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Exploring How the Royals and Rays Can Help Each Other

Can the Royals find a possible slight upgrade in Tampa Bay?

Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every morning, 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 keep moving through the American League East as I examine a possible trade involving the Tampa Bay Rays.

The next trade on the docket will feature baseball’s favorite penny-pinchers in the Tampa Bay Rays, who are coming off a 100-win season and an American League Divisional Series exit at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. While the Rays' style of baseball is not for everyone, there is no doubt that they get the absolute most value out of the players on their roster.

But when your payroll is generally in the bottom three of the league, having one player take up almost a quarter of that could perhaps be problematic when it comes time to make some offseason moves. The Rays always feel like a team that is more than the sum of their parts, but they also feel like a team that needs a true superstar to get them to the next level.

They possibly have that with Wander Franco, who the club should probably sign to a new deal as soon as it can before his value soars out of their price range. But with a guaranteed $30.8M set to expire off their books, Tampa Bay could be a surprise contender to sign some decent names and if they swing this trade with Kansas City, they’ll have even more cash to play with.

The Trade:

Tampa Bay Rays Receive: CF Michael A. Taylor and (possibly) cash considerations

Kansas City Royals Receive: CF Kevin Kiermaier

Behold, one of the few outfielders in baseball who could rival Michael A. Taylor for a Gold Glove this year and one who is the most expensive player on the Rays' roster at $12.2M next year. Kiermaier has been excellent for the Rays, as he’s been one of the league’s best defenders and provided adequate offensive support. But with only two years left on his deal and with perhaps the biggest offseason in Rays history on the horizon, Tampa Bay might be willing to ship him off for financial relief.

In steps Taylor, who is as good of a defender as Kiermaier but isn’t quite the consistent offensive force. However, he does have one thing going for him that makes him appealing to the Rays: He’s almost $8M cheaper than Kiermaier. If the Royals were to propose this straight-up swap and give the Rays an extra $2-$4M this offseason to play with, I think they would have a hard time saying no.

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In return, the Royals would get a player who put up a solid OPS+ of 104 (4% above league average offensively) this season. Kiermaier would fill in nicely in the bottom half of the Royals' lineup while giving them the type of defensive star they need to patrol the outfield at Kauffman Stadium. Payroll-wise, the trade only adds $7.6M to the books and with Carlos Santana and Mike Minor (Minor most likely) both departing next year, the cost of Kiermaier will be more than covered in 2023. 

If you’re still iffy on how much $42.5M could buy the Rays this offseason, let’s examine some possibilities:

  • Re-sign Collin McHugh (1.55 ERA in the bullpen) for $3-$4M
  • Kenley Jensen $10M (If Dodgers don’t pick up $20M option)
  • Eduardo Escobar $10M
  • Kyle Schwarber $12M
  • Rich Hill, Jon Lester and Hunter Strickland $6.5M combined.

That’s 11.9 WAR added to the roster and if the Rays wanted to scrap pieces like Jensen and the trio of cheap veteran pitchers to make a run at an ace like Robbie Ray, they could do that as well. What I’m trying to get at here is that Tampa Bay has options this offseason and given the fact that they’ve always been good at minimizing players' faults, they’d probably platoon Brett Phillips alongside Taylor in center field to make up for the inconsistent bat in this scenario.

If the Rays truly want a new stadium, whether it be in Tampa Bay or Montreal, there is no better way to prove their case than by investing heavily into free agency. For the Royals, they receive a decent offensive upgrade and a player that should have no problem adapting to Kauffman Stadium’s vast outfield. 

Read More: Can the Royals Get a Trade Return for Carlos Santana This Offseason?