Evaluating the Soria/Alexander Trade

One thing is for certain, with or without Hosmer, a rebuilding project is going to take place in Kansas City.

Last night, the Royals seemed to signal the beginning of that rebuild by engaging in a three-team trade, sending Scott Alexander to the Dodgers and Joakim Soria to the White Sox.

In return, the Royals received Trevor Oaks and Erick Mejia from the Dodgers. Oaks projects as a innings-eating rotation candidate, uses his plus-sinker to encourage ground balls.  Mejia projects as a utility-infielder, who can adequately defend second base and short stop while providing a competent bat.

What goes understated is the financial relief the Royals gained from this move.  They sent $1 million dollars to the White Sox, which covered Soria’s buyout, and netted savings of $9 million.

There are some pretty encouraging scouting reports out there on Oaks, and most seem to suggest he’s MLB ready but was blocked in the Dodgers organization.

The values, or win/loss determinations, of trades like these are difficult to assess.  Some viewed Alexander as Zach Britton Jr. with several more years of team control.

Comparing Alexander to Britton is somewhat laughable, except for the fact that both are left-handed, and both feature power sinkers.  Since converting to a relief role, Britton (30) has logged about 246 innings with a 1.75 ERA.  Alexander (28.5) has logged 94 innings over the span of three seasons, with last year’s campaign being his first full season, posting 2.78 ERA.

However you want to evaluate this trade, it is a perfect illustration of a rebuilding trade.  The Royals took a valued asset, which is a rare position of depth for them, and turned it into one of the Dodger’s top-15 prospects, and fringe’ish prospect from the White Sox, and $9 million in salary relief.

@MLBPipeline has already slotted Oaks in as the Royals 19th best prospect.

This doesn’t add up.  The Dodgers feature one of the league’s best farm systems, and Oaks was #14 in their rankings.  The Royals, by all accounts, have one of the worst farm systems.  So, how could Oaks be the Dodgers 14th best, but the Royals 19th best?  I would consider Oaks securely in the top-10 Royals prospects, and likely in their top-3 pitching prospects.

Consider this snippet, ripped from the Bleacher Report article linked above:

“Pitching prospects like Jordan Sheffield, Dustin May, Trevor Oaks and Caleb Ferguson would be prized arms in most other systems.”

Even if Oaks is all the Royals got in return for Alexander, I would deem this trade good for all parties.  I’d swap left-handed relief pitchers for mid-rotation innings-eaters all day, every day.  But that isn’t all the Royals received in return.

Getting out from under the Soria contract, netting $9 million in salary relief, and a 23-year old switch-hitting utility prospect is a nice bonus.

Erick Mejia doesn’t project to be anything special, and to be honest, he’s the third best piece of this trade. Probably a distant third at that–behind Oaks and salary relief.  Our own Patrick Brennan put together a good scouting report of Mejia.

The Royals clearly have a goal to reduce costs.  Getting the $9 million in salary relief is a good start toward that.  This trade was a two-pronged deal, with the target being the acquisition of young talent and salary relief.

I’d expect to see a few deals in the near future purely focused on salary relief.  Guys like Jason Hammel and Brandon Moss seem like obvious candidates, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Alex Gordon be a casualty of cost-saving measures as well.

Dayton Moore specifically stated that there was an “economic element” to this trade.  I think you can interpret that a multitude of ways.  It could simply mean this was the first step in getting payroll down.  Or, it could mean this is how the Royals are paving the way toward re-signing Eric Hosmer.

I don’t believe the Royals are done trying to acquire prospects either.  Kelvin Herrera, Whit Merrifield and Danny Duffy remain as very possible trade candidates in that regard.  If it were me, I’d be considering moving Salvador Perez as well.

Considering their current roster construction and current lowly state of the farm system, rebuilding is not something the Royals can approach by simply dipping their toes in the water.

Trust the process.

Photo Credits: Peter G. Aiken—USA Today Sports

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