Who is on the block for the Royals (and what’s their value)?

Royals GM Dayton Moore has some tough decision to make when it comes to determining who to trade on this Royals team.

The Royals, as of June 2nd, are currently 19-39 (20 games under .500), 20.5 games behind the Central Division-leading Minnesota Twins, and are projected to lose around 97 games, according to Fangraphs. Even though the club’s postseason chances were slim heading into Spring Training this year, it’s safe to say that they’re pretty much nil at this point unless we see some kind of “Angels in the Outfield” miracle.

Thus, it wasn’t surprising to see tweets of this nature hit the internet over the weekend:

Though the farm system is rife with some budding arms like Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, and Jackson Kowar, Dayton Moore and the Royals organization still need to restock and rebuild as much as they can if they want to experience another run of competitiveness like they did from 2013-2017. Pretty much everyone from that era is gone, and if the Royals want to compete again for a Central Division title, AL Pennant, and perhaps a World Series championship, they will need to find a new young core to lean on, which will only come from finding and developing young, affordable talent, whether through the Draft (coming up on Monday), international signings, or trade. With Moore saying pretty much everyone is on the table, he is making it crystal clear that the Royals are committed to finding and developing that new “winning core” sooner rather than later.

Though it’s still early for hot-stove talk (that really doesn’t come into full swing until mid to late June), let’s take a look at which players on the Royals roster could be traded and what kind of value they could net in a possible trade.

Off Limits: Hunter Dozier and Adalberto Mondesi

Not surprisingly, the article mentioned that the Royals wouldn’t be trading third baseman Dozier or shortstop Mondesi, who both lead the team in WAR currently (2.3 and 1.9 for Dozier and Mondesi, respectively). Considering the Royals have them under team control for a while (neither player hits arbitration until 2021) and they are the teams top performers, it makes sense that Moore wants to build around these two for the considerable future.

Probably can’t trade: Cam Gallagher and Cheslor Cuthbert

Gallagher and Cuthbert are bench guys at this point, though Cuthbert is doing his best in his last two games to up his value. Cuthbert can play second and third base, and be an emergency bat for a contending team, but I think he needs to show more progress in KC for the Royals to get back a decent prospect in any trade. As for Gallagher, he’s a defensive-first catcher who isn’t really that awesome defensively, and he can’t really hit. It’s hard to see a contending team want him unless it’s for salary filler.

Doesn’t make sense to trade: Nicky Lopez and Ryan O’Hearn

Both came in as under-the-radar prospects who proved to be too good for the PCL, but are having their issues at the plate currently in KC. Lopez is hitting .222 and posted a wOBA of .255. O’Hearn isn’t much better as he is hitting .195, but posting a .279 wOBA due to five home runs. Both guys don’t have much MLB service time, meaning they have plenty of years of team control, and they offer skill sets that could be useful for the Royals in the future, even if they don’t become stars. They could be thrown in packages to get rid of other Royals players with bigger contracts, but it would make more sense for Moore to keep these two rather than trade them.

Bullpen arms that could net something…I think?: Scott Barlow, Brian Boxberger, Jake Diekman, Brian Flynn, Kevin McCarthy, Glenn Sparkman

All these arms are okay, not great relievers out of the pen. If a contending team find themselves thin on bullpen depth due to injury or ineffectiveness, it’s possible that these guys could net a lower-end prospect in a trade.

Bullpen arms that could maybe net more…but may be trickier to deal: Wily Peralta and Ian Kennedy

Peralta is a former top prospect in the Brewers system who throws a lighting fast ball and doesn’t do much else well. He is 30 years old and he has a career K/BB average of 1.91, which is sub par for a pitcher, especially a reliever who may be asked to pitch in high leverage situations. Peralta is in the last year of his deal, and he is relatively cheap ($3.25 million), but with a declining fastball (down from 96 to 94.6 MPH this season), it makes one wonder if teams would really want to carry a risk like Wily in their pen for a stretch run.

As for Kennedy, he may be the most valuable pitcher skill wise: statistically, his skill look better than ever (high K/BB ratio; 0.6 WAR), and he seems to have transitioned into the bullpen well. Furthermore, he could be an emergency starter for a contending team. So what’s the problem: he’s scheduled to make $33 million combined this year and next. That’s a steep price to pay for a reliever who may not be a full time closer, and it’s plausible that if the Royals want to trade him, they’ll have to eat some of his salary.

Probably worth keeping for now: Jorge Lopez, Brad Keller, and Jakob Junis.

Lopez wouldn’t net much value in any trade, and with still some years of control, it would be nice to see if a permanent move to the bullpen could turn him into a possible setup guy or closer in the next year or two. Lopez has great stuff, and is good in limited runs, and it would be nice to see his potential realized in the Royals blue than with some other club.

Keller and Junis are having okay, but not great seasons. It’s possible they could find the rotation as fourth or fifth starters on competing teams, but they wouldn’t net much value other than a middling prospect or two. Keller is only 23, Junis may have the best strikeout stuff on the starting staff, and both don’t hit arbitration until 2021. Hence, these two deserve to be in the Royals rotation a bit longer.

Probably explore deals for: Danny Duffy, Homer Bailey, Lucas Duda, and Martin Maldonado

I love Danny. He’s one of the last lines to the 2013-2017 years, is one of the most valuable starters on the team (0.7 WAR), and is a good overall dude who has matured a lot in Kansas City. Furthermore, he has a good sense of humor. I mean, what can top this, really?

However, it’s hard to imagine Duffy being a frontline starter for the considerable future, and his injury history will always make him a risk to miss significant time. He still has two more years left on his deal, and is scheduled to make over $30 million after this year. For a club that needs to rebuild, Duffy just doesn’t make sense for the Royals as of this moment. Granted, I don’t want the Royals to just give him away: he still is a 2-3 caliber starter when healthy, and we should get either a good prospect or a couple of mid-level prospects in a trade. But with Singer, Lynch, and Kowar making noise in the minors, it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing for Moore to see what kind of return Duffy could net in order to make room for the young guns in the next year or so.

Bailey is kind of is what he is. His ERA sucks (6.05), but his advanced metrics imply that he may be due for regression soon (4.49 xFIP). When he’s dealing, he looks like a serviceable 3 or 4 starter, and to look at things in a glass half-full manner, he already is much better than he was a year ago in Cincinnati (1-14 record; negative-0.1 WAR compared to a 4-6 record, 0.6 WAR this year). Bailey is 33 and on a one year deal, and though he might not net great return, if he can pitch well in June, he definitely will be dealt by the All-Star break or Trade deadline.

Duda currently is on the injured-list, and is suffering another down season as a Royal: .188 average, .274 wOBA, negative-0.4 WAR. Duda would make sense as a bat off the bench for a contender and he does come cheap ($1.25 million contract). That being said, considering a lackluster tenure as a Royal, relatively low free-agent interest this past off-season, and a rash of injuries lately, it’s hard to imagine the Royals getting much in return for the 33-year-old one trick pony.

As for Maldonado, he’s really a career backup who’s starting because the Royals needed a catcher in a pinch. Maldonado has good defensive numbers (4.6 runs above average defensively) and his hitting has come around the past week. If a contending team suffers an injury to their backstop position, it wouldn’t be surprising to see teams calling the Royals regarding Maldonado.

Will probably trade…but not until closer to deadline: Billy Hamilton and Terrance Gore

Hamilton and Gore may not be everyday players. Well, Hamilton kind of is, but Gore definitely is not. But they have one thing: speed. It would be easy to see a contending team pick them up for the stretch run to help give them pinch run opportunities in key spots on the road to the postseason. And they could net a good or high-risk prospect in return since they are on team-friendly deals (Hamilton is making $4.25 million and is on a 1-year deal; Gore is making 650 K). The future of the Royals won’t revolve on either of these two beyond 2019, so it makes sense for Moore to ship them, but he probably will wait until later in the year in order to maximize their value on the market when speed is more in demand for contending teams.

Should trade, but for a right return: Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield

Without a doubt, these two are the two top trading chips that Moore has on this roster and for good reason: Soler is starting to realize his power potential (and grow into his own as a DH), and Merrifield is proving that despite his age, he is a legitimate Zobrist-like player who provides production at the plate and versatility in the field. With the Royals’ 2019 season sinking quicker than the Titanic, it would not be surprising to hear that Moore is hearing regularly about these two knowing that they may not fit into the Royals’ plans beyond this season.

To be honest, if Royals fans think with the hearts, it doesn’t make sense to trade them. Soler still has a friendly deal with the club, and he has one more year to go on the contract he once signed with the Cubs (he will be making around $4.6 million this year and next before he becomes a free agent in 2021). Furthermore, Merrifield signed a team-friendly deal this off-season and isn’t scheduled to make more than $6.75 million per year in his 4-year, $16.25 million deal which expires after the 2022 season (with an option for 2023). Royals fans could justify that these two not only help the club in terms of production, but also have flexible contracts that still allow the Royals to build for the future.

But, logically, it makes sense to deal these two while their value is high. Soler has an injury history, and this year has been arguably the healthiest he’s ever been. It would be a shame if the Royals didn’t get anything of value for him before he “possibly” gets hurt again and his value is back to where it was a couple of seasons ago, which was low. As for Merrifield, he’s 30 years-old, and his value only decreases with each and every game he plays, even as he continues to produce. If the Royals need to trade him, it would be better to do so now, as he is a potential All-Star candidate rather than later, when he may not net much of a prospect return in a trade.

It will be interesting to see if Moore thinks with his head or heart when it comes to whether or not to trade Soler and/or Merrifield. There are positives and negatives to both sides of the coin, but if he thinks about what the Royals need to do in order to compete again for a Pennant and World Series title, the choice is actually pretty easy to make when it comes to these two…

The dilemma: Alex Gordon

Though some fans may believe that Merrifield will be the tough decision Moore will have to make when it comes to the hot stove, I beg to differ: Gordo is a much more difficult choice. Let’s take a look at the reasons why:

  • Gordon is having one of his best seasons in a while as he is tied for third in WAR (1.8) with Whit. And Gordon is proving that this outbreak is legit as his BB/K ratio is solid, displaying that he has honed his batting eye this year (his 0.65 BB/K ratio is his best mark in that category in his career and would be the first time it was over 0.5, which is league average, since 2015).
  • Gordon has already talked about possibly retiring after his contract ends this season. Gordon is a local guy from Lincoln, Nebraska, and it seems like he doesn’t want to really play in another market outside of Kansas City. Though his career has been up and down as a Royal, I’m sure management and the fanbase would love the idea of him retiring with the Royals after spending his whole career with the club, something rare in this day and age of sports in general.
  • That being said, Gordon’s combination of strong play this year, being in the last year of his contract, and postseason experience would make him an enticing pickup for a club, especially a team without as many playoff veterans (Philadelphia and Atlanta both come to mind). This kind of overall value should net a nice return prospect-wise.
  • But lastly, dealing Gordon could be a challenge for Moore. Gordon is the longest tenured Royal and he would have to approve any trade. This could be challenging to do for as mentioned before, Gordon’s probably main desire is to stay in Kansas City and close to his home state.

Even as a Royals fan, I go back and forth on what to do with Gordo. Some days I think the Royals could get something solid in a trade return. Some days I think it’s not worth it, and the organization would just be better of letting him finish out his career as a Royal.

Much like Merrifield, this will be another head or heart dilemma for Moore and the Royals.

Let’s hope Moore makes a decision that will have the most positive effect for the club not just in the present, but in the future as well.

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