Another August in Kansas City is approaching. In about a week, the Chiefs first training camp in St. Joseph, MO will be underway, and baseball in this town will more or less be forgotten.
It's already become a complete afterthought. With the unexplainable 2003 season being the exception, this is actually a little late in the year for the Royals to fade from relevancy. So we know this feeling pretty well.
Just before the All-Star break, the Royals had begun to toy with us a bit by winning 10 of 13 games. Many were questioning whether the organization, who because of all the losing is a usual seller in the trade market, would forego trading some of their biggest commodities for future prospects in hopes of contending this year.
Then, manager Ned Yost proclaimed the team was very much in the race and could be in first place in as little as a week. Apparently, being a mere eight games under .500 is right where you want your ball club to be for the stretch run.
Of course, if you were paying any attention - and you probably weren't - you know by now that the Royals were swept in consecutive series on each side of the break and most of the talk about a pennant race has turned to trade rumors. Hopefully Yost has got some sleep and some of his sense back since then as well.
Look, the trade talk has been the talk all along. Anyone thinking this team is or was a contender at any point during this season is just downright insane. Don't get me wrong, picking up a few victories here and there and avoiding last place will have its value (helping to build confidence in the young guys and possibly helping persuade next year's free agent targets that the team is turning the corner). But the value is minimal.
It was more or less a blessing in disguise for GM Dayton Moore when the Royals hit their six-game skid. At that point, there was no doubt he should focus on the future and could do so without getting heat from the fans and media for giving up on the current season.
So what should Moore do? The trade deadline is July 31st, just ten days away, and the Royals have done nothing thus far, though it seems something huge is about happen. What are some options?
The biggest commodity the Royals have is OF David DeJesus. Let it be known that this blogger believes that DeJesus is the only deserving All-Star on the team currently. Take nothing away from Joakim Soria (the Royals' lone representative) or Billy Butler or whoever, but DeJesus has been a complete player this season. He leads the team in hitting, his defense has been spectacular (he plays all three outfield positions), and his overall numbers compare quite well to that of Ichiro Suzuki, who was the starting RF and lead-off hitter for the American League this year.
It has been reported that the Royals are asking for, at the very least, a major league-ready prospect as part of the package in return for DeJesus. Experts say the asking price may be too high, but Moore has that luxury. The club has an option to retain DeJesus next season for $6 million (not bad if you consider they're paying Guillen $12 a year). If they choose to go that route, then at this point next year, if the team is in a similar position (if they're still losing), Moore can shop DeJesus just like he is now.
Also, if DeJesus does become a free agent and signs elsewhere, the Royals will receive compensatory draft picks - one 1st round and the other between the 1st and 2nd rounds - in return for him, somewhat like a trade.
So Moore shouldn't feel any pressure to trade DeJesus. Really, he should feel pressured to retain him, the guy has to be the most popular player on the team.* And it's not out of the question that DeJesus could be a part of a winning future for this club. It's all up to Moore and a few of his developing prospects.
*You know what I'm talking about guys. If you're ever at the ballpark, check out the difference in tone when the crowd cheers for DeJesus coming up to bat. Women just go crazy for the guy, I don't get it.
Moore has plenty more to think about than just DeJesus, though. Kyle Farnsworth is pitching better than he ever has and is a free agent after this season. Every contending team is looking for bullpen help, so it would seem a mere certainty that his days in a Royals uniform are numbered.
Third baseman Alberto Callaspo has been mentioned in trade rumors, and this goes all the way back to spring training. It makes perfect sense given that the organization's top overall prospect, Mike Moustakas, plays the same position, and should be playing there by opening day next season.
The man that seems destined to go, though, is Guillen. Really, the closer we get to the trade deadline, the more worrisome I become that Moore is not going to trade Guillen. There really would be no excuse for this. The Royals ride with Guillen has been bumpy at best, and there's virtually no chance they'll try and bring him back past this season.
The club has Kila Ka'aihue and Alex Gordon terrorizing overmatched competition at Triple-A Omaha. Kila is ready for his first real chance to be a major leaguer - and it's been long overdue - while Gordon has transitioned to left field well is ready for a second chance to prove his worthiness of a roster spot on the big league squad.
Most importantly, though, both are vital parts to a future in which Moore has been working to build for about five years now. All Guillen is doing is blocking a roster spot for one of those players. The Royals should be willling to take on all of his remaining salary if that's what it takes to trade him. He means more off this team than on it because he can contribute nothing towards the future. If Moore fails to trade Guillen, it would be a bigger misstep than his original decision to sign him three years ago.
The only bad news we could get these next couple of weeks would be if there is no news. Moore must act now. The Royals are in the position they're in now, because past GMs, when given real opportunities to improve for the future like the one Moore has now, either weren't aggressive enough or didn't do their homework. If Moore plays his cards right, the Royals could make real progress toward contending in the near future.
If he doesn't, we'll be right back here next year, talking Chiefs football in the middle of summer.