KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Everyone knows the problem with the Royals.
They are one of the most offensively challenged teams in baseball, and it’s that lack of production that keeps weighing them down, dragging them below the .500 mark and preventing them from contending in the American League Central.
The Royals are 13th in runs scored in the league, now having scored just 11 more runs than the White Sox, the league’s most anemic outfit.
The Royals are last in homers with 41, a remarkable and alarming 27 homers behind the next-to-last Twins. (Hey, Jack Maloof was right … they will lead the league in fewest home runs.)
Without the league’s best pitching staff (No. 1 with a 3.52 ERA), it seems more than likely the Royals would be 15 to 20 games under .500 by now.
Or, another way to look at it, if the Royals were simply average or below average offensively, they might be in first place.
The Royals’ most telling statistic this season is that they are 24-5 when they simply score four runs or more. Twenty-four and five.
The league average for runs scored? Try 4.5.
That’s how bad the Royals’ offense is. It’s an offense unable to be even slightly below average, which is why they are trudging along with a record of 35-39.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore says he understands the problem. Finding an immediate fix is another matter.
Moore says he has been mining the trade market for weeks but so far hasn’t found a suitable trading partner.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, go get this guy’ or ‘Go get that guy,’ ” Moore tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com, “but if they’re not available, what can you do? The present landscape … there isn’t anyone.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying. Obviously, we do.”
The Phillies would seem a possible trading partner if they were to entertain the notion of dumping salary.
Michael Young and Chase Utley can both play second base, both have about $8 million left on their 2013 salaries, and both are free agents after the season.
But acquiring either as a rental player would be risky, especially if the Phillies demanded someone like closer Greg Holland in return. With Kelvin Herrera continuing to struggle, thinning the Royals’ bullpen even further might not be a wise choice moving forward.
Young and Utley also have no-trade clauses they would have to waive to be dealt to the Royals, according to a league source.
Then you’d have to work on the finances of the deal.
The Royals already have a club-record $82 million payroll, and owner David Glass might be hesitant to approve an additional $7 or $8 million to that payroll.
Glass told me earlier this month he would add pieces to the Royals’ roster near the trading deadline only if the Royals were in serious contention.
The final option is at Triple-A Omaha, though there isn’t a player there who is forcing the club’s hand.
Johnny Giavotella, who lost out on the second base job in spring training, is playing mostly third at Omaha, especially now that Chris Getz has been demoted. Giavotella, after a slow start, has heated up in the last two weeks, going 16 for 33. But 15 of those hits have been singles — and the Royals already have plenty of singles hitters.
Outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady has hit .312 at Omaha with 11 homers, but there are doubts whether the 34-year-old’s bat speed is enough anymore to handle big league pitching. And he’s not on the 40-man roster.
The answer, Moore said, may simply be closer to home.
“The answer for the offense lies within,” Moore said.
To be fair to Moore and the front office, much of the Royals’ offensive woes lately has been a result of unusual and prolonged slumps from their two best hitters, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler.
Gordon hasn’t homered since May 9, and his average has dropped nearly 70 points since May.
Butler is having arguably his worst season in the big leagues. He hasn’t homered since May 14 and is hitting just .268 with five homers.
“No one anticipated any of that,” Moore said. “But they are too good of hitters for them to stay quiet much longer. That goes for other guys in the lineup as well.”
But if the slumps continue, Moore will have no option other than to make another deal as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
“As we get closer to the deadline, hopefully more players become available that could improve our ballclub,” Moore said. “But as of now, the answer lies within. We have to figure out a way to win, get more offense, with what we have right now in front of us.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.