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Why the Kansas City Royals need to dismantle the Big Three

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The Royals three headed monster was lights out in 2014, but now it's time to break them up.

Two-thirds of the big three might be wearing different colors come 2015
Two-thirds of the big three might be wearing different colors come 2015
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports, Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports, Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking up is hard to do. It's especially difficult when neither party has done anything to warrant a split. There's the classically cliched "It's not you it's me" situation, while other times the relationship simply runs its course. Unfortunately for Dayton Moore and his Big Three (Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland), it may soon become a Big One. Nobody did anything wrong, and it would be great if they could all stay together, but the baseball world doesn't operate that way. Successful teams need to maximize value when they have the opportunity, and that means trading away Davis and Holland immediately.

In the regular season, the Royals bullpen had a record of 65-5 when leading after 6 innings and carried that success into the post season, surrendering a lead only once. While the entire bullpen was a part of their overall success, no other combination was as deadly as HDH.

2014 IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR
Kelvin Herrera 70 7.59 3.34 0 1.41 2.69 3.50 3.37 1.4
Wade Davis 72 13.63 2.88 0 1.00 1.19 1.93 1.61 3.1
Greg Holland 62.1 12.99 2.76 0.43 1.44 1.83 2.10 1.77 2.3

Make sure to take notice of the HR/9 column for both Herrera and Davis and appreciate how incredible it was that the Royals had two pitchers combine for 142 innings while not allowing a home run. Obviously some of that is due to their home park and a little luck, but it's also a testament to their dominance and overall value. Although it's unlikely that all three relievers will continue to pitch at that high of a level in 2015, the projections are optimistic that all three will still be strong contributors.

2015 Steamer IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP ERA FIP fWAR
Kelvin Herrera 55 9.05 2.88 0.63 1.16 2.93 3.10 0.7
Wade Davis 65 10.37 2.71 0.67 1.08 2.48 2.79 1.0
Greg Holland 65 11.63 2.76 0.60 1.02 2.24 2.40 1.3

It's easy to see why Steamer is projecting a big increase in ERA for Herrera. He had a huge difference between his ERA and xFIP, which makes sense due to how the latter is constructed. xFIP relies heavily on expected home runs allowed, which means that for a pitcher who didn't allow any, there'd naturally be a difference between the two statistics regardless of its other factors. On the other hand, both Davis and Holland had fantastic peripherals across the board, resulting in incredible value. While each had noticeable differences between their 2014 ERAs and xFIPs, as well as projected ERAs just as there were for Herrera, it's not as worrying because of their pristine SIERAs.

After absorbing these statistics, it may seem strange to suggest that it's time to break up this trio, but after some questionable moves by the Royals this offseason, that's exactly what needs to be done. With the current roster construction, Fangraphs projects the Royals to win only 81 games in 2015; far too few to make the playoffs. If they looked like a playoff team, then holding on to Davis and Holland would make perfect sense, but having a stellar bullpen on a mediocre team is a bad allocation of resources by a GM. With both pitchers becoming more expensive and ranking 2nd and 6th in terms of fWAR for all relievers during 2014, Moore must think past 2015 and begin restocking as quickly as possible.

Moore has to maximize the most value out of his budget, and that means placing money in the core of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Herrera, and Mike Moustakas rather than overspending on relievers. It's this core of six players that will carry the Royals to another championship opportunity. Keeping them together must be the priority.

This offseason, we've seen a sudden obsession with relief pitchers, probably as a direct result of HDH, and the Royals need to take advantage of that fact. With all major relievers off the market, and a plethora of teams still needing help in the bullpen, Moore can create a bidding war due to the fact that teams wouldn't be able to turn to the free agent market and simply spend money rather than prospects.

Relievers don’t normally bring back huge pieces like a Trea Turner or Andrew Heaney, but neither Davis nor Holland is what we'd call a normal reliever. Both pitchers are under control for the next few seasons (Holland through 2016 and Davis through 2017), eliminating the worries of giving up prospects for a 1-year rental; and were incredibly valuable, even when compared to the notable players already traded this offseason. Because of these factors, Moore could ask for and expect a greater return on his duo than what relievers have historically brought back.

fWAR (2014)
Justin Upton 3.9
Wade Davis 3.1
Nathan Eovaldi 3.0
Martin Prado 2.6
Greg Holland 2.3
Matt Kemp 1.8
Yasmani Grandal 1.1
Wil Myers 0.1

If Davis and Holland are traded before or during the 2015 season, Moore could place Herrera and his 101 MPH fastball in the 9th inning for the foreseeable future and turn to Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor, Luke Hochevar, and Tim Collins to pick up the slack.

2015 Steamer Projections IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Brandon Finnegan 25 8.48 2.64 0.82 3.08 3.42 0.2
Jason Frasor 45 8.19 3.03 0.83 3.46 3.62 0.2
Luke Hocheavar 55 8.44 2.20 0.90 3.10 3.42 0.4
Tim Collins 21 8.73 3.75 0.92 3.51 3.87 0.1

While Finnegan and Collins are projected for only a combined 46 innings, that number is likely low. Finnegan didn't reach the big leagues until September 6th, and Collins spent most of 2014 rehabbing a flexor strain in the minor leagues. New addition Kris Medlen could also be eased back into big league action by starting off in the bullpen before moving into the rotation in 2016. Most teams would have a problem filling 130 IP, but the Royals are clearly set up better than most to absorb that type of loss.

As GMs like Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman (pre-Dodgers empire) know all too well, rebuilding and constantly adapting is an imperative part of any small-market team. Moore needs to take hold of that idea and capitalize on the value of Davis and Holland. Whether he wants to package them together or individually, the time is now to trade them both. The Royals outfield is in dire need of help in the coming seasons (Alex Rios is a mere stopgap and Alex Gordon could be gone after 2016). Other than Ventura, their starting pitching is weak. As next season begins to look more and more like a disappointing follow up to their surprising AL Championship season, the Royals can't afford to stand pat. Unfortunately for Kansas City, that means splitting up the Big Three.

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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors and Baseball-Reference.

Matt Goldman is a Contributor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.