Tom Keegan: Royals’ bad winter set stage for bad summer
Took in a Royals game Thursday night and on the way home a friend wondered aloud what the Cubs might have accomplished had they never dealt Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, one of the most laughable trades in the history of baseball.
Brock leading off for the Cubs, followed by Glenn Beckert, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks almost would have been unfair.
Instead, in June of 1964, Brock and Broglio changed teams in a six-player trade.
Brock played in 21 World Series games for the Cardinals, batted .391 and stole 14 bases in 16 attempts. He helped the Cardinals to World Championships in 1964 and 1967 and batted .464 in the 1968 World Series, won by the Tigers in seven games.
One lopsided trade altered the persona of two National League franchises and had an impact on the summer moods of two Midwestern cities.
General managers, like hitters, can go on streaks, hot and cold. John Schuerholz has one of the most impressive records in baseball history. He not only was chief architect of the 1985 Royals and 1995 Braves, both World Champions, he was GM of 16 division winners. And he once traded ace David Cone for catcher Ed Hearn.
Fred Claire made several moves that resulted in the Dodgers winning the 1988 World Series. How many more could the Dodgers have won if Claire had not dealt ace Pedro Martinez for second baseman Delino Deshields. Martinez went on to win the Cy Young Award three times. The Dodgers could have put him at the front of a rotation the included his brother, Ramon Martinez, Ismael Valdes and Hideo Nomo.
All of which brings us to Royals general manager Dayton Moore, who had the hottest hand in baseball for a few years, maneuvering the Royals in such a way as to drag a perennial loser into back-to-back World Seires, winning it all in 2015.
Moore acquired Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Alcides Escobar, James Shields and Johnny Cueto.
Moore consistently acquired more for less.
And then came the offseason of 2016-17, a wintry mix of not really going for it and not quite ready to tear it all down and start over.
Moore traded closer Davis to the Cubs for right fielder Jorge Soler.
As dominant as ever, Davis is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA, has 12 saves and has struck out 29 batters in 21-1/3 innings.
Solar, 25, hit .164 with one home run and three RBI in 65 plate appearances for the Royals before being sent to Omaha, where he’s not tearing it up.
The Royals are paying Soler $3.67 million, compared to the $10 million the Cubs are paying Davis, a free agent after this season. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.
The Yankees received a great deal from the Cubs in return for rental closer Aroldis Chapman for last season’s stretch run. The Cubs gave the Yankees four players, including their top prospect, shortstop Gleyber Torres, already in Triple-A at the age of 20. Adam Warren is doing strong work for the Yankees out of the bullpen (2.43 ERA, 0.809 WHIP), where Chapman has returned as Yankees closer after signing a five-year, $86 million deal.
In place of Davis as the closer, Kelvin Herrera has responded to the promotion from set-up duty in a fashion many do, by becoming far less effective and has already surrendered seven home runs in 25-1/3 innings.
So the Soler trade saved the Royals money and cost them a dominant closer and an effective set-up man. Bad deal.
The cost-saving measure at designated hitter also has cost the Royals victories.
Brandon Moss is batting .181 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in 138 at bats. Ha has struck out 53 times and walked just 13. His salary, $3.75 million this season, jumps to $7.25 next year.
Kendrys Morales, a hitter, not just a home run hitter, is batting .253 with 12 home runs and 33 RBI for the Blue Jays, who signed him to a three-year, $33 million contract and are paying him $10 million this season.
Some will take comfort in the Royals’ consecutive victories vs. the dreadful Padres drawing the Royals (28-34) within 5-1/2 games of the first-place Twins in the American League Central. In reality, all that means is that if both teams maintain their current winning percentages, the Royals are on pace to finish 73-89, 15 games behind the Twins.
If the Royals decide to shop all of their impending free agents, surely they’ll get more back than they did in the Davis deal.