Ned Yost, or more specifically, Casey Stern, got Royals fans fired up earlier today with this tweet:
While Yost didn’t say the Royals would be buyers, he might as well have. Yost would never suggest that his current crop of players couldn’t get the job done, but it’s plain to see that the rotation could use some help.
In Part 1 earlier this week I suggested a few National League starting pitching targets that would fit the Royals needs at the trade deadline. In this piece I’ll identify some American League starting pitchers the Royals could target.
As I suggested in Part 1, an American League trading partner is a little harder to identify because so many teams are still within reach of the Wild Card and/or are competing for their division leads.
The Royals and Twins are nipping at the heels of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, and the Yankees are only 4.5 games back from the Red Sox in the AL East.
The AL West is the only division that is well in hand. The Houston Astros have already run away with the division and are 30 games above .500. No other team in their division is even over .500. This makes the AL West a target rich environment at the trade deadline.
I maintain the Royals are not going to make a big splash. I’m not foreseeing a Johnny Cueto-like trade, as I don’t think they’ll cough up the prospects necessary to facilitate such a trade. I do think they could go for solid, middle (or back) of the rotation types, with no monetary commitment beyond 2017.
Will they actually target these guys? I don’t know. My sources? Well, just the voices in my head, but these guys make some sense.
Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are dead last in their division, and have no real chance at getting back in the race, despite having a slew of high-priced talent.
Estrada has not been his normal self this year. Prior to today’s start, Estrada had a tolerable-ish ERA of 4.86. After getting rocked by the Yankees, his ERA spiked north of 5.00. For the first time in his career, he’s giving up more hits (101) than innings pitched (96.1). That’s nothing a strong second-half of the season with a good ball club couldn’t fix.
On the plus side, his strike out rate is up a tick, as he’s punched 106 so far this season. My theory with Estrada is that his ERA and hits allowed are up this year due to pitching in front of a poor defense. The Blue Jays rank in the bottom-half of the American League just in terms of errors alone. A move to a top-ranked defense, like the Royals, could significantly suppress some of those problem areas Estrada is experiencing. See Ian Kennedy pre-Kansas City.
Estrada is making $14.5 million this year, but becomes a free agent after the season. I’d like this move for the Royals because they’d only be on the hook for whatever remains of that salary, and since Estrada has not performed particularly well for the Blue Jays, the level of prospect demands in return cannot be that high. Honestly, the Jays might just be happy to save the roughly $7 million left on the contract, and settle for a couple of lottery ticket-type prospects from the Royals.
Ricky Nolasco, Los Angeles Angels: Yet another 34-year old, and yet another un-sexy starting pitcher. Nolasco is posting respectable numbers, and would likely fit in nicely at the bottom of a contender’s rotation.
A 4.42 ERA over 99.2 innings pitched, and a contract that expires at the end of the season make him a potential trade target. A concern with Nolasco would be the long-ball. He’s currently leading the league in home runs surrendered (23). Maybe pitching in the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium would help? I said that about a certain current Royals pitcher too, as he was among the league leaders in home runs surrendered before coming to the Royals, and then went on to surrender even more as a Royal. That pitcher? You guessed it–Ian Kennedy.
Nolasco’s contract is friendlier than that of Estrada. While he’s making $12 million this season, $4 million of that is being paid by the Minnesota Twins. Like Estrada, it’s doubtful that a high return, in terms of prospects, could be demanded.
Andrew Cashner, Texas Rangers: The Royals have expressed some moderate interest in Andrew Cashner in the past. The 30 year-old righty is having a bit of a bizarre season with the Rangers. His 3.87 ERA would certainly play, but his 36 strikeouts in 74.1 innings pitched are markedly low.
Cashner has never been an elite strikeout pitcher, but his current 4.4 K/9 is about three strikeouts off his 8-year career average of 7.2 K/9. That being the case, while not striking out many, he’s also not giving up many home runs–only 5 so far this year.
That tells me he pitches to contact, and lets his defense work for him. Thus, making the Royals a pretty good fit for his services.
Like the other two suggestions I’ve made, Cashner is a free agent at the conclusion of 2017. He signed a 1 yr./$10 million deal with the Rangers last November. He too shouldn’t command an upper echelon prospect return in any trade, though I’d guess of the three pitchers I’ve suggested, his value might be the highest.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. If the Royals are truly “all-in”, then they may be desperate buyers (I’m in no way suggesting this is the case, or believe that it is). If that’s the case, ANY prospect should/would be on the table. Yes, even Raul Mondesi. I’ve seen some suggest that Mondesi is untouchable. I would certainly guess he’s about as untouchable as they get, but I remember people saying the same about Wil Myers. How’d that work out?
In 5 years, only the die-hards will be able to tell you which prospects the Royals traded en route to their 2015 World Series Championship. That’s a good problem to have, and one I wouldn’t mind having again in 2017. Prospects come and go, but flags fly forever.