The Kansas City Royals' 2022-23 offseason is shaping up to be one of the most important ones in franchise history, and there's plenty of room for improvement after this past campaign.
Coming off a 97-loss 2022 season, Kansas City has clear needs in the starting rotation and bullpen while also wanting to add a right-handed bat to its lineup over the next couple of months. That plan, combined with internal development contributing to better results from young players, is geared toward 2023 and beyond. With not a ton of cash to spend and little action on the free agent front thus far, though, how could that process unfold?
Jim Bowden of The Athletic recently published an article with potential solutions for American League teams' most pressing offseason needs. This was based on his own analysis, as well as insight he'd gained throughout the league. He lists multiple high-priority needs for Kansas City, but no specific free agent or trade targets. There was one tidbit, however, that stuck out. Bowden wrote that it wouldn't come as a surprise if the Royals ended up trading both Michael A. Taylor and Hunter Dozier:
The key to the Royals’ future success will be finding ways to improve the development of their pitchers at all levels in their system. Don’t expect Kansas City to be big spenders this offseason as they’ll likely wait until they’re closer to becoming contenders in a couple of years. But don’t be surprised if they end up trading center fielder Michael A. Taylor and infielder/outfielder Hunter Dozier this offseason, if they can find the right deal.
Neither player's name has been averse to trade rumors over the past several months, with Taylor garnering interest near this summer's deadline and the nature of Dozier's performance in relation to his contract bringing his job security into question. With that said, this serves as yet another backing of a potential Taylor trade while also doubling as legitimate fuel for the Dozier situation as well. Where there's smoke, there's oftentimes fire.
Taylor, who is set to make just $4.5 million next year, is likely an appealing option for multiple teams looking for either an end-of-the-lineup piece or a fourth outfielder. The veteran had a resurgence of sorts in 2022, slashing .254/.313/.357 with a 90 wRC+ and a career-best 7.7% walk rate. Additionally, he continued to serve as a clear positive defender in center field and was a Gold Glove finalist. With players like Kyle Isbel and Drew Waters chomping at the bit for more playing time, especially given Taylor's age (31) and upcoming free agency after next year, a trade makes sense.
Dozier, also 31 years of age, currently has two years and a club option left on his contract. He's slated to make $7.5M total in 2023, followed by $9.25M in 2024. That level of pay doesn't align with his recent production, as the former first-round pick hit just .236 with 12 home runs in 129 games for Kansas City this past season. Dozier is now two years removed from a solid COVID-shortened 2020 and three years removed from his breakout 2019 campaign. It remains to be seen what his market looks like, but an organization with money to spend may be willing to take on the contract.
Bowden's "if they can find the right deal" line is worth keeping in mind. There's a case to be made for the Royals to trade either of Taylor or Dozier (or both), but another team also has to be willing to make a move. On the flip side, Kansas City needs to be satisfied with any potential return before finalizing anything. If another MLB club can assist the Royals in their rebuild, though, Bowden's report indicates that they may be willing to make something happen.