money on the market. The Royals’ window of opportunity is just beginning to open. The fans have given Glass and Moore plenty of time to rebuild. The time to strike is now. While picking up one of the bigger names in free agency would be the best route, a trade involving some of the Royals lower level minor league talent would also be palatable. Just don’t trade Wil Myers — you’re gonna need him if you want to compete in 2013.