A generation of Kansas City Royals players is nearing the end of its time together. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and others instrumental to the 2015 championship will head into free agency this fall, and no one can say for sure when the small-market Royals will hold a victory parade again. So while Kansas City hasn’t played well over the past 10 days and sits three games out of first place in the AL Central, the Royals’ front office continues to send signals into the market that it is trying to win with this group one last time. Sources say the Royals have been talking about adding a couple of cost-efficient starting pitchers and a reliever to prop up the efforts to win now. Barring a total collapse, the Royals will probably ride out this effort.
With other teams, there is less certainty.
Only 11 days remain before the trade deadline, and some teams are still on the fence about whether to buy or sell.
According to Fangraphs, Pittsburgh’s chances of making the postseason stand at 12.5 percent — a long shot of long shots. If the Pirates decide to sell, they have pieces that would certainly attract other teams, such as left-handed reliever Tony Watson (one run allowed in his past 15 appearances), ace Gerrit Cole, center fielder Andrew McCutchen and third baseman David Freese.
But the Pirates are four games out of first place, and they seem to be putting a nice run together with the return of outfielder Starling Marte, the improvement of right fielder Gregory Polanco and the maturation of their starting pitchers. And the context is encouraging: The NL Central seems wide-open, with the Pirates, Cubs and Cardinals gaining ground on the Brewers in recent days.
It may be that Pittsburgh’s front office tries to thread the needle again and considers trading Watson, while keeping the rest of the group together. General manager Neal Huntington said recently that the current homestand is crucial for the Pirates.
The Angels came out of the All-Star break bearing some hope because of the return of Mike Trout. But the best the Angels can reasonably hope for is a wild-card spot, and they lost two of three in a series to Tampa Bay over the weekend before falling to the Nationals on Tuesday. And they also lost Cameron Maybin to a knee injury. The Angels have lost 10 of their past 15 games, and with so many potential free agents, the team will probably execute a sell-off of cheap, experienced bullpen pieces, such as David Hernandez and Bud Norris, as well as third baseman Yunel Escobar (who would seem on paper to be a fit for Boston).
The Mariners are hanging on the edges of the wild-card race, and with the core of their team comprised of older players — Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano — Seattle wants to make a last push this season. So the Mariners have been calling around asking about starting pitchers and relievers.
Other teams say the Cardinals don’t seem that interested in rental-type players — like J.D. Martinez, a free agent-to-be who they essentially passed on. Rather, any deal the Cardinals make will probably be to acquire players who can help both this year and the next. St. Louis is 4½ games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.
The Rangers are considered a major wild card by other teams because of the interesting pieces they could dangle if they decide to sell — Yu Darvish, an All-Star who will be eligible for free agency at year’s end, and Cole Hamels, who is under contract in 2018 for $23 million.