Royals misjudge their talent, Wil pay the price

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Royals GM Dayton Moore has told us for years to “trust the process.” For better or worse, he put forth his endgame on Sunday night, sacrificing top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, not to mention third baseman Patrick Leonard and left-hander Mike Montgomery, in order to bring in James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays.

In so doing, it looks like he jumped the gun. The process just wasn’t working out as hoped. The Royals had increased their win totals three straight years, but not hardly enough to matter. They won 65 games in 2009, 67 in 2010, 71 in 2011 and 72 in 2012.

And that’s the problem. These Royals weren’t two players away. At least not these two players. Maybe the 2014 Royals would have been. But the odds were against Moore being in charge of the 2014 Royals unless the team took a big step forward next season.

What we have here is a general manager who put his own best interests ahead of those of his team. And probably bought himself an extra year of employment as a reward.

That’s not to say it couldn’t work out. Shields is heckuva a pitcher, albeit not as good of one as Tropicana Field has made it seem (Shields has a 3.33 ERA at home and a 4.54 ERA on the road in his career). Davis seemed to find his niche as a reliever last season, though odds are that the Royals will take another look at him as a starter. Myers has very rare power for a right-handed hitter, but if last year’s strikeout rate is a sign of things to come, he might not post strong OBPs in the majors.

In the end, this trade will likely be judged on two factors: the Royals making the postseason and whether Myers turns into a star. I doubt he’ll be any sort of bust, but he might be more of a .250-.260 hitter than a perennial All-Star. My guess is that he ends up more in the Nick Swisher class of quality regular than something truly extraordinary.

Of course, Orodizzi should be overlooked, either. The best of the minor leaguers the Royals got from the Brewers in the Zack Greinke trade, he’s a potential No. 3 starter for the Rays.

As things stand now, these are your 2013 Royals:

Rotation: Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar
Bullpen: Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman, Francisley Bueno

Lineup: CF Lorenzo Cain, SS Alcides Escobar, LF Alex Gordon, DH Billy Butler, 1B Eric Hosmer, C Salvador Perez, 3B Mike Moustakas, RF Jeff Francoeur, 2B Chris Getz

Bench: C Brett Hayes, INF Tony Abreu, OF Jarrod Dyson, INF Irving Falu

Could that be a wild card team? It’s conceivable. The lineup certainly looks solid, especially 3-7. Shields is good enough to front a contending rotation, and Guthrie is a fair enough three or four. The bullpen should also be very strong, even if it’s filled with a bunch of relative no-names.

Still, the Royals will need some breaks. It will help a great deal if Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino can make strong returns from Tommy John surgery and contribute in the rotation, because those two could be considerable upgrades over Chen and Hochevar.

In the meantime, it’s a shallow team, something that will become painfully obvious once injuries strike. Myers and Odorizzi were definite candidates to contribute this season, and their absence leaves the Royals with little in the way of intriguing alternatives for DL fill-ins. Davis and Luis Mendoza are the primary rotation fallbacks. The Royals are going to have to add a couple of veteran bench players before the winter is out.

I’d say the Royals are an 82-85 win team at the moment. It’s a team with upside; Hosmer and Moustakas could break through and a healthy Perez will help a lot. But it’s still a real underdog for a wild card spot, and now the future for 2014 and beyond looks bleaker than it did yesterday.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.