Winners of over 200 games the last two seasons, the St. Francis Kansans find themselves in unfamiliar territory entering August in BARB play: in third place, nearly ten games back behind surprising Brownsville, and on a pace to barely finish above .500.
The St. Francis formula for success in 2013-14, an overwhelming edge in power in a lackluster division, is nowhere in evidence in the 2015 campaign.
The Kansans not only do not have way more 'pop' than rivals, they now toil in the reconfigured Grapefruit Division under new circumstances.
But St. Francis has not been idle.
FREE AGENTS, TRADES, ROOKIES BOLSTER ROSTER
The Kansans, aware that their rotation has question marks, have acquired RHP Michael Wacha from the Worcester Eliminators, sacrificing some of their future minor-league depth as players to be named.
At the same time, St. Francis has moved out expensive veterans like R.A. Dickey, Michael Cuddyer, Jon Niese and others in a series of moves that have opened up tens of millions of dollars in cap room in the second half when most BARB clubs are living at the razor's edge. That allowed them the freedom to gamble on players that other BARB teams had shown no interest in pursuing.
NOW ADDING....ADAM WAINWRIGHT?
This has allowed Kansans GM Scott Hatfield to acquire a pair of high-performing free agents: OF Gerardo Parra and injured free agent RHP Adam Wainwright. Wainwright, recovering from an Achilles injury, is very much a long shot to have any impact in 2015, but signing him gives the club options going into 2016 to go behind Matt Harvey.
The Kansans ace has been spectacular at times this year, but insiders believe that Harvey's workload may be approaching limits recommended by his doctors.
"The bottom line is we are attempting to upgrade our rotation," Hatfield said, "and that means 2015 AND 2016. A rotation that starts with Wainwright, and continues with Matt Harvey and Michael Wacha, is definitely an upgrade on anything we've ever had in the history of this organization. And we' are going to continue to make moves to put us in position to reach the playoffs for the third year in a row."
As part of that effort, the Kansans have called up a pair of rookies (RHP Aaron Nola and LHP Steven Matz), and expect both to have an impact.
Also coming back: IF Justin Turner, who had missed nearly three weeks with a leg injury, and rookie reliever Brandon Finnegan, who will fill the roster spot of closer Koji Uehara, lost for the season with a wrist injury.
The early returns were not impressive, as the touted bat had only one HR in his first ten games with the club, but Hatfield was not deterred. "Possibly the best pure hitter I've ever drafted," enthused the Kansans GM. "Now I just have to find a spot for him to play."
CLUB REMAINS OPTIMISTIC
we going to win 100 games again?" Hatfield intoned rhetorically to
snoozing scribes, giving his best Donald Rumsfeld impersonation.
"Probably not. But is our lineup and rotation younger, healthier and
recharged for a push? Yes. Is a playoff spot in play? Very much so,
given that there are two wild card teams in each division. Do we
think that the moves we made not only give us a better change of
competing in Septermber, but next year? Absolutely. You can quote me