Royals Rundown: Unfortunate Royals may have just lucked out

Todd Fertig
Special to The Capital-Journal
The Kansas City Royals were able to ship struggling slugger Jorge Soler to the Atlanta Braves after he hit six home runs in just nine games, showcasing a possible return to prominence as the team eyes a deep playoff run and the Royals look for younger talent to build.

You might not consider the Kansas City Royals lucky these days.  

It’s difficult to see how a team on pace to lose 92 games is catching many breaks. Between the myriad of injuries and poor performances by key players, there are plenty of reasons to consider them unlucky. 

But General Manager Dayton Moore and the Royals may just have stumbled into a bit of good fortune at the end of July. Just when it seemed they would fail to benefit at all at the Major League Baseball trade deadline, they were blessed with a couple of opportunities that at least conceivably might pay some dividends. 

Resistant to trade any players under contract next season, the Royals seemed to have nothing any contending club would want. But inconceivably, the Los Angeles Dodgers saw potential in injured pitcher Danny Duffy for the stretch run and struck a deal. Duffy, a 32-year-old whose contract runs out this year, was pretty solid when available, but has been sidelined with arm trouble for much of the summer.  

Admittedly, the Dodgers risked very little in the deal. They promised nothing more than a "player to be named later" for Duffy, the quality of whom will be dependent upon just how much Duffy gets used by LA. He isn’t expected to pitch again until late August at the earliest. So Royals fans have extra incentive to root for Duffy as a Dodger. Not only is he a good guy who was loyal to KC for years, but his performance will dictate what the team receives in return. 

The Royals had absolutely nothing to lose by shipping Duffy to a contender. He wasn’t coming back from injury anytime soon, and with nothing to gain, he might have been shut down for the rest of the season. Having publicly sworn his desire to play for the Royals, there’s a good chance he may seek to return under a new contract this offseason. This was the ultimate can’t-lose scenario that even the Royals couldn’t screw up. 

A horribly unlucky situation took a turn for the better in the case of outfielder Jorge Soler. Just two years removed from winning the home run crown, Soler totally lost it. He floundered for three and a half months, and was on the verge of being released. The only reason the Royals kept running him out there? A faint hope that he might recover enough of his old form to entice a contender to trade for him.  

Boy did the gamble work out. On July 20, Soler was batting .183 with just seven home runs. But as if he sensed the opportunity to be traded, Soler turned into Babe Ruth for the 10 days leading up to the deadline. Soler belted six homers in the next nine games, suddenly looking like the beast that blasted 48 homers in 2019. 

Coveting a power bat for their lineup, the Atlanta Braves were willing to risk that Soler could keep up the hot streak. They shipped minor-league pitcher Kasey Kalich to KC in return. Kalich isn’t a hot prospect, by any means. He’s a 23-year-old right hander who has hardly pitched in games for two years because of the pandemic. But like any lottery ticket, there’s a chance he’ll be worth something.  

The Royals were so disappointed by Soler, they were not going to try to resign him. In fact, they were considering cutting him loose before the end of the season. But the nine-game hot stretch made him worth something to the Braves, and the Royals could only thank their lucky stars for that. 

The trades that didn’t happen

Lucky as the Royals were that they got something for Duffy and Soler, it’s not like everything went right for Moore. Why outfielder Jerrod Dyson is still on the roster is a mystery. He’s a veteran with playoff experience who could provide some team great speed and solid defense off the bench. Surely there was some contending team who could use his unique talents. 

Well, apparently not. Dyson, who turns 37 in just a week, is still a Royal, playing out a one-year contract and hogging a roster spot that could be filled by a young outfielder. Edward Olivares needs to play every day, and Kyle Isbel deserves another shot in Kansas City.  

It makes a little more sense that one-year man Michael A. Taylor wasn’t traded. He just might fit into the Royals' future plans, so keeping him in town might motivate him to sign on for the future. 

It’s a little bit surprising no team wanted Greg Holland for the stretch run. The 35-year-old has been good enough to help a bullpen in some way or other. The Royals’ playoff chances are dead, so trading Holland for anything at all seemed to make sense. With rosters limited to just 28 players this fall, Holland does nothing but block the promotion of one of the young pitching prospects who could benefit from exposure to the big leagues. 

Moore isn’t powerless when it comes to Dyson, Holland or others playing out the end of their contracts (most notably Wade Davis). He can trade them if they make it through the waiver wire. He can release them.  

But those moves won’t involve the kind of luck that smiled upon the Royals in the cases of Duffy and Soler.