Karl Zinke
Contributing columnist
Dayton Moore has always been a vocal opponent of purposefully tanking a season for his Kansas City Royals.
The former general manager, who is now the team’s president, has refused to sell off his roster in order to have the worst record and nab the top pick in the following summer’s Major League Baseball draft.
That is a noble sentiment, but it is one that hasn’t gotten the Royals very far at all – at least since winning the World Series in 2015.
This season, many Royals fans, including myself, were cautiously optimistic that this year would be similar to 2013, which led up to the back-to-back World Series appearances and the first world title in 30 years.
The Royals had some young up-and-coming stars in Bobby Witt Jr., Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez (who hit .300 in his first stint as a regular) to go along with some solid veterans like Salvador Perez (coming off a 48-home run season), Whit Merrifield, Andrew Benintendi Hunter Dozier and Michael A. Taylor. They signed the wily veteran Zack Greinke to lead a young but talented stable of arms that included Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Carlos Hernandez, Brad Keller and Jonathan Heasley.
The bullpen looked promising with strong arms like Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont and Jake Brentz.
It looked like the team would be competitive while ramping up for a run at the playoffs next year.
So what happened? Mondesi got hurt again. The veterans – except for Benintendi – struggled at the plate. Greinke got hurt. The young pitchers look good for a couple of starts then completely fall apart, struggling to find the plate and loading the bases with walks.
So now the Royals sit at 20-40 (through Monday’s 6-2 loss to San Francisco) more than a third into the season, last place in the American League and last in MLB – even behind a Cincinnati Reds team that started with a 3-22 record.
It’s obviously not working.
It’s now time to sell. It’s time for a full-on youth movement. Now.
Sell off the veterans, maybe even Salvy, and fill your system with young, hungry prospects. And let the young ones who are ready to test themselves at the major league level get everyday playing time.
Trade Benintendi while you can still get something for him and start Edward Olivares in left field. Taylor has gotten off to one of the few strong starts for the Royals. Several teams would like a great glove center fielder who is having a career season at the plate. Trade him for prospects and start Kyle Isbel in center field.
Trade Carlos Santana for anything you can get, if you can get anything, even a low-A prospect. Or simply release him.
Bring up Vinnie Pasquantino from Triple-A Omaha and plug him in at first base. You have to see what he can do at least. Why are the Royals so reluctant to bring him up? He’s 24 and he’s tearing up Triple-A pitching with 17 home runs, 58 RBIs, a .380 on-base percentage (with 31 walks and only 33 strikeouts) and a 1.011 OPS. What are they waiting for?
Merrifield also might bring a decent haul – though not as big as he would have a couple seasons ago. Start Lopez at second base and keep Witt at shortstop and Emmanuel Rivera at third.
Trade Dozier. I’m sure some team would value his versatility and his solid bat. Bring up Nick Pratto and put him at designated hitter or alternate him with Pasquantino at first.
The Royals seem to think Pasquantino and Pratto are not yet major league ready. Melendez was hitting .190 with Omaha before he had to be called up because Perez went on the IL. Look at what he’s done in the majors. He hasn’t been overmatched and is excelling with an .801 OPS.
If you’re not willing to trade Perez, continue to use Melendez at DH and right field. If you trade Salvy, make Melendez your everyday catcher.
Trade Greinke if it’s possible. Someone would value having him available for the postseason. They should have traded Keller when he had a 2.88 ERA. Now it’s nearing 5.00, so I’m not sure what you could get for him now.
I’d even consider trading both Barlow and Staumont as well.
And obviously, Cal Eldred is not getting the job done as the Royals pitching coach. Bring in a fresh perspective and hopefully unlock Singer, Hernandez and the other young pitchers. I’d also bring in a manager who is known for handling young players well, somebody young like the Cardinals’ Oliver Marmol.
And start this lineup: Olivares (LF), Melendez (RF), Witt (SS), Pasquantino (1B), Perez (C), Pratto (DH), Isbel (CF), Rivera (3B) and Lopez (2B).
What is it going to hurt? You can’t be any worse than you are now. If you continue to lose, you give the young players more experience and you still get the top pick in the 2023 draft. Who knows, you might even be better.
Then Dayton and new general manager J.J. Picollo wouldn’t have to worry about tanking.
Karl Zinke is sports editor of The (Independence, Mo.) Examiner. Reach him at [email protected]