When the Kansas City Royals opened the regular season with a 7-16 record in April, the writing appeared to be on the wall.
Many remaining core pieces from the team's two recent trips to the World Series - Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, among others - will be free agents at season's end. It seemed only a matter of time before general manager Dayton Moore would signal a rebuild by wheeling and dealing.
The Royals have since jumped back into the AL Central race, sitting only four games back of the Cleveland Indians, and have almost reached .500 with a 35-36 record. ESPN's Buster Olney reports that Moore and the Royals will not be sellers unless they "completely collapse and fall far behind in the race."
One key to the Royals' resurgence is that they sport one of the healthiest rosters in baseball. Of the team's regulars, only starter Danny Duffy is currently on the disabled list, and he's expected to begin a rehab assignment over the weekend. Moore said it's the players who are responsible for the team's immediate future.
"The players are the ones who are guiding success," Moore said. "Based on how the players are performing, on health, you make decisions at the appropriate time. ... We know these players better than anyone."
Moore runs the risk of watching his pending free agents leave while receiving nothing in return. But with the way the team has played recently, another playoff push isn't looking absurd - especially after Salvador Perez blasted a grand slam to crush the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon.
The Royals do not appear to be on the verge of selling off their stars, but instead intend to ride this core as far as it will go. Sitting two games out of a wild-card spot, maybe it really was too early to dethrone the Royals.