Inbox: How much of core will Royals retain?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers questions from fans

July 27th, 2017

BOSTON -- The red-hot Royals will storm into Fenway Park starting Friday night, a few days prior to Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Royals already bolstered their staff by acquiring pitchers and and from San Diego. But are they done dealing? Let's tackle that in this week's Inbox.

That's the most asked question of the season. I've said from Spring Training on that of the big six impending free agents -- , , Mike Moustakas, , and Mike Minor -- that general manager Dayton Moore will find a way to sign at least two. The Royals have about $90 million committed to payroll for 2018, so there is some money to play with potentially, provided this year's payroll of $145 million rises again. Moustakas, Hosmer and Vargas are having such fantastic years that they might be pricing themselves out of the Kansas City market. We'll see. There aren't any ongoing talks that I've heard, but they'll start at season's end. Don't count out Moore's ability to retain some of them.

The Royals' main goal this trading season was to beef up their staff for the stretch run. They got a new No. 5 starter in Cahill, and they added power arms Maurer and Buchter to the setup crew. But Kansas City is still kicking the tires on other possible additions. The Royals have scouted 's past two starts, and there are reports that talks have progressed between the Blue Jays and Royals about the left-hander. They have shown interest in . They have been intrigued by , whom they graded pretty highly after his last start in Kansas City on Sunday. But being thorough on all available acquisitions is typical of Moore, who tends to cast a wide net. The problem is, though, that all the second-tier pitchers mentioned have flaws or are too inconsistent.

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As one American League scout told me, "It's tough to decide who can help you and who will hurt you. There's so much at stake with each game that you can't afford to give up something and then have the guy blow up in the third inning."

There's at least a decent chance Moore and his staff will stand down over the next few days. Some of you have asked about adding a bat: Possible, but who do you drop then? The Royals are working with a two-man bench now, and they aren't jettisoning any of the starting position players.

I'll answer these both at once. They're all intriguing. Cahill is a guy who can dominate when he commands his curveball. Buchter has a terrific cutter that can get lefties and righties out. Maurer probably has the best stuff of the three and can hit 98 mph on the radar gun.

Pitching coach Dave Eiland was walking around the clubhouse the other day like it was Christmas morning -- he can definitely help all three, the way he has helped (2.77 ERA in 13 games with the Royals). Maurer definitely can spell closer when Herrera has gone too many nights in a row. But manager Ned Yost has said he'll mix and match Buchter, Maurer, , Minor, and as the bridge to Herrera on most nights. The bullpen went from good to very good.

Moustakas is likely going to break Steve Balboni's club record for home runs in a season (36), and he has delivered numerous clutch homers. But Hosmer is the team MVP. He's doing it all, hitting .319 with an .877 OPS while playing phenomenal defense. And Hosmer is doing things that some statisticians ignore -- like Tuesday night in Detroit, when he went first to third on a single to left field and then scored on a fairly shallow fly to left. Oh, and he also made one of the greatest stretches and picks of a throw from the outfield that you'll ever see on that incredible eighth-inning double play.