Kansas City Royals: Contenders or pretenders as trade deadline nears?

The Kansas City Royals are just pretenders, and must seize the opportunity to trade away four of their free-agents-to-be before it’s too late.

The Kansas City Royals and their 35-36 record will not be sellers at the trade deadline, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney.

Instead, as Olney notes, general manager Dayton Moore is electing to keep their core group of guys together. Moore doesn’t plan for a summer sale, unless the Royals undergo a complete collapse.

What’s tricky with this train of thought is the upcoming predicament Kansas City management will face this winter. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar are all free agents following the 2017 campaign.

Like Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds in a February column, it’s unlikely the Royals are able to bring back all four of these guys. On top of that, these will be some of the most sought out free agents in their respective class.

With Moore’s reluctance to deal four of his top players and a recent surge in play, can the Royals be taken seriously out of the American League Central? Are they contenders or pretenders as the deadline looms?

The Royals are surely just pretending, and Moore would be foolish to keep the gang intact.

Don’t be tricked by a team that’s won ten of their last 12 games. After all, their hot-streak still leaves them right at .500 and three games out of first place, which is manageable in many other divisions. But this one boasts the defending league champion Cleveland Indians. The Royals are nowhere near as good as their divisional rival, even with the sluggish start the Tribe have endured so far this season.

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It’s really only a matter of time before Terry Francona’s Indians take off and distance themselves from the rest of the division. Hanging around and trying to compete would be witless on Moore’s part.

If you think the Royals have a better shot at grabbing one of the wild card spots, then that’s fair. But you have to think of it like this: the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will duke it out for first place in the East. The loser will snatch one of two wild card sports.

Out of the West, the Astros could lose their next 10 and still have a padded lead over the Seattle Mariners. But the Texas Rangers are sneaky, and they’ve been known to make a second-half push that normally results in playoff baseball.

And in the Central, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers are busy twiddling their thumbs at the bottom of the division. The Minnesota Twins have been a pleasant surprise, and if that stands, they could make their first October appearance since 2010.

After a pretty uneventful first half that suggests this Royals team is average at best, it’s hard to see them outlasting teams like the Rangers, Red Sox or Yankees, and possibly the Twins as summer turns to fall.

Maybe a few years ago, but not this one.

According to Olney, other teams are aware of Moore’s attachment to this group of guys — a feeling that apparently makes him unwilling to part ways with them. He feels this group deserves one last go-around before all parties are assumed to go their separate ways.

The Royals are no longer the dynasty they were a few summers ago. Going on two years since their magical title run, Moore’s hand-crafted experiment is nearing the end of its course. It would be best to pull the plug now — trading them — instead of letting them walk for nothing in the winter given the unlikeliness of re-signing them.

Sure, Kansas City has a decision to make — a no-brainer, albeit. But it’s one that they must pull the trigger on instead of the wishful thinking they’re doing right now.

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