“None of the above.” “I wouldn’t trade any of them.” “Keep them all!”
Some folks wear me out. Ask a simple question and folks act like I have the power to actually trade someone on the Royals roster.
I was actually shocked to see the results of this poll. I wholeheartedly expected the result of this poll to either wind up being a Jackson Kowar or Daniel Lynch winner. I mentioned this on Twitter already but Royals fans are constantly complaining about bloggers trying to trade off productive big league talent. Kris Bubic was, arguably, better than Brady Singer in a lot of ways in 2020. I was shocked to see Royals fans vote him off of the island after a stellar big league debut in 2020.
The irony in all of this is that I think I actually agree with you. Not because I think he’s the worst arm of the bunch, but because I think he could potentially garner the most in return in a trade.
There is a reason that Brady Singer fell to #18 in that 2018 draft despite being a top five player in most pre-draft rankings. Teams obviously felt there was something to be cautious about and, despite him having a stellar 2020 campaign in the big leagues, I worry that other organizations may under value him in a potential trade.
Daniel Lynch recently had a forearm injury, did not pitch professionally in 2020, and may be the best arm of the bunch. I worry that you wouldn’t get full value for him either due to a long absence and the fact that he could be a legitimate #2 in a big league rotation.
Jackson Kowar was sky-rocketing through the minors before hitting a little speed bump this past spring. He seemed to have lost command of his fastball, and while his curveball looked better, his changeup lacked the elite depth it had last summer. While I’m personally still 100% confident that he bounces back strong in 2021, I worry what that other teams would be as confident.
Then there’s Kris Bubic. A borderline unanimous first round talent dating back from the 2018 draft. Led all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts in 2019. Made the jump from High-A to MLB in 2020 and posted a 4.32 ERA in 50 IP at the age of 22. His baseline stats weren’t quite as good as Brady Singer in 2020, but if you take a look at the periphery, he was actually better in some ways.
It’s for this reason that I tend to think that Kris Bubic might fetch the most in a return in a potential trade this offseason. By no means am I eager to move one of the “Core 4,” but if you HAD to move one, Bubic might be the best choice at this point.
The question really is, what would a trade look like?
The Royals pretty clearly need some offensive help. The pitching staff is almost in place, but the lineup has some glaring holes. In order of need, here’s where I see the Royals needing the most help in 2021:
Whit Merrifield will obviously slot into one of those positions. The Royals have Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, Salvador Perez, and Jorge Soler to fill out 1B, C, SS, and DH. So you’ve got five of your nine spots ready to roll. Then what?
Between the outfield and second base, the Royals’ options are currently these: Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez, Franchy Cordero, Edward Olivares, Nick Heath, Khalil Lee, and Kyle Isbel.
Nicky Lopez was a Gold Glove candidate at second base this year, but is currently sporting a career 55 wRC+ in 594 PA. Lopez showed some promise with his BB% this past season, but also saw his K% rise up over 20%.
Franchy Cordero has shown a lot of promise at the plate despite disappointing overall results, and has shown he can man CF in a pinch, but he has only played in 95 big league games over the past four seasons.
Edward Olivares is a good athlete and can probably be a plus-defender in a corner, but he’s not a long-term option in CF and he was not great at the plate to close out the season.
Nick Heath got a cup of tea in the big leagues in 2020, but neither Heath nor Isbel/Lee have had any real big league experience. I am really high on Kyle Isbel for the long-term, but I don’t know if he’s going to slot in the big league outfield every day from the get go in 2021.
Maikel Franco was fine but I’d rather not bank on him to replicate a career year (60 games…) for a full season in 2021.
If we’re being honest, one of two things will happen in 2021:
- The Royals will make no moves to bring in an impactful bat that will push one of the aforementioned players off the roster and will almost certainly finish the season under .500.
- The Royals will bring in an impact bat or two that will push one of the aforementioned players off the roster and give the team a chance at being in contention in August of 2021.
I don’t really see a scenario that exists outside of those two options. The Royals can not expect to make the playoffs as their roster is currently constructed. Jurickson Profar, Robbie Grossman, Tommy LaStella, are all names I expect the Royals to mull over this offseason as guys who can step in and make an immediate impact to deepen the lineup. But if the front office wants to add a real impact bat into the middle of the lineup, they will almost certainly have to move a young arm to get it. Here are a few guys I think would be worth targeting:
- Joey Gallo. Gallo currently has two years left on his rookie deal (owed $5.75M in 2021), has maybe the most raw power in baseball, posted a .389 OBP and 144 wRC+ in 2019, and has developed into a Gold Glove-caliber defender in RF. Adding Gallo to this lineup immediately gives the Royals a chance at contention in 2021. Imagine Gallo and Soler hitting back-to-back….YIKES. The price is also….YIKES. I’m not entirely sure what it would take to get this done, but I imagine it would be Kris Bubic ++…+. However, if you could swing it, you’d have your James Shield piece.
- Charlie Blackmon. Similar story as Joey Gallo, but Blackmon can play CF and is much more expensive than Gallo over the next three seasons (owed $21M next year) and is already 35. With the seemingly never-ending directionless chaos going on in Colorado, getting a young arm like Bubic to move some money in Blackmon may pique their interest. Blackmon could slot into the top of the lineup immediately and be the impact bat this team needs for the next three seasons.
- Clint Frazier. (Feels obligatory to include him in trade talks about outfielders for young pitchers.)
- Kole Calhoun. Calhoun has two years left on his deal with Arizona worth a total of $17M. He’s got a career 106 wRC+ and hit 33 HR back in 2019 with the Angels. He’s really good with the glove in RF and he just screams Dayton Moore-type in my opinion. I think Kris Bubic may require more in return than just Kole Calhoun, and I don’t know if the D-Backs are in any way inclined to move him, but I would definitely find out if I was GMDM.
- Austin Hays. Again, I don’t know if Baltimore will be in any way inclined to move Hays, but he’s 25 years old, not a free agent until 2026, is a good defensive center fielder, has consistently hit at every level of basebal, and could be the Royals starting center fielder for the next five seasons. He would probably require more in a trade than just Bubic, but man oh man would he be nice to have in the middle of the lineup long-term.
There are obviously an infinite number of things that the Royals could do this offseason. A number of directions they could go. What they do is yet to be seen, but they have all kinds of possibilities. I’d prefer them to be aggressive and go make a move for a big bat like Gallo or Hays, but even if they don’t, their rotation will be set for a long time.
Photo credits: Gregory Bull – Kansas City Star