Starting Pitching Targets

It’s a well-known fact that the Royals are chasing trade opportunities for starting pitchers this offseason. Well, chasing may be a strong word. Let’s say ‘exploring’ instead. They’ve made it clear that they aren’t looking to dive into any free agent bidding wars, so trade rumors, speculation, ideas, hypotheses, and crackpot theories have been flying around in the interwebs as we all try to figure out what they’ll do next. Of course, this isn’t always simple.

So, avoiding the however improbable chance that the Royals are playing us (once again) and do sign a free agent starter, who could they be looking at? Who should they look at? And who should they be willing to give up?

I’ll admit that I don’t have any great knowledge or insight into trades or even trade value at times. But it’s always fun to hypothesize and dream a little, right?

Anyway, I want to avoid a few names that have been floating around. I do not want to write about trading for Gio Gonzalez, Jair Jurrjens, or James Shields. Gio is being hunted by about half the league and his name alone has become overvalued because of that. Therefore, Oakland is asking for a king’s ransom for him, which, frankly, he’s not worth. Jurrjens is in the same boat, though not as overvalued, but that ship has sailed as far as I can tell. And Shields was only a passing fancy that died off as soon as it became clear that the Rays would, of course, fleece Kansas City on any trade for him. I just cannot see that ending well.

So, what options are there? Just with a cursory glance, count Ervin Santana, Trevor Cahill, Edinson Volquez, Gavin Floyd, Jeremy Guthrie, A.J. Burnett, and Brandon McCarthy as possibilities. If you want to dream a little, think of David Price, Felix Hernandez, or Clayton Kershaw. There are options, as always. Trying to find the undervalued or regularly-priced pitchers makes the deal slightly more difficult.

All right, so let’s look at the longshots first.

David Price is a long shot purely because he’s arguably been Tampa Bay’s ace the last couple seasons. Tampa Bay drafted and developed Price, and they seem fully intent on keeping him. That’s not to say that a big deal wouldn’t bring him in, but the deal would have to be sufficiently massive as to equal or surpass the Royals’ haul on trading Zack Greinke. It’s simply not likely that they’d want to give that up. So, look elsewhere.

The same holds true for Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw. The Mariners are frontrunners in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes at this point, and they would conceivably want to hold Felix even if they didn’t get him. He’s the face of the franchise. That’s hard to pull away. And though Kershaw doesn’t have an extended deal in place, he just won the NL Cy Young and the Dodgers have said that they’re not interested in trading him whether he signs an extension with them or not. Both would take a huge package to get, so I would dream on.

In the category of “attainable, but not necessarily helpful” are Cahill, Volquez, Floyd, Guthrie, Burnett, and McCarthy. All for different reasons, too.

Cahill would be interesting as a long-term goal. He’s young (23) and has plenty of experience. He’s signed to an extended contract. And he’s had some decent success. Still, he gives up more hits than innings and walks more than half as many as he strikes out. I feel like we can find that sort of pitcher internally, so it’s not really worth what Oakland would likely be asking. Cahill still has promise, but I’m not sure I’m ready to dish out based on that alone.

Floyd is older than Cahill, but he’s an innings-eater and can pitch solidly throughout a season. He’s made 30 or more starts each of the past four seasons and has given the White Sox some solid work as a 3 or 4 starter. The problem is that the Royals have starters that would be a 3 or 4 starter on a good team. We just need starters that are better than that. And with the White Sox potentially being tentative toward trading Floyd within the division, it makes it difficult to foresee an easy deal.

That statement above — “The problem is that the Royals have starters that would be a 3 or 4 starter on a good team.” — is one that is debated on Twitter. These two guys above, combined with Guthrie, Burnett, and McCarthy, are likely to give you a lot of innings each year. They can solidify a rotation so that you know you can count on them to go out there for most of their starts, if not all of them. And they’ll give you a fairly predictable outcome. So, it comes down to betting on whether you want to give up something in a trade to get a pitcher that may be no better than your in-house options simply because you have a good idea what you’ll get from that pitcher and you can count on them to get the job done. I’ve heard lots of people voice their interest in Guthrie and some mixed discussion of Cahill, Floyd, Volquez, and McCarthy. The question you always have to ask is this: “Will these players be definitively useful in the future compared to in-house options?” To me, the answer isn’t clear. If it is to you, tell me in the comments. I’d personally rather rely on developing players and established Royals than look to trade for someone that may not help the team at all. Of course, I’m always open to debates.

As for Volquez, whom I haven’t discussed yet, the major problem is his injury history. Volquez has talent, but it’s been hard to find in the last few injury-plagued seasons. A trade for him would be sort of a flyer to see if he could make a return to form. It may be worth it, but with all of the options for pitchers we have, there may not be much to be gained by acquiring him.

Well, all of that leaves the guy that I like the most, whether realistically or not. I’ve always been intrigued by Ervin Santana, but, until recently, never thought it possible that the Royals might acquire him. Now, there aren’t any facts or even rumors of a trade for Santana with Kansas City. However, there are whispers that the Angels might be the leading candidate for signing C.J. Wilson. As we know, that can mean a whole lot of nothing 24 hours from now. Still, if the Angels were to sign Wilson, it’s possible that they’d be open to a Santana trade. And if so, sending something like Joakim Soria, David Lough, and Tim Melville for him wouldn’t be out of the picture.* The Angels are interested in a power-hitting corner infielder and have been fielding calls on Santana, so Butler may end up in the discussion. I wouldn’t go to Wil Myers, as you might know, but I’d be open to other non-Mike-Moustakas-or-Eric-Hosmer ideas.

*Thanks to @SisterSall, @CodySmith87, @Kevin_Agee and @ClintScoles on Twitter for the trade package ideas.

Is it likely? Not at all. It’s still hypothetical. But I think Santana might stand the best chance of helping the rotation. There’s a chance that Santana is less sought-after than the suddenly fascinating Gio Gonzalez, but either way the Royals could stand to be in the discussion for Santana.

Let me know who you’d want, if I’m wrong about any of these guys, and who I’m missing in the comments.

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