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Royals Mailbag: Trade Candidates, Firings and Downtown Stadium

Despite a rough season thus far, there's still plenty to chat about for the Royals.

The Kansas City Royals are having a difficult time finding silver linings this season, and that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Through 56 games entering Friday's play, Kansas City boasts a 19-37 record that's "good" for the second-worst in all of baseball. Only the Oakland Athletics, losers of nine in a row at the time this article was published, are struggling more. With that said, the Royals did win the final game of their series against the Toronto Blue Jays and the opening outing of their set against the Baltimore Orioles. All things considered, that's a small victory.

May 24, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny (22) watches from the dugout during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

In the second edition of the Inside the Royals mailbag, I fielded questions on Twitter and will be answering them below. Topics cover everything ranging from individual success (or failure), all the way to a potential new stadium being mapped out. A huge thank you goes out to anyone who asked questions. Without further ado, let's jump in. 

Zack Eisen (@zackeisen21): IF the Royals continue this way, which players are you willing to sell before the trade deadline?

If the Royals continue to struggle as they have to begin the year, not many players should be off-limits in regards to trade talks. Rookies Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez, as well as soon-to-be (?) rookies Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino should be safe in this scenario. Outside of them, though, there isn't much I wouldn't trade from this team.

Everything trade-related for this team has to start with Andrew Benintendi. The veteran is having the best season of his career and will be a free agent following the conclusion of the 2022 campaign. If the Royals aren't going to extend his contract, trading him to recoup at least something makes great sense. Whit Merrifield is also a popular trade candidate, but that's been the case for years. More on him later.

Two more names to consider; one possible and one almost surely off the table for the Royals' purposes: Scott Barlow and Salvador Perez. Barlow keeps churning fantastic innings out of the back end of Kansas City's bullpen and his club control moving forward could be enticing for a contending team looking for a lockdown relief pitcher. The likelihood of the Royals actually trading Perez is at or near zero, but Melendez's emergence and Perez's streakiness this season make it worth at least thinking about here in our little mailbag world. 

Mark Schremmer (@MarkSchremmer): Any pitching prospects hiding away in that mailbag?

Jun 17, 2019; Bradenton, FL, USA; Team Larkin pitcher Ben Hernandez (11) during workouts at IMG Academy. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Not a ton, to be honest with you, but there are a few who are performing quite well. 2021 second-round pick, Ben Kudrna, has a 0.66 ERA in four starts with Low-A Columbia. He also has 16 strikeouts to 7 walks. LHP Angel Zerpa has flashed in Double-A. Fellow lefty Anthony Veneziano pitched a seven-inning shutout for the Naturals on Thursday and is beginning to look more and more impressive on the bump.

Elsewhere, Drew Parrish is a name to watch. The 24-year-old lefty dominated in Double-A this year, tossing 55 innings while spinning a 2.13 ERA and limiting the long ball to a 0.82 HR/9 clip. His Triple-A debut on Thursday didn't go as planned, however, as he gave up four earned runs in 42/3 innings. Parrish did record seven strikeouts in the outing, speaking to his ability to get past hitters as needed. If he can continue to develop in the minors, his ETA compared to other pitching prospects should be on the early end of the time spectrum.

Jesse Morrison (@morrscode_): Why isn't Whit Merrifield performing better for my fantasy team?

Merrifield's season numbers are still extremely underwhelming, as the veteran is slashing .225/.264/.316 in 56 games. Over the past month, though, he's been pretty darn good. Dating back to May 10, Merrifield's batting average is .299 and his SLG is .441. His 122 wRC+ over that span is one of the Royals' best marks, so that's hopefully translating over to a fantasy baseball perspective. Power has never been a major component of Merrifield's game, but his ability to stockpile hits has been back for around 140 plate appearances. If that continues, your fantasy team might bounce back as well. 

May 28, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielder Whit Merrifield (15) crashes into the wall after making a leaping catch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Jogen Ninefingers (@jhaug2): What are the best options for other teams to root for? I want it to be the Angels... but now it looks like they're toast, too. Royals are doing everything in their power to drive this lifelong fan away.

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From a non-fan perspective, even I can empathize with you. It's been a brutal season for the Royals, and the lack of proactivity (or even reactivity) is suspect at best. With that in mind, here's a handful of teams I find fun to watch:

  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Angels (even though they're going through "it" right now)
  • Atlanta Braves
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • St. Louis Cardinals (please respect my decision)

If the Royals aren't on your television screen — either by nature of timing or by active choice — then watching some or all of the aforementioned five squads may bring you some joy or intrigue. 

Salvy for MVP (@KCAirForce21): What will it take to finally get Dayton Moore, Cal Eldred, Carlos Santana, Ryan O'Hearn and potentially Mike Matheny jettisoned into the sun? Or at least the unemployment line.

This seems to be the million-dollar question among those who follow the Royals. Let's tackle the player-specific element(s) first. For Santana, I've written that the hype train should be reaching its end destination soon. The 36-year-old has been playing some genuinely good baseball as of late and as such, the Royals should begin fielding or making trade calls for him very soon. O'Hearn, a pinch-hit extraordinaire who isn't offering much else, may be safe until either or both of Pratto or Pasquantino is called up from Triple-A Omaha. Even then, Kansas City's loyalty to him suggests that a DFA still may not be in the cards.

Re: Matheny... it's not all his fault. Managers, generally speaking, have less of an impact on the outcome of games than most people think. They also aren't in charge of transactions or roster construction. At a certain point, the players have to simply do their jobs better. 

With that said, Matheny's lineups and bullpen management have been questionable throughout the year and he hasn't always received the best of reviews for his ability to command a clubhouse. Speculation is running rampant during this time of year and while his seat is likely warm, I'd be shocked if the Royals fired Matheny before the end of the season. As far as Eldred is concerned, that wouldn't be nearly as shocking (it's been expected by many for weeks). 

Moore is a tough one. The club's president of baseball operations is responsible for constructing a World Series champion, but he's also responsible for keeping the Royals in a rebuild that is taking way too long. Owner John Sherman will have to have a serious chat with him at the end of the year to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the direction of the team. If Sherman feels that a change is needed, he has to pull the trigger and make it happen. This winter will define the future of the Royals for years to come.

Jul 7, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, United States; Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore (left) and principle owner John Sherman watch during an intrasquad game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Fat White Goodman (@ghostoffatwhite): (John) Sherman wants a "downtown" stadium, so where in Las Vegas do you think they put the ballpark?

We all know that a total relocation outside of Kansas City isn't going to happen (my friend Goodman does, too, so don't go after him on the internet). 

I might be crazy, but I'm starting to cool on the Royals moving downtown. Not the idea itself — it would be a neat thing to see in Kansas City and there's enough logic there for it to be a successful thing if it happens — but the likelihood of it. Before this season began, I thought it was more likely than not. Perhaps it's the struggles of the team that are leading me to believe that prioritizing direction first is more important, but I'm on the fence now. 

On the other hand, pointing to the remaining lease at the Truman Sports Complex as a "they have plenty of time!" defense isn't all that accurate. Things move quickly in the baseball world, and those plans/constructions don't happen on a whim. Sherman has made it perfectly clear that he's intrigued by the possibility of a downtown stadium, and that likely isn't going anywhere. I suppose we'll wait and see.*

*Discussing potential taxpayer contributions or all streams of possible funding is above my pay grade. 

Oct 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Rain collects on a Royals decal logo on a seat in the stands before game three of the 2014 ALCS playoff baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Again, thanks to everyone who submitted questions for the second Inside the Royals mailbag. Let's chat again in a couple of weeks.