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Should the Royals Help the Twins Unload Some Salary This Winter?

How can the AL Central rivals assist each other this offseason?

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 Central as I examine a possible trade involving the Minnesota Twins. 

Unlike in the last trade between the Royals and the Tigers, these next two teams could actually help each other accomplish their goals. For the Twins, their window has slammed shut and they’ll be engaging in a massive rebuild as they look to re-develop what was once a powerhouse squad. For the Royals, they need a piece or two to get over the hump and shouldn’t mind taking on contracts that nobody else wants.

The biggest holes the Royals have in their lineup are at third base and first base and one of those is likely to be addressed with the arrival of Bobby Witt Jr., so some creative solutions might have to be found. This player the Royals will be trading for, in my opinion, has gotten a bad rap over the years despite his production far outweighing his reputation. With this player also having only two guaranteed years left on his deal, he won’t be clogging up the farm system.

The Trade:

Minnesota Twins Receive: 3B/RF/1B Hunter Dozier, 1B Carlos Santana

Kansas City Royals Receive: 3B Josh Donaldson

This trade all comes down to the money at hand because the Royals will be taking on Donaldson’s “anchor” of a contract in return for Minnesota taking on two of the Royals' cheaper underperforming talents.

Donaldson is set to make $21.75M over the next two seasons with a possible $16M owed to him in 2024 if the team doesn’t take the $8M buyout. The Twins were looking for anybody to trade for Donaldson at the deadline, but the contract was a massive issue. For the Royals, it offers a unique opportunity.

Dozier might not be as good as Donaldson, but the Twins aren’t going to be looking for someone as good as him when they are trying to rebuild. The cost will be the driving factor in this trade, as Dozier is only set to make $4.75M this year, $7.5M in 2023, $10.5M* in 2024 and can be bought out for $1M in 2025 instead of paying him $10M.

(*) $9.25M is Dozier's set salary for 2024 but that figure goes up $1.5M after 1,500 plate appearances between 2021-2023.

Santana is owed $10.5M this year but is off the books in 2023, meaning that the Twins would save $7M this season, $14.25M in 2023, and would only operate at a $1.5M loss in 2024 before saving $9M in 2025. This is more than they would save by buying out Donaldson in 2024.

For the Royals, it allows them to add a much-needed veteran bat to their lineup who, unlike previous veteran slugger acquisitions like Santana, Lucas Duda, Maikel Franco and Brandon Moss, can still hit. Compare Donaldson’s slash lines, OPS, and home run averages his last three seasons with the last three seasons of the players listed above before they came to Kansas City. You’ll see that there appears to be far more tread left on his tires.

  • Donaldson: .251/.367/.498 (OPS+ 127) (23 HR average over 162 games)
  • Santana: .246/.370/.447 (OPS +117) (22 HR average over 162 games)
  • Duda: .231/.333/.479 (OPS+ 119) (22 HR average over 162 games)

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  • Franco: .243/.296/.427 (OPS+ 88) (21 HR average over 162 games)
  • Moss: .229/.314/.441 (OPS+ 105) (24 HR average over 162 games)

Just for fun, let’s compare Donaldson’s slash line, OPS+ and home run averages to Hunter Dozier’s over the past three seasons.

  • Dozier: .246/.322/.451 (OPS+ 103) (16 HR average over 162 games)

For those of you who are concerned about Donaldson's ability to get the ball out of Kauffman Stadium, both The K and Target Field have very similar scores when it comes to home run park factor. Donaldson has also been a terrific hitter in Kauffman Stadium throughout the majority of his career, posting a 1.210 OPS this season in his games at Kauffman Stadium.

For the Royals, financially, they’re only operating slightly in the hole when it comes to this acquisition. They would only take on $7M this season and when you add Dozier’s 2023 contract to the $12M in savings the Royals would get by buying out Mike Minor, it’s only a $2.25M difference which gives them $4M of free money. Also, it should be said that it would be cheaper for the Royals to buy out Donaldson in 2024 than it would be to have Dozier on the roster.

As for the infield arrangement and DH strategy, there are a few options, as Donaldson is a third baseman who has played first base before but not since his early days in Oakland.

Option one: (1B) Nick Pratto, (2B) Nicky Lopez, (SS) Bobby Witt Jr., (3B) Josh Donaldson, (DH) Whit Merrifield

Option two: (1B) Nick Pratto, (2B) Whit Merrifield, (SS) Nicky Lopez, (3B) Bobby Witt Jr., (DH) Josh Donaldson

Option Three*: (1B) Josh Donaldson, (2B) Whit Merrifield/Nicky Lopez, (SS) Adalberto Mondesi, (3B) Bobby Witt Jr., (DH) Josh Donaldson/Whit Merrifield

*Option three is assuming that Pratto doesn’t get called up)

Strangely enough, the only player who gets “blocked” in the minors because of this is M.J. Melendez, who would theoretically have to wait two years before getting a chance at becoming an everyday player. However, because of the Royals' possible plan to develop him into a Victor Martinez type of player whose primary position is catcher, but allows for a rotation to a spot like 1B or 3B, he might need time in the minors to get those defensive reps.

For the Royals, this trade might cost a little bit of money, but it’ll help get the flow of the organization back on track. For the Twins, they get a cheaper player in Dozier who can either help them rebuild by getting them top draft picks or by bouncing back and becoming an offensive-centric player that could fill in around the diamond. For Royals fans, this boils down to one question. Who do you think is going to be a better player over the next two seasons: Dozier or Donaldson?

The answer should be simple.

Read More: Proposing a Hypothetical Blockbuster Trade With the Astros