KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Five observations on the current state of the Royals.
You know that in his heart, general manager Dayton Moore wants to keep pending free agent Ervin Santana through the season, watch him help the Royals contend, and then, if he can’t sign him to an extension (granted, not realistic with the season Santana is having), take the sandwich pick in next June’s first-year player draft.
But Moore also must be a realist. After a promising start to last week’s road trip with two solid wins over the Yankees, the Royals fell apart, as Wade Davis and Santana turned in awful outings and the offense, as usual, went into hibernation for five days.
The Royals sit six games under .500 and a season-high eight games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. And here’s a scary fact: Only three teams in the American League have won fewer games than the Royals right now — the Twins, White Sox and Astros.
But I know that Moore believes this team still has a heartbeat, and he likely is willing to wait through at least the next seven games against Detroit and Baltimore coming out of the break before deciding on Santana.
Then again, the longer Moore waits, it is yet another start Santana won’t be making for his new team, which means Santana’s value in a trade drops as the waiting continues.
But it’s a difficult decision in regard to timing: Throwing up the white flag to a season with such high expectations won’t be popular with the masses. But it may be necessary for the long-term health of the franchise.
NO PANIC FROM SHIELDS
I’ve talked to James Shields a few times in the last month about when it is time for players to start analyzing the standings. He was adamant that when he was with Tampa Bay, the Rays didn’t peek at the standings until the end of July or early August.
So even with the present five-game skid, Shields is maintaining that there’s plenty of baseball ahead and plenty of time to start chasing Detroit.
“You never want to lose five in a row,” Shields told mlb.com on Sunday. “I remember one year, we (Tampa Bay) lost, I think, seven or eight in a row and it put us in a deep hole. And then we ended up winning 10 straight after the break, so I’m not really too worried about it.”
Truthfully, it would take a 10-game winning streak to revive the fan base now.
BEGGING FOR OFFENSE
No question that the Royals’ rotation and bullpen have had some hiccups lately. But the Royals have spent almost the entire first half of the season wasting solid and quality starts, such as Bruce Chen’s six-inning shutout effort Friday against Cleveland. Chen was rewarded with zero runs of support in a 3-0 loss.
Only two teams in the league have scored fewer runs than the Royals (365) — the Astros (351) and White Sox (345). And those teams are a combined 46 games under .500.
The Royals, as everyone in Kansas City knows, also are last in the league in home runs with 60, an incredible 26 behind next-to-last Minnesota.
In other words, if the Royals do wind up dealing Santana, the hope is the Royals can get a ready-now second baseman or right fielder with some pop, or a near-ready prospect — no disrespect to David Lough, who has been a terrific addition.
ANSWER LIES WITHIN?
When Moore told me a few weeks ago that, at least for now, the answer to the Royals’ offensive woes lies within, I asked Billy Butler if indeed the Royals had enough weapons to compete offensively against the Tigers and Indians.
He told me he thought certain Royals — himself, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer — would begin to feast on opposing pitching as we got into the August schedule.
“You get into August and September and the really hot months and pitchers start to wear down a little,” Butler said. “That’s traditionally when we have a chance to do some damage.”
If Butler, Gordon and Hosmer could get hot at the same time — that hasn’t happened this year — the Royals no doubt could creep back into relevancy.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Royals fans probably don’t want to hear it on the heels of this five-game skid, but there were some bright spots in the last two months or so.
Hosmer appears to have turned his career around and is tied for the team lead in homers (nine) and doubles (18) while hitting .285.
Lough has been an absolute gift to the offense, hitting .294 with a team-high .447 slugging percentage.
Closer Greg Holland, who joins Sal Perez and Gordon at Tuesday’s All-Star Game, has been dynamite in his first full season as the closer, saving 22 of 24 games.
And, of course, there’s Dave Eiland’s pitching staff, which has given up the fewest earned runs of any team in the American League. Could you ever imagine saying that about a Royals staff? And yet they are six games under .500.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.