There's been a pretty simple motto for the Kansas City Royals in 2024, one perfectly befitting of a team no one expected to be playing this well after a 56-win season a year ago. The refrain goes “The boys are playing some ball,” and to the Royals' credit, that they most certainly are.

At 32-19 with a +72 run differential, Kansas City is, by any metric, a top-three team in the American League right now. Their starting rotation has been a revelation, Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez are both MVP candidates and quietly, the Royals have become a defensive juggernaut. Now on a six-game winning streak, fans in K.C. are starting to think pretty seriously about a playoff run.

But in order for this surprising success to continue, the Royals cannot afford to keep their roster as currently constructed. There are still some pretty obvious weaknesses and only once those are addressed will the Royals be able to lay claim bona-fide pennant chaser status. These are those weaknesses and the corresponding trades that must be made to eradicate them.

Royals need a corner outfield bat

It's frankly commendable that the Royals' offensive profile has been at or above league average with the total lack of production they have had from their outfield, especially the corners. Hunter Renfroe, Nelson Velazquez, MJ Melendez and Dairon Blanco have combined for -1.2 bWAR, all with OPS's below .700. Championship offenses simply do not have that problem.

So where should the Royals turn? There are some obvious teams falling out of the race with chips to sell, so Tommy Pham, Connor Joe and perhaps Bryan De La Cruz will be more likely fits. But this is the time for the Royals to go big-game hunting and take a swing at 2023 All-Star Brent Rooker, who is having a monster start to the season once again for the Oakland Athletics.

Now, the obvious counter is that Rooker still has three years of team control remaining after this season, so it doesn't make a ton of sense for the A's to ditch him. However, that team control ends as soon as the A's are claiming their new stadium in Las Vegas will open, so is Rooker really a part of their long-term plan? They could sell now when his value is at its highest and at 29 years old, it isn't like he's going to be this good for another decade. But for the Royals, he could be worth his weight in gold.

Kansas City doesn't have a true closer

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley (56) reacts at the end of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have had exactly two relievers they can consistently rely on in 2024: John Schreiber and Angel Zerpa. When it comes to save situations, they've turned the ball over to James McArthur, who has given up 27 hits in 21.2 innings for a 1.38 WHIP. Though McArthur may still be an effective big league reliever, he's not a closer on a playoff baseball team.

And when looking for a potential replacement, the Royals need not cast their eyes out of their own home state of Missouri. Ryan Helsley of the St. Louis Cardinals is certain to generate trade interest this summer, having returned from an injury-shortened 2023 throwing triple-digit heat once more. And while the Cardinals have been playing better baseball the last week-plus, they still have too many roster holes to make a deep playoff push.

So this situation lines up perfectly for both teams. The Royals need their stopper at the end of games and the Cardinals, close as they may be to competing, still need to get younger, especially in the rotation. Send St. Louis a pair of mid-level starting pitching prospects and ride this thing to the gates of Hels.

Royals rotation is good, but thin

Basically everything has gone according to plan for Matt Quatraro and his chosen rotation. Cole Ragans is an ace, Seth Lugo looks like a Cy Young candidate, Brady Singer has rejuvenated his young career and even Alec Marsh is carrying a sub-three ERA. But if any single starter gets injured, the Royals appear to have no backup plan.

And when the trade deadline approaches, there are going to be a bounty of starting pitchers on the market. One to keep an eye on here is the Texas Rangers' Michael Lorenzen. With Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Cody Bradford and Tyler Mahle all potentially returning from injury, Lorenzen could be available as long as he isn't so dominant the Rangers feel they need to keep him. That is, if they don't continue playing as poorly as they currently are and fall out of the race altogether.

Beyond Lorenzen, K.C. should consider pieces like the Cardinals' Kyle Gibson, the Athletics' Paul Blackburn and the New York Mets' Jose Quintana. They don't need another ace, but they need someone dependable in the event that any of their current starters goes through a rough patch or suffers an injury. Too often, promising young teams fall apart down the stretch when their depth runs out and the Royals should look to avoid being one of those teams at all costs.