Many, myself included, started scouring the minor league systems of contending teams back in May, trying to play GM, and identifying what prospects the Royals might be able to net in a trade. For that matter, the rumor-mill got started pretty early too.
First, it was the Washington Nationals scouting Kelvin Herrera to shore up their circus of a bullpen. Then Adam Eaton got hurt, and all the sudden they became a good fit for pending free agent Lorenzo Cain.
Then it was the Boston Red Sox potentially filling their hole at third base with Mike Moustakas., also a pending free agent Pablo Sandoval ate his way out of baseball, then dieted his way back in. Either way, Panda has fallen out of favor in Boston, and proven ineffective.
Could you imagine that Red Sox lineup with Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland, Xander Boegarts, Hanley Ramirez AND maybe Mike Moustakas?
We can’t forget free agent-to-be Eric Hosmer. Current Wild Card leader, the New York Yankees, have some rumored interest in Hosmer to go along with their current hole at first base. The Yankees had high hopes for one of their own prospects, Greg Bird, but he’s currently on the 60-day DL.
They signed last year’s National League home run leader, Chris Carter, but his average has hovered around the Mendoza-line, and has hardly hit for the power they expected. The Yankees actually designated him for assignment on June 24th, but have since recalled him.
Now that the Royals don’t appear to be in sell-mode, we don’t have to think those unpleasant thoughts any longer. I’d argue that if you’re not selling, you’d better be buying.
With that in mind, lets shift our focus to what the Royals could potentially be looking to acquire.
They appear to be pretty set with regard to position players. In fact, they’re probably going to struggle to find regular at-bats for all the hitters they currently have active. A crowded outfield situation means either Jorge Soler or Jorge Bonifacio may be battling for at-bats.
The designated hitter role has been unsteady, but I think the Royals still believe in Brandon Moss. Should Moss continue to falter, they still have internal options in Soler/Bonifacio, and Cheslor Cuthbert when he returns from the DL.
The infield is set, and the Royals also feature some depth with the emergence of utility-man Ramon Torres, and their top prospect, Raul Mondesi tearing up AAA baseball in Omaha.
That leaves the pitching staff, which actually could use some reinforcements. The Royals have already used eleven different starting pitchers in 2017. Danny Duffy is set to return to the starting rotation from injury this week, but there remains a hole in their starting five.
This is where I expect the Royals to add a player via trade. After looking at the current MLB landscape, I’ve identified a few starting pitchers that would fit the Royals mold.
Before I tell you who they are, I don’t expect the Royals to acquire an ace like they did with Johnny Cueto in 2015. I’m guessing they’ll target a solid and steady starter, but nothing spectacular. Remember, it was entirely possible that they were going to be in sell-mode this season, so I sincerely doubt they’ll be in any hurry to part with anyone they see as a significant part of their pending rebuild.
Also of note is that every team in the American League is within 7 games of the Wild Card. Now, that will likely change in the next few weeks, but the Royals may not want to go to the brink of the deadline before making a move. With that in mind, there appears to be a lot less parity in the National League, and I think the Royals could easily pluck someone from some of their cellar-dwellers.
In no particular order:
Scott Feldman, Cincinnati Reds: The Royals have expressed some level of interest in Feldman before, and I believe he was a pitcher they considered after the untimely death of Yordano Ventura this offseason. However, Feldman signed a 1 yr./$2.3 million deal with the Reds on January 26th.
The Royals would undoubtedly like the short-term commitment, and the extremely low salary. On top of that, Feldman is having a solid campaign–3.78 ERA in 17 starts. And that’s while pitching home games in the Cracker-Jack box that is Cincinnati’s Great American Smallpark.
Jhoulys Chacin, San Diego Padres: Nothing sexy here, but Chacin could be an adequate bottom of the rotation addition for the Royals. The 29 year-old righty is stuck on a bad team in San Diego, but has put up respectable numbers all things considering. Through 17 starts, he has a 4.52 ERA, 82 K’s in 95.2 IP, and a 1.32 WHIP.
Similarly to Feldman, Chacin becomes a free agent at the end of the year, and he too is currently signed to a cheap contract the Royals wouldn’t balk at–1 yr./$1.75 million.
Jeremy Hellickson, Philadelphia Phillies: Hellickson was one of the few players to accept a qualifying offer last offseason, accepting a 1 yr./$17.2 million deal with the Phillies in November, 2016.
So far, he has compiled a 4.48 ERA over 17 starts, and a 1.26 WHIP. While I think he’d be a good fit due to his sinker-ball style of pitching, he strikes out very few batters, and is yielding the home run ball a little more often than he ever has. Having said that, letting his defense play behind him would serve him well on a team like the Royals, and it seems like everyone is coughing up more home runs this year.
Not very overwhelming, right? I don’t think the Royals need overwhelming. Sure, it’d be nice to see them obtain a front-line starter, but I don’t think they’re in a position to do so. All three of the guys I mentioned could be obtained relativley cheap, with regard to prospects, and none require a monetary commitment beyond this season when the Royals are sure to be starting a rebuild.
I know some will say that I’m neglecting to mention Johnny Cueto. What a perfect reunion, right? Wrong. Keep in mind there’s a razor’s edge difference between Cueto and Chacin’s numbers this year, and while Cueto can opt out of his multi-year contract at the end of this season, there is no guarantee that he will. That being the case, the cost both in terms of monetary commitment and prospects would likely be too steep for the Royals liking.
All this aside, it is much nicer being in this position, than that of a seller. I may be in the minority here, but there isn’t a minor league prospect(s) in the Royals minor league system that I wouldn’t trade for another World Series Championship flag waving out at The K.