The Detroit Tigers – last I checked – were not only the heavy favorite to win the AL Central division but were actually the favorite (with slim odds, as do all others) to win the World Series. The White Sox faltered down the stretch despite big rebound seasons from their 3 key players: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios & Jake Peavy. It looks as though that may have been their last gasp. The Twins and the Indians were terrible teams and look to be heading deeper into the rebuilding rough in 2013. But don’t start buying your playoff tickets too soon: the Royals don’t seem to be folding this round, in fact it looks as though they’ll be raising.
John Verburg put up a piece here at MCB on the “masterful” general managing of KCs Dayton Moore. While I can’t fault his logic – and I agree totally on the importance of dealing prospects rather than just stocking them if you intend to compete – I’m not sure Mr. Moore intends to be the same Mr. Moore this winter. Understandable given the team’s scarce financial resources, he took a fair amount of crap for signing Jeremy Guthrie and trading for Ervin Santana. But… those two guys should make KC better in 2013 and have enough upside that they could make them loads better. Guthrie had a 3.14 ERA in 14 starts for KC last year – Santana had a 3.38 as recently as 2011 before his HR rate went from mediocre to atrocious. These guys aren’t old and they aren’t washed up, they’re just relatively inconsistent and coming off down years. That would give (as it currently stands) a Royals rotation of Danny Duffy, Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Guthrie and Bruce Chen – which surprisingly, doesn’t look that bad. If Felipe Paulino is able to make it back by the end of May and push out the worse of Chen and Hochevar – it looks that much less bad.
That, coupled with the return of Salvador Perez and mean regression and development from guys like Eric Hosmer make the Royals look more like an 82 win team for 2013 than the 72 win team they were in 2012 (a year when frankly most things went wrong). But wait, they’re not done! We’re getting rumor after rumor about the Royals pursuit of every single decent starting pitcher out there. They offered Ryan Dempster a contract. They’re pursuing Anibal Sanchez. They’re talking deals for James Shields or Jon Lester or R.A. Dickey. Any of these are real possibilities – though it sounds like payroll is still a not-insignificant constraint – since the Royals do actually have an abundance of valuable chips to trade. They don’t sound as though they’re going to stop until they have not only added another starter, but crowned their 2013 rotation with a new ace.
If the Royals were to manage to swing a prospects-for-Shields trade and then flip Luke Hochevar for a $25 gas card I’d have to project them as a 87 win team. Seriously. They had – by some measures – the best bullpen in the league last year. Their rotation was an ugly thing, with offseason acquisition Jonathan Sanchez flaming out completely, their two best starters getting hurt and their two workhorses giving below-replacement-level innings. Shields, Guthrie, Santana, Duffy & Chen/Paulino is probably a 12 WAR rotation but… it could, just could, be significantly more. They’ll still be a high-risk bet, since they’re banking on improvement from within to fix the offense, but they could actually be dangerous.