Now that the Tigers have gotten away from the west coast and its weird start times, it's time to get back to real baseball. The Tigers welcome the division-leading Kansas City Royals into town this week. To prepare for the series, we talked with Josh Duggan (a.k.a. Old Man Duggan) of Royals Review, SB Nation's Royals community.
1. The trade that sent Wil Myers, among other prospects, to the Tampa Bay Rays was one of the more controversial moves of the offseason, to put it nicely. Has the team's good start (the performance of both James Shields and Wade Davis, in particular) softened the fanbase's stern opposition to the trade?
There are different segments of the fan populace. The "fans" that like having a starting pitcher that they've heard of were never opposed to the trade. The performance of James Shields and Wade Davis is largely irrelevant. It's extremely unlikely that two years of Shields at a total of $24.5MM provides more value than nearly seven years of Wil Myers. If you disregard the other two prospects dealt and just look at Jake Odorizzi, it's hard to fathom Davis--who has still yet to prove he's anything other than a good reliever (which grow on trees in Kansas City--the only benefit of not being able to develop a starting pitcher) and has an escalating salary--being worth more than six-plus years of Odorizzi. It was a stupid trade. If a GM decided that he needed to trade the reigning Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, two years of a Number-Two pitcher is an insufficient return, and a starting pitcher like Ryan Dempster could have been had without giving up six-plus years of club control of an instant upgrade in RF. Anything short of a World Series run (not going to happen) will mean the trade wasn't worth it regardless of what Myers ends up being because he had a value and that value was not received in return via the trade.
Santana has looked fairly good so far, though his 2.48 ERA is nearly one run less than his 3.44 xFIP. It's hard to justify trading for him at the price tag of $13MM [and a meaningless prospect who has already gone under the knife] when the Angels were simply going to buy out his option and release him to an off-season free-agent market that saw myriad starting pitchers taking one-year bounce-back deals. It's hard to imagine Santana signing for more than $8MM on the open market given his terrible 2012 campaign. Even if the Royals had to outbid by $1MM or so, there's no way they wouldn't have saved at least a few million that could have been reappropriated to attempt to patch up a different roster hole. After a rougher start on Sunday, Guthrie's ERA jumped back up to 3.86 which is fairly close to his 3.95 xFIP. The biggest potential issue will be what the warmer weather later in the year does to their numbers. Santana has allowed the second-most home runs in the MLB in the past four years. Guthrie ranks fourth. Would you like to know who ranks third? Shields. There is the potential for some ugly stuff to happen with this starting front three.
3. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are expected to be big cogs in the Royals offense this season, but both have gotten off to slow starts. Is there concern that either guy won't reach their potential, particularly with the emphasis that the franchise has placed on winning in 2013?
Anyone who isn't at least a little concerned is either blissfully ignorant or blindly faithful. There certainly isn't enough evidence to write either one off entirely, but there is a sizable segment of the fanbase that is very concerned, and not without justification.
4. We're a bit preoccupied with our less-than-stellar bullpen at the moment, so let's talk about yours. They are in the middle of the pack in the American League when it comes to ERA and FIP, but have the lowest xFIP and highest strikeout rate in the league. Where should we expect them to be by the end of the year?
The bullpen will quite likely be amongst the best in baseball. Despite his rough past week, Kelvin Herrera is filthy. He has the potential to be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Greg Holland is no slouch either. Over the course of the season, Holland, Herrera, Tim Collins, and Aaron Crow should form the nucleus of an extremely formidable pen. Luke Hochevar could maybe possibly not completely blow--oh, who am I kidding?
5. Slow start aside, is there any way to get Billy Butler out? Because our pitchers can't seem to do so.
Butler's relatively slow start has been the byproduct of a .216 BABIP. He's still getting on base at a .375 clip and his ISO is still just .004 shy of .200, so balls just aren't falling in for him right now. Teams are working around him because Hosmer and Moustakas provide no protection behind him. Butler certainly has Justin Verlander's number [Ed.: .396/.448/.585 in 58 plate appearances]. Luckily for opposing pitchers and unfortunately for Royals fans, only Butler and Gordon are consistent threats, so the damage that is done by the Royals' offense is typically pretty limited.
Once again, a big thanks to Josh and the rest of the Royals Review staff. Be sure to check out Royals Review throughout the season.