Breaking down what the Royals’ deadline deal means for 2017 - KCTV5 News

Breaking down what the Royals’ deadline deal means for 2017

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Trevor Cahill (AP) Trevor Cahill (AP)

KANSAS CITY, MO (HOMERUNKC) – Major League Baseball trading season is always a roller-coaster ride of emotions for fans across the country, with every team playing some kind of role in either buying, selling or standing pat.

On Monday, General Manager Dayton Moore made things very clear that his ball club would make one more push in 2017 with the same core that brought Kansas City two American League pennants and one World Series ring.

The Royals’ outlook for seasons after 2018 already look bleak, especially if the team fails to sign pending free agents like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas.

This creates a “last chance” feeling amongst Kansas City fans, but baseball organizations don’t think like that. They like their prospects, they like the team’s possibilities to have home grown players develop in the coming years, putting Moore in a tough spot between wanting to contend in 2017, while not ending up with baseball’s worst team in 2018.

It’s a tough tight rope to walk, but with the additions of Trevor Cahill, Brandon Mauer and Ryan Buchter to the big league club, that only cost Kansas City Matt Strahm, Travis Wood and Esteury Ruiz. 

Moore significantly improved the team’s chances in 2017 without mortgaging the team’s long-term future.

Trevor Cahill

On a basic level, acquiring three big league arms for three players that likely would not have made major contributes in 2017 seems like an automatic win for this season. However, Cahill really is the major key to whether or not this trade is successful.

Cahill started his career at age 21 in Oakland, where he was an All-Star and top-10 Cy Young finisher by the age of 22. Now he is on to his fourth team in seven years, the 27-year old has never lived up to the ace many thought he’d become.

However, he is still someone who when healthy, can perform as the Royals third best starter in their rotation.

Cahill has battled injuries of late, but through 11 starts this year the righty holds a 3.69 ERA in 61 innings pitched, with an average of 10.6 strikeouts per 9 innings. His fastball velocity has flattened out at 92 in the past few years, but his curveball is still the third best in the major leagues holding opponents to a .113 batting average.

Cahill’s legacy in Kansas City will be defined by this year alone, as he hits free agency in the offseason, and the goal should be for Cahill to solidify the back end of the rotation turning in consistent quality starts every five days.

Kansas City’s rotational success will still be determined by how well Vargas and Danny Duffy perform, but the upgrade of Cahill over the likes of Wood, Junis, Chris Young and Erik Skoglund is substantial and could be what pushes Kansas City into the playoffs. His role come postseason time is likely one start per series at most, depending on how Jason Hammel progresses.

Buchter and Maurer

Whether or not this is it the extent of Kansas City’s bullpen additions remains to be seen, but at minimum the Royals added much needed depth to an area that used to be the team’s defining strength.

Royal fans should not expect either arm to take over for Kelvin Herrera or hold down an 8th inning spot, but they should expect to see a rotation of Buchter, Maurer, Peter Moylan, Joakim Soria and Mike Minor to round out innings 6-8 consistently.

A rotation this deep allows Ned Yost to keep everyone fresh, not overworking arms in the regular season, while also playing the platoon game to create optimal matchups. The days of HDH closing games are gone, but these additions at lease make Yost’s job easier if Herrera gets sick again or if Minor and Soria already pitched on back to back games.

Individually, Buchter has the better track record out of the pen with a 2.90 ERA in 110 appearances. Maurer served as San Diego’s closer this year totaling 20 saves in 23 opportunities, and his 5.72 ERA is a bit deceiving.

His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) sits at 3.23, signaling he’s been significantly hurt by a terrible Padre defense. His fastball tops out at 97 mph and has 38 strikeouts in 39 innings, with only 8 walks.

While 2017 will be the key contributing year, the 26-year old Maurer isn't a free agent until post-2019 and the 30-year old Buchter is under club control through 2021.

Matt Strahm, Travis Wood, Esteury Ruiz

If this trade helps Kansas City make the playoffs in 2017, or even reach the World Series, it’s unlikely that the Royals will end up regretting the move regardless of what these three players produce.

Look no further than 2015 to gauge Matt Strahm. The Royals dealt four big name arms in July to acquire Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, and they all serve as a spectrum for which Strahm could end up representing.

His career is very similar to Brandon Finnegan, as both came up at a young but not top prospect age level, and both had big league success out of the pen. Finnegan in the postseason, Strahm with a 1.23 ERA in his first 22 MLB innings.

In Strahm’s last 24 appearances, including three starts, he’s posted a 5.45 ERA and is out for the season with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee.

Finnegan has turned into an often injured back end starter, who would likely be a bullpen piece on a contending team. If this is what Strahm becomes, the Royals would not be losing all that much. In both cases, Kansas City is selling near their peak value.

Cody Reed, John Lamb and Sean Manaea were the other three arms. Reed and Lamb bot severely underplayed for the Reds, but if Strahm develops into a solid young starter like Manaea, the Royals could regret the deal. However, Strahm never was considered to be the same caliber of prospect as Manaea.

Travis Wood’s role on the team was in flux after a disappointing campaign in both the bullpen and rotation, the Royals could not afford to start him every fifth day. Ruiz is a middle infielder who could develop into a strong power bat, but he’s only 18 years old and prospects at that age are extremely unpredictable.

This is a fairly low-risk trade with a return that may not carry the team to the World Series like in 2015, but serve more like the 2014 additions that helped carry the team to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years.

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