If you analyze the Kansas City Royals heading into the 2013 season, it is obvious that this team has its sights set on winning and winning now. The off-season trade that sent mega-prospect Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis is living proof that the pressure to win now has never been greater in Kansas City.
However, what tends to happen in sports—especially baseball—is that once you believe you have reached a level that’s “good”, teams become complacent and rarely strive to make that additional move to make the them “great.” While this may sound corny at first glance, just think about it a little longer and it may begin to make sense. Look back at past trades of teams who are trying to make that singular move to bring their team into contention. Rarely does one singular move elevate a team from a pretender to a contender for an extended period of time.
Heading into 2013, the Royals are littered with talent all over the field with young prospects beginning to show their talents on a more consistent basis. Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez began to show what the core of the Royals will look like in the future and make no mistake about it, the future is very bright. One thing to notice about the list I just compiled about the core of the bright future is this: I deliberately left out Billy Butler.
There is no doubting that Butler is a great offensive talent as he has consistently put up solid numbers and given the Royals a big bat in the middle of their lineup. Last season, Butler hit. 313 with 29 HR and 107 RBIs which are very good numbers for a–primarily–designated hitter. With one year left on his contract and an additional option the year after, the time may be now to move Butler and acquire more pieces that will elevate the Royals even further into contention.
Normally when a young team is on the cusp of coming into their own and becoming a legitimate ballclub, the last thing you would want to do is get even younger. With that being said, I believe it would be in the best long-term interest of the Royals to deal Butler when his value is at its highest for additional young talent and quality pitching. This will also save the Royals money long-term so they can use that to sign their talented lineup when they are up for extensions.
Bluntly put, the Royals rotation—even with the additions of Shields, Ervin Santana and Davis—still isn’t a playoff caliber rotation. With the lineup that the Royals have and the bullpen they have been assembling, all that is going to hold them back is their rotation. If the Royals could trade Butler to a team like the Toronto Blue Jays or Baltimore Orioles and receive a veteran or emerging starting pitcher like a Kyle Drabek or Brian Matusz and additional veteran hitters or young prospects, how could the Royals not consider pulling the trigger on a deal like that?
The rotation, as is, is merely a band-aid for a long-term issue that doesn’t look particularly bright outside of Kyle Zimmer and Danny Duffy. Why not be preemptive and acquire good young pitching that can grow with this dynamic lineup?
In baseball, you have to overpay to get good pitching and the Royals will have to do that like every other team. Their most tradeable asset that will net them the largest long-term gain is Butler. Even though it may temporarily set the Royals back this season, in the long run—and possibly still this season—the Royals can be more competitive and have a better chance at reaching their ultimate goal of winning a World Series.
The greatest enemy of good is great and the Royals must not settle for being good if they hope to be great.