If you have been a regular reader to this site (thanks, by the way) and more particularly a regular reader of my contributions here, you will know that I have been wrestling with whether the Royals are or should do something to become a contender in 2012.   We have looked at previous ‘bad teams’ that bounced into contention seemingly overnight and tried to decide if prospects should be hoarded or traded.

Truthfully, there is no right answer.   I was going to write that, of course, the 2011 Royals are a much better team than the 2008 Royals were – the same 2008 team that Dayton Moore thought was a Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp away from contention.    Except, the 2008/2009 Royals had Zack Greinke, Gil Meche and a on-top-0f-his-game Joakim Soria.   Even that ‘fact’ can be debated and, if so, then so can the question of contending in 2012 or not.

That said, I woke up this morning with shocking clarity on the subject.   A clarity which, I’m sure, will last at least until the middle of the week.

Dayton Moore and the Royals should, for the most part, stand pat.   That does not mean that the Royals are necessarily giving up on 2012 and, once more, spending a season ‘playing for next year’.

That runs counter to one of my main premises that prospects are currently horrifically overvalued in baseball.   For every Eric Hosmer there are two Justin Hubers.  Every Alex Gordon is counterbalanced by an Andy Marte.    There are handfuls of Ken Harveys for every Billy Butler and bushel baskets full of Kila Ka’aihues for every Travis Hafner.   That said, I would rather bank on Mike Montgomery and Wil Myers than trade them for James Shields…at least for now.

I think even the most optimistic Royals’ fan would admit that a number of things have to go right for Kansas City to be a true contender in 2012.    The list is long, possible, but long:

  • Joakim Soria has to return to form.
  • Luke Hochevar has to be the pitcher he was in the second half of 2011.
  • Danny Duffy needs to take a step forward.
  • Mike Montgomery needs to emerge sometime early in 2012 as a solid to top of the rotation starter.
  • Felipe Paulino needs to be at least as good as he was in 2011 and someone needs to nail down the fifth spot in a competent manner.   This might be where you resign Bruce Chen – THERE, I said it!
  • The young bullpen needs to be as good as it was in 2011.
  • Eric Hosmer needs to become a star.
  • Alex Gordon needs to be the guy he was in 2011…or close to it.
  • Billy needs to remain Billy.
  • Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur and Lorenzo Cain, in some combination, need to not regress too much over what the center and rightfield positions contributed in 2011.
  • Mike Moustakas needs to hit for power.
  • Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez need to play stellar defense and hold their own at the plate.
  • Someone needs to contribute at second base:  not with grit and the ‘little things’ and not with ‘potential’.   Giavotella probably deserves the first shot simply because he had 15 extra base hits in 187 plate appearances and Chris Getz hit 9 in 429.  Yes, Getz is a better defender, but he’s not Frank White and the simple fact is that with Escobar and Perez already in the lineup, the Royals are going to need some punch from second base.  The Royals need Giavotella or maybe Yamaico Navarro to provide that if they want to contend.
  • The Royals need to stay healthy.

That is a long, long list, but it is also not asking for Ruben Gotay to become an All-Star, either.    There is nothing completely outrageous in the above expectation…other than hoping that they ALL happen.

Here is the deal, though.   Even if Dayton Moore goes and gets a true ace pitcher AND a solid middle of the rotation guy, the Royals will still need a big percentage of the above list to come true.   If that is the case, then does it not make sense to stay the course and see what the current group can accomplish?

They may fall flat on their faces to start 2012 or they may contend into a month that starts with ‘J’.   Under either scenario, the course of action for Dayton Moore will be much clearer in July 0f 2012 than it will be now.    You run the risk that Wil Myers still doesn’t hit in the high minors, that Montgomery still battles the strike zone, that Cheslor Cuthbert flails in High A ball and suddenly Moore finds himself with a less than desirable pool of prospects to deal for help.   It is a risk, but one worth taking.

The market for what Kansas City wants most (starting pitching) is pretty thin this year.   The price, be it money or prospects, is likely to be higher than warranted.   I don’t view making the big move to bolster the rotation as good a risk as simply staying the course and hoping that a lot of the bullet points above come true.   It is not the flashy, eye-catching, let’s sell more season tickets kind of move that many are hoping for, but it may be the smartest move.