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Inbox: Can Gordon heat up in second half?

July 13, 2017

KANSAS CITY -- The once forgotten Royals have stormed back into postseason contention and now sit at 44-43, just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card and three games out of first place in the American League Central.The next two weeks should prove interesting as general manager Dayton Moore

KANSAS CITY -- The once forgotten Royals have stormed back into postseason contention and now sit at 44-43, just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card and three games out of first place in the American League Central.
The next two weeks should prove interesting as general manager Dayton Moore determines what the team's needs are and what available assets he has to improve the club.
With that in mind, let's get to this week's Edward Jones Royals Inbox:

:: 2017 Midterm Report: Complete coverage ::
I think the whole "sell" notion started out legitimately among fans concerned about the six pending free agents. But it then turned into an avalanche of Twitter snark as the team stumbled out of the gate. But the sell snark subsequently has faded. As we've mentioned many times before, the Royals can't afford to tear everything down, sell and rebuild, for a couple of reasons. Moore and owner David Glass have maintained since 2013 that their intent has been to remain competitive for each season. They believe they have built a program, not unlike one in college football or college basketball, in which they have their sights set on competing for a championship each season. One reason they can't just let all six pending free agents walk, or trade them all, is that they can't afford to bottom out with a 95-100 loss season. Financially, the attendance hit would be a killer. Also, their TV contract with Fox Sports Kansas City comes up after 2019 -- a 95-100 loss team isn't going to look attractive for TV suitors. Moore and Glass aren't gutting this thing, trust me.

Gordon keeps showing signs that he is ready to snap out of this huge funk. He made a mechanical adjustment in early June and since then he has a respectable .809 OPS with five home runs and five doubles. The feeling is that he will continue that upward trend -- something the Royals truly need at the bottom of the order.

The return package would have to be enormous for Kelvin Herrera because the Royals have club control over him for one more season. As for dealing Cain, if they got someone in return who could help immediately, it would be feasible. But the Royals don't really have a replacement in center field -- Paulo Orlando is on the 60-day disabled list, and Terrance Gore really isn't a center fielder. You can't compete for the postseason without an impact player in center field.
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This is a great question because the truth is, the Royals are tapping their fingers waiting for September call-ups when they can get Raul Mondesi and Gore up here. That kind of speed element can win three or four games over the span of a month -- we've seen it before. That September advantage is yet another reason Moore believes they can make a big second-half push.

I talk to Ned daily and he has never even hinted that he is even close to stepping back and calling it a career. He is signed through 2018, and while there is speculation every now and then that he'd rather be sitting on his tractor back on his farm in Georgia, I think he'll gut it out for another season after this. Now, that could change, of course, especially if the Royals belly up in the second half and they are unable to sign any of their pending free agents. I don't think Yost would be crazy about a rebuilding project.

Every single preseason roster prediction I filed had Whit Merrifield on the 25-man, so I was as puzzled as everyone else that he started the season in the Minors. We all understood the situation: Merrifield had options, Christian Colon and Cheslor Cuthbert did not, and the Royals, like most teams, hang on to inventory as long as they can. In hindsight, the Royals clearly should have put Merrifield on the 25-man, as evidenced by what he's done as a leadoff man and as a second baseman. To be fair, as poorly as Mondesi (he won the job at second base) hit to start the season, he did win a couple of games with incredible baserunning and with his defense. And Merrifield was on the team by April 18, so there wasn't a lot of time lost.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.