The KC Royals were April’s baseball surprise, the team that emerged from the baseball slump that led the American League Central Division through much of the month through early May.
But now, amid unsightly six straight losses, with an even uglier losing streak of eleven games that is still a recurring nightmare, and the Major League trading deadline only six weeks away, the Royals are looking more and more like each day Seller out and loss. The baseball rumor mill is about to burn with suggestions that the club should postpone Whit Merrifield, Michal A. Taylor, Andrew Benintendi and, when healthy, Danny Duffy.
Make sure Kansas City stands firm in its annual opposition to trade with Merrifield and a Duffy deal is unlikely. Benintendi is proving to be too valuable to the Royals, especially considering he’s under team control until 2022. Taylor’s one-year contract makes him a likely commercial target.
And then there is Carlos Santana, the new KC Royals first baseman, who is sure to spark some interest in the trading dates. General Manager Dayton Moore may listen to overtures about Santana, but he shouldn’t seriously consider them.
Like Benintendi, its importance to this team is too great.
Santana was everything the Royals wanted and expected of him when he signed a two-season deal in December. He’s a hit for power (11 home runs, second only to Salvador Perez ’17), ridden in runs (39, also second to Perez) and comes to the base – his .365 OBP leads KC’s regulars and is 25 points better than Benintendi’s runner-up .340. And he plays a good defense.
Santana is the solution to the first fundamental problem that Eric Hosmer’s departure created that Kansas City couldn’t solve. The Royals certainly don’t need another hole to begin with if they’re hoping to keep their feeble hopes alive after the season.
The KC Royals do not yet have a suitable replacement for Carlos Santana.
Provided Kansas City has not given up its playoff aspirations (the club is 12.5 games behind first place in Chicago in AL Central and nine games behind in the wild card standings), trading with Santana will be an initial base gap create that the franchise doesn’t need and couldn’t fill enough.
Hunter Dozier’s slump throughout the season strongly suggests he’s not the player to replace a traded Santana. Yes, he performed well at first base last September after Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom proved they weren’t ready for the position – he played all but three of his games at first base that month and slashed .320 / .387 /. 707 – but he cuts .152 / .226 / .337 this season. The royals can’t afford to replace Santana with Dozier.
O’Hearn’s current triple-A-binge renews hope that he could regain the form he showed during his 2018 rookie big league season when he hit 12 homers and beat .262 with a .353 OBP. He cuts .393 / .448 / .984 with 11 homers and 24 RBIs in 15 games at Omaha this month. But his ongoing battles with pitching in the major league make him an unlikely replacement for Santana.
And Nick Pratto, who has revived his batting and career at Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season, is likely not ready for the show despite his 11 homers, 26 RBIs, and a .306 average with the Naturals. That the Royals haven’t promoted him to Triple-A yet suggests they’re not entirely ready to move him up (or not want to oust Ryan McBroom). The jump to the majors is a step that will have to wait for the next season.
So the Royals cannot lose Santana and still have a slim chance of playing in October. Some good clubs may need basic initial assistance, but Kansas City shouldn’t bring Santana to market until the club decides the playoffs are a pipe dream. Even then, General Manager Dayton Moore and main owner John Sherman will have to decide if they want to part with the first baseman now if he can be valuable to the club in 2022, a team that should start and stay competitive.
The KC Royals are likely to be sellers next month. But you have to keep Carlos Santana.