I think the Pittsburgh Pirates are a very good baseball team….and your Kansas City Royals just took two of three from them. The Royals currently enjoy a 7.5 game lead over Minnesota in the American League Central, have the best record in the AL and the second best record in baseball. My brother-in-law (a Padres fan) asked me the other day what it’s like to root for a team that wins every day. My goodness times have changed.
As good as things look for Kansas City right now, they need to make a move to get even better. This season is not about making the playoffs. It is about winning the World Series and with that goal in mind, the Royals need a little something more.
If you have been reading this site for the last few months or run across a tweet or two from me, you know that I have long been beating the drum to acquire a bat more than a starting pitcher. Even assuming that Alex Gordon comes back by September 1st and is back into Gordonish form by post-season time, the bottom third of the order is an on-base trainwreck of Salvador Perez, Alex Rios and Omar Infante. My mindset has been, and mostly still is, that with the Royals’ marvelous bullpen compensating for ‘here and there’ starting pitching, that getting a bat to beef up the bottom of the order was more important.
I still believe that the Royals are in something of pick one mode when it comes to the trade deadline. They don’t seem to have enough prospect cache to go get both an impact bat AND a premier starter. Now, as quiet as the trade market has so far been, maybe someone will panic and actually have a true fire sale. Then maybe the Royals could do something crazy and end up with a Cueto, a Bruce and still have Raul Mondesi in the farm system. I think that is unlikely, but it could happen.
Anyway, a funny thing happened since I wrote about how truthfully dismal both Alex Rios and Omar Infante were with a bats in their hands. After hitting .188 in June with two extra base hits, Rios has raked to the tune of .339/.388/.468 in July with five doubles, a home run and four steals. Sure, monthly splits are an arbitrary endpoint (but they are easy to access), and you can pick and choose whatever start and stop you want, but the bottom line is Rios has spent basically the last 100 plate appearances being a good major league hitter.
No matter how well he hits, Rios is going to be a guy that will generate some frustration. He will not always display a ton of zest on defense. He will make mistakes on the basepaths. He is, after all the same Alex Rios who has been in the league for ten years. We have to be cautious that baseball history is full of bad players who had good runs for a 100 or so plate appearances.
ZiPS projects Rios to hit .276/.309/.401 for the remainder of the season, which seems reasonable to me. If Alex wanted to hit .340 the rest of the way, I would be delighted, but I think we all know the odds on that. Say what you want about projections, but if ZiPS is close to right, would that be enough to stick with Rios and have the Royals focus their trade energy in a different area?
If you believe that Rios will give the Royals enough and, frankly, if you believe that Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson will continue to hold the line until Alex Gordon comes back, then the decision comes down to a starting pitcher (or two) or upgrading over Omar Infante. The majority of folks probably will say starting pitcher and that may or may not be the right answer. I remain haunted, however, by the thought of Omar Infante getting 60+ post-season plate appearances. The thought is not as scary as it was a few weeks back when Rios was somehow a worse hitter than Infante, but it is still not something to be discounted because the national guys say you have to have a true number one to win playoff series.
What would you do, hotshot? What..would..you..do?