The James Shields and Wade Davis trade has sent a clear statement that the Royals feel they can win now. Photo from sportsillustrated.cnn.com
It is only a few days away. On Monday, April 1st, the real games begin again for the Kansas City Royals. For the 26th straight season, the Royals are coming off a year where they missed the playoffs. For the fans that stay with them, we applaud you. To reward that, I want to build more anticipation for Opening Day. For the 2013 World Series bound Kansas City Royals, Throwing It Down presents 13 stories to get ready for 2013.
The best place to begin when talking about this squad for the boys of Kauffman is the starting pitching. The 2012 rotation can be simply described as horrific. Bruce Chen was the opening day starter for an actual Major League Baseball team. Jonathan Sanchez tortured fans for two months too long and the only two brights spots (Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino) went down over the summer and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. It was a mess and for the Royals to even think about competing with this young, under-performing yet talented lineup, the front office recognized a change needed to be made. Dayton Moore was active and fans will be greeted with a different looking pitching staff when they arrive for the start of Royals home games.
The first move was to acquire Ervin Santana from the Angels for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk (sidenote: Sisk is now out for the season and will be undergoing Tommy John surgery so maybe we passed the curse on to the west coast!) Amongst many critics, the Santana trade has been much maligned due to his $12 million bite out of the Royals budget and his high home runs allowed numbers. Santana was almost Hochevar bad at the beginning of last year but this is also a guy one year removed from a 3.38 ERA.
Next up was resigning Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie was a pleasant surprise down the stretch last year for the Royals. In a trade that sent Jonathan Sanchez to Colorado, Guthrie came back and posted a 3.66 ERA in 14 starts. Guthrie is a veteran arm that has had an up and down career but will be asked to be a #3 starter on a contending baseball team. In my book this is a good move for the Royals. The guy is definitely capable of posting an ERA around 4.00 which will be satisfactory for his $5 million salary.
The final and biggest piece of the off-season pitching acquisitions was “The Trade.” When Dayton Moore and David Glass decided to send a boat-load of prospects to Tampa in exchange for Major League pitching, a statement was made. In the coming weeks I will get much more into the ramifications of the Wil Myers trade. For now, let’s focus on the return of James Shields and Wade Davis. In my mind, James Shields classifies as a bona fide, playoff contender ace of the pitching staff. The big righty is an inning eater (averaging 227 innings per year) and has a lifetime 3.89 ERA. Shields will be at the front of the rotation and provide weekly stability to the team. Wade Davis has shown great stuff and was dominant as a relief pitcher for the Rays last year. The Royals are confident he can move back into the rotation as the fourth starter.
The 2012 Royals rotation went as follows: Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Luis Mendoza, and Danny Duffy. Mercifully, Hochevar has been sent to the bullpen and now we can hope someone will offer anything (honestly like a case of Natural Light would be enough) for him. Chen and Mendoza are in a battle for the fifth starter spot. Sanchez is history and hopefully never seen in KC again. And finally Duffy (and Paulino), who was having a solid campaign, can be a late season re-enforcement in case of injury. In addition, Yordana Ventura is looking like the best pitching prospect the Royals have had since Zach Greinke.
Is this the best rotation in the American League? No and I may have lost credibility by sarcastically saying that. However, this rotation can compete. Unless Shields arm explodes or Guthrie somehow reverts to Colorado Rockies Guthrie, the rotation will keep KC in ball games. That is a helluva lot better than last season.
Note: Luis Mendoza has won the fifth starter job and Bruce Chen has been moved to the bullpen.