It’s time for a wake-up call when it comes to the Kansas City Royals.
As the team stands right now, it probably isn't good enough to reach the postseason next year, and relying heavily on prospects to get it over the proverbial playoff hump is a risky strategy. Free agency is around the corner but given the fact that owner John Sherman is very unlikely to increase payroll by a significant amount, the likelihood of making a splash big enough to carry the Royals to the postseason is even slimmer.
In all likelihood, the Royals will need to dive into the trade market this offseason if they plan on being a legitimate playoff-contending team. This is what brings us here today as we are about to embark on a journey that will see us contemplate 29 trades in 29 days. Let's hypothesize about some moves that can make the Royals a more competitive baseball team in 2022.
- Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez will not be moved in any of these trades. They are untouchable for our purposes.
- To establish a reference to a particular player's trade value, I’ll be using the Baseball Trade Values official simulator.
- All of these will be realistic targets for the Royals in terms of a team's willingness to trade a certain player, so don’t expect to find a Shohei Ohtani-to-the-Royals trade package here.
- I will try my best to keep any new salary to an absolute minimum in an effort to avoid setting an unrealistic expectation for the Royals' payroll.
The first trade that we will be evaluating is a possible exchange with America’s favorite team in the New York Yankees. Yankees fans have a certain reputation when it comes to drumming up trades that would see them upgrade their roster by giving a little and taking a lot. However, there is an opportunity for the Royals to get possibly get better by trading players from a position of excess.
New York Yankees receive: INF Adalberto Mondesi or INF Whit Merrifield
Kansas City Royals receive: 1B Luke Voit, 2B Gleyber Torres, SP Michael King and OF Estevan Florial
The Royals have potential logjam brewing in the middle infield with the emergence of Nicky Lopez and the impending arrival of Bobby Witt Jr., which means that solution needs to be found sooner rather than later. This means that harboring two utility players that will be scrapping for playing time at the same position is a possible detriment to the team going forward.
The Yankees organization appears to have already fully given up on Voit. This point was made all too clear when the club acquired Anthony Rizzo at the deadline and looks to be the favorite to re-sign him in the offseason. Fans are through with Torres as he, alongside the likes of Aaron Boone, Gerrit Cole and former hitting coach Marcus Thames and former third base coach Phil Nevin have been turned into a scapegoats for the team's recent failures. Voit would fill a massive hole in the lineup and would take at-bats away from both Carlos Santana and Hunter Dozier until Pratto is completely ready to be promoted.
For Torres, even though his numbers have fallen off in recent years, I chalk that up to him being forced into the shortstop position despite being a natural second baseman. He has shown when he is on that he is the type of player that can really help a franchise — the problem is that his last few seasons have raised the question of whether he peaked after his second season. Torres is the real gamble of this trade, as he doesn’t have an elite glove nor the type of versatility to fall back on if he can’t return to being a quality player.
King, though, has the potential to be the real difference-maker in this trade. As a right-handed starter that has never really been taken seriously by the Yankees as a future piece, he could be someone the team might part with as it searches for a big splash to appease fans. With four out of the five members of the current starting rotation coming back this year for New York and so many big names hitting the market this offseason, it’s hard to imagine the Bronx Bombers not making a move for one of them. This means King very well could be the odd man out.
As for Florial, he was once one of the most sought-after prospects in baseball as he possessed the ability to be a potential five-tool player. As of right now, he’s a 23-year-old Triple-A player who has trouble recognizing off-speed pitches and needs to shorten up his swing in order to have a chance of sticking in the majors. He's the type of throw-in player that could pan out in the end for KC, but his inclusion is not the linchpin holding this trade together.
Merrifield had a down year offensively with an OPS+ of 91 but even with that being said, his batting average would’ve been the second-highest on the Yankees this season and his 40 stolen bases are more than their entire starting lineup had combined. Merrifield offers the potential to be an infield version of Brett Gardner, and that could be a difference-maker for a team that desperately needs to diversify its offensive portfolio.
My opinions on Mondesi are well known and I would prefer the Yankees take him instead of Merrifield in this trade, which they might if they believe that Mondesi has the potential to break out with them. However, if King and Florial are going to be a part of this trade, I feel that the Royals would have a better shot of getting them if they traded a more established big-leaguer like Merrifield. This would free up Mondesi to become the super-utility man that so many believe he can become despite never having played a single game in the outfield.
If both Voit and Torres get through arbitration with new $4 million contracts, the Royals would take on about $8M-$9M in new salary if you include the inclusion of King to the payroll. Florial starts the year in Omaha.
If the Royals were going to trade Merrifield, the biggest bang for their buck could be found in New York with a team that is potentially desperate to get rid of what they consider to be dead weight. For the Royals, this would be a chance to address a major hole in the lineup while also getting younger at second base and adding both a quality young arm and a prospect that could prove to be valuable in two years if he develops properly.