The Kansas City Royals came into the 2022 campaign looking to take a step forward following a 74-88 season that offered a bit of hope for the future. Instead, the club's winning percentage is down nearly 9% from last year and only recently has the team begun fielding a somewhat respectable product.
With that expectation versus reality scenario finally setting in, it appears that changes could be coming in advance of Major League Baseball's August 2 trade deadline. A recent report by Jon Heyman of the New York Post indicated that Kansas City may soon become sellers, and he singled out a few players in particular.
The Royals, a realistic group, will sell. Andrew Benintendi may be their top piece and Carlos Santana may draw interest. The Royals are talking “more seriously” about the versatile Whit Merrifield in trade discussions than ever before, one rival exec said. He’s a free agent after next year.
What does this mean for the Royals?
Benintendi has long been rumored to be a trade target for teams, being linked to the San Diego Padres as recently as a few weeks ago. He's enjoying one of the most fruitful seasons of his young career, although his numbers have been on the decline as of late and his free agent status this winter makes him a potential contender. The Royals have yet to engage in serious talks with Benintendi's camp in regards to a contract extension and due to his 2022 numbers and age (27), it makes sense to conclude that he may simply hit the open market and aim for a hefty payday.
In regards to Merrifield, the Royals have had ample opportunities to trade him over the years but instead have punted on those chances repeatedly. Now 33 years old and no longer in his prime, the veteran super-utility man got off to the worst start of his career this season and appeared to be a victim of Father Time. Over the past month-plus, however, his numbers have begun to stabilize and he once again resembles a quality asset for any team. If Merrifield's value is anywhere near what Kansas City has in mind this time around, he could be on the move as well. He doesn't fit the club's timeline for contention and his departure would also clear the way for a prospect in the near future.
Santana, 36, is in the final year of his contract and got off to a Merrifield-esque start to the season. His elite plate discipline stayed relatively the same, but his power was all but evaporated and he couldn't string together hits to save his life. Like Merrifield, though, he's been playing a lot better as of late (to an even more significant degree, at that) and could see his value creep back up. It remains to be seen whether that takes the form of the Royals not having to eat some of his remaining salary or even if a low-level prospect could be recouped, but the possibility of an opposing team showing interest in him seems much higher now than it did four-to-six weeks ago.
All of this is without mentioning either Michael A. Taylor or Scott Barlow, who have both been subject to trade-related discussions from fans and even some media as of late. In a year that has gone down the drain for the Royals, they'll have the chance to get at least something back for players that may not be with the team long-term anyway. That's a silver lining for an organization that is stuck having to find them due to a rebuild that's dragged on for far too long. Perhaps being transactional in the near future can help accelerate that movement.