The Kansas City Royals were 90 feet away from tying Game 7 of the World Series with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. However, the baseball Gods did not have that in mind as the San Francisco Giants were able to shut the door and win their third World Series in the past five seasons. Kansas City is not suffering from the World Series hangover, in fact, are doing the complete opposite. The Royals boast the best record in the American League with a record of 61-38 and are 8.5 games up on the Twins in the AL Central.
Kansas City isn’t just looking to go back to the playoffs and World Series, they are looking to win the championship that was so close to them a season ago. This week, ahead of the MLB trade deadline, the Royals went out and got an ace in Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati and a solid utility player in Ben Zobrist from Oakland.
The Royals saw first-hand in the World Series how much of a difference an ace can make and now they have one of their own. Johnny Cueto was coveted by many teams around baseball for his services before being dealt to the Royals. His record doesn’t do his pitching justice this season as he is 7-6, but has an ERA of 2.62 and 120 strikeouts. In his last 10 starts, he has an ERA of 2.00. He will become a free agent at season’s end, but that’s perfectly fine in the eyes of Kansas City. The Royals know how close they were a season ago and made this move to enhance what is already a quality staff, which ranks fifth in team ERA at 3.43. This will be Cueto’s first season outside of the National League as he has spent his entire eight-year career with the Reds. This will allow him to focus on just pitching as the AL has the designated hitter. For his career, Cueto is 92-63 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.165 WHIP and 1,115 strikeouts. He was the co-leader in the National League for strikeouts with 242 last season. He is 0-2 in the postseason in three starts. Regardless of what the past has presented to Cueto, he is now faced with being the ace of the best team in the American League, a role that will suit him well.
Kansas City also traded for a pretty solid utility man. Ben Zobrist isn’t a huge acquisition from a big-name standpoint or huge contract standpoint, but is a quality player to add depth to this Royals team. In the midst of a pennant run, teams need to have some depth in order to be successful. Zobrist is a guy who can fill in out in left field, while also being able to play the infield. Manager Ned Yost now has a player he can plug in virtually anywhere he needs to. This allows Yost to rotate and rest players more down the stretch of the regular season going into the postseason. Zobrist has a slash line of .268/.354/.447 to go along with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 67 games this year. He missed a month of the season after undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery. He also brings postseason experience with him from his time with the Tampa Bay Rays. He has a career postseason slash line of .212/.288/.333 with two home runs and three RBIs.
The rich get richer is the theme of these trades from the Royals. The best team in the American League adds one of the best pitchers in the game and a quality utility player. If Kansas City wasn’t the favorite to win the American League, they certainly are now after making the right moves ahead of the trade deadline.