Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day, I will be taking a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that makes sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's continue our run with the American League West as I examine a possible trade involving the Oakland Athletics.
The Athletics are in a very ominous position. They may have finished third in the AL West and posted a record above .500, but the situation is a bit more complex than it appears on the surface. Oakland is currently watching its rival in the World Series and also finished four games behind the Seattle Mariners, who possess one of the best farm systems in baseball, while theirs is stuck near the bottom.
This means that a rebuild might be closer than some might think for the A’s, a team that just doesn't have the financial muscle to compete with teams like the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels. They also don’t have the farm system to outproduce the Mariners.
This, in turn, makes Oakland a likely spot to be able to pick a high-end talent from but in return, it is going to cost a quality prospect and a couple of young and cheap MLB talents.
Oakland Athletics Receive: RHP Alec Marsh, RHP Domingo Tapia, SS Adalberto Mondesi
Kansas City Royals Receive: SP Chris Bassitt, UTL Tony Kemp
Your feelings on this trade all will hinge on how you feel about Mondesi but before you rush to judgment about trading away the Royals' newest “super-utility” player, let’s examine the facts.
Bobby Witt Jr., in all likelihood, will be on this team after spring training or early in the 2022 campaign, so one infield position will be filled. Nicky Lopez led the Royals in both batting average and OBP last year, so make that two of three of Mondesi’s infield options being taken up. Finally, Whit Merrifield has been one of the most consistent bats for the Royals over the past few years and is an elite defender at second base, so all three of Mondesi’s infield spots are now taken. This ultimately leaves two options for Mondesi to get regular playing time: move to the outfield or serve as a designated hitter.
We’ll start with the outfield, which means we have to address the elephant in the room that nobody wants to seem to talk about. Mondesi has never played a major league game in the outfield, let alone in Kansas City’s outfield. If the Royals had confidence that he’d be able to handle Kauffman Stadium's spacious center field, they wouldn’t have re-signed Michael A. Taylor. Since there’s no chance that Mondesi will start in left field over Andrew Benintendi, the only option left for him is in right field. That is currently occupied by Kyle Isbel, a top-five Royals prospect who may have shown he can hang against big-league pitching, and possibly (likely) others.
As far as DH is concerned, Mondesi flat-out cannot hit for any type of consistency. Ultimately, it was either going to be him or Royals prospect Nick Loftin in this trade. Given what Loftin did in Single-A this year, it makes the decision easier in the end.
Marsh is a big, strong righty that can dial it up close to 100 MPH with the fastball and has two plus off-speed pitches and a developing changeup. The real question with him will boil down to health, but he should be able to crack into the majors soon. Tapia is the final player involved in this trade, and he’ll help add some immediate value in the form of bullpen relief for the A’s.
The Royals, in return, will receive one of the better pitchers in baseball over the past four seasons in Bassitt — who would instantly move to the top of the team's rotation. The Royals have a lot of potential but lack the type of dependability that's needed from a front-line starter. Bassitt might only be under control for one more season, but he seems like a probable candidate to immediately sign a new deal. Let's operate under the assumption that this transaction only gets completed if an extension accompanies it at some point. If the Royals are on the market for a new James Shields to help stabilize a young rotation, there probably aren’t many better available and realistic options than Bassitt.
Kemp would replace Mondesi as the super-utility player and would serve as someone who has experience in both the infield and outfield. He has shown improvement over the past two seasons, unlike a certain former highly-touted Royals prospect.
This is the type of move that would send messages to both fanbases. For the Royals, it shows that they are willing to move past the "waiting for development" stage and will try to contend. For the Athletics, it shows that they are willing to avoid a long rebuild by getting value back for players that they may not be able to keep after 2022.
At some point, the Royals will have to prove they are serious about winning. Teams that keep inconsistent players out of fear of what they might become are not teams that are serious about contending. In acquiring an arm like Bassitt, Kansas City would be making it perfectly clear that things are different now.