Sunday, August 14, 2011

Catching Up

Even an uneventful trade deadline helped make the last two weeks very eventful for the Royals franchise. If first-round draft pick Bubba Starling signs before tomorrow night's deadline, as is generally expected, we may look back on the past two weeks as the timeframe where the 2012-2018 Royals took shape.

By essentially standing pat at the deadline, the Royals basically committed to having one or both of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur in the outfield next year. Cabrera will almost certainly be there, and I'd say Frenchy probably will be too. Even if he turns down his part of the mutual option for 2012 in his contract, I bet the Royals will do just about anything to re-sign him.

The Royals did add one potential piece of the puzzle by shipping Mike Aviles to Boston for Yamaico Navarro. I like this trade--Navarro will probably end up as a utility infielder who can hit a little bit. In short, a younger, probably more talented version of Aviles. Heck, if Mike Moustakas can't figure out major league pitching, Navarro might be a stopgap at third base for a while. I still believe Moustakas will learn to hit, but it's getting harder to believe that each day he goes 0-4.

A few days later, the Royals finally called up second baseman Johnny Giavotella. This move was long overdue, but whatever. I'd rather a prospect prove he has conquered the minor leagues than have that prospect called up too soon (like Moustakas almost certainly was). With this move, the Royals appear to have their infield set for the better part of the next decade. This should excite even the most casual Royals fan: the probable 2012 Opening Day infield, with their age next April 1:

1B Eric Hosmer, age 22. Under team control through 2017 season.
2B Johnny Giavotella, age 24. Under team control through 2017 season.
SS Alcides Escobar, age 25. Under team control through 2016 season.
3B Mike Moustakas, age 23. Under team control through 2017 season.
DH/1B Billy Butler, age 25. Under team control through 2015 season (team option for 2o15).
2B/SS/3B Yamaico Navarro, age 24. Under team control through 2016 season.

Throw in the catching duo of Salvador Perez (age 21, under team control through 2017) and Manny Pina (age 24, under team control through 2017) and you have a strong core of players that should learn to play at the major league level together, and hopefully win together.

The next step is getting Bubba Starling in the fold. I would think that he will go ahead and take the Royals' money rather than wait around for his chance to play quarterback at Nebraska. We won't have to wait long to find out--the deadline for him to sign is tomorrow night. There is a decent chance Starling will flame out, but if he is able to harness his considerable ability, the Royals will have a star in the outfield in short time.

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