Kansas City Royals: 2013 Must Begin Now

Mark ZellContributor IJuly 13, 2012

The Royals have a legitimate shot to contend next season. Will they do what it takes now?
The Royals have a legitimate shot to contend next season. Will they do what it takes now?

With the traditional second half of the Major League Baseball season upon us, it is well within reason for teams to evaluate their current position in the standings and determine the best course of action for the balance of this season.

Some may decide they are within striking distance of the postseason and make trades. Some might realize they are not quite there and begin making moves to improve their club’s chances for next season.

Clearly, this is the position in which the Kansas City Royals find themselves currently.

Some may argue that the Royals, currently 37-47 and 9.5 games back of first in the AL Central, are still within reach of the playoffs. While true in theory, it is not realistic to expect the Royals to make up this gap in the next couple of months, particularly when one considers the injuries to two of their top starting pitchers (Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino).

If the Royals assume likewise that they are not positioned well to make a run in the second half of this season, they must assess at this time what moves to make in order to bolster their chances of contending in 2013.

To me, this all begins with determining their desired opening day lineup for next year. At this point, there are several questions which the Royals must answer right now and not during spring training next year.

First and foremost, the Royals simply must find a way for Wil Myers to play in the majors every day. Every game that passes with Myers not in the Kansas City lineup is a day of valuable experience he misses.

Without question, Myers is going to be an everyday outfielder for the Royals next season. His success in 2013 is going to hinge on having major league experience heading into the year. If he has little to no experience this year, the chances of him contributing significantly next year are greatly reduced.

In order to work Myers into the everyday lineup this season, the Royals must make every effort to deal OF Jeff Francouer immediately. They must not only entertain every offer for him, but should be actively contacting every owner in the league in an effort to open up a spot for Myers. Any trade involving Francouer must be looked at as him for Player X and Wil Myers.

The same situation applies to the Royals’ top pitching prospect, Jake Odorizz. Most expect Odorizzi will be in the Kansas City starting rotation next season. He too must be given more than just a September call-up this season to experience life in the big leagues, both on and off the field.

Finally, to a somewhat lesser degree, the Royals must determine what to do with Jonathan Broxton. As I mentioned in my piece a couple of weeks ago, Broxton’s numbers to this point, while impressive on the surface, indicate a pitcher poised for a disappointing second half.

While Broxton has without question performed adequately (some might even say he has performed quite well) since being cast as the Royals' closer following Joakim Soria’s season-ending injury in spring training, he should not be viewed as the long-term solution for the Royals in the closer role.

Soria also has to be considered a question mark for 2013 following his second Tommy John surgery earlier this season.

The Royals possess some of the best young bullpen arms in the game, including a couple of potential star closers. If Broxton could return anything of value in a trade, Kansas City would be best served by moving him and allowing Aaron Crow, Greg Holland, or Tim Collins to gain some experience in the closer’s role in preparation for the potential void at this position in 2013.

Finally, the Royals must identify a long-term solution for the poor performance at the second base position.

The “Getzancourt” combination (Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt) is not a viable permanent answer at second base, and Johnny Giovatella does not appear to be ready (and may never be) to handle Major League pitching. There does not seem to be anyone in the organization who would represent a permanent fix for this void, at least no one ready to play at the big league level next year.

This is the one issue of those mentioned which will likely need to be addressed over the offseason, but definitely one which should concern Kansas City management significantly.

The Royals have one of the best young cores in the game and, while 2012’s “Our Time” slogan may have been a bit premature, things are definitely looking up for this organization.

Moving Francouer and Broxton, calling up Myers and Odorizzi immediately, allowing one of the young relievers the opportunity to close, and addressing the void at second base will have a profound impact on their ability to contend for the AL Central title next year.


Follow Mark on Twitter @EbbyCalvin37.