It is almost July, which means that trade talk is going to start picking up. For the past decade the Royals have not been in contention for a playoff spot, and so we have gotten used to our part in trade talks as that of the seller. What pieces do we have that are worth anything, and who will buy them. This year that may be what happens again, or it could be the opposite this time and the Royals could look to add something. Right now it is very unclear, but within three weeks it should be.
Take a look at the upcoming schedule leading to the All-Star break:
2 at home Braves
4 at Twins
3 at home Indians
3 at home A’s
4 at Yankees
3 at Indians
There are only two teams that I truly believe to be good in that group. The A’s and the Braves are good teams, and you just hope to hold serve against them. That is only 5 of the 19 games. Some people may believe in the Yankees as well, but don’t count me among them. Their line-up is full of reclamation projects that got lucky early and are starting to come back to earth, and their pitching staff is mediocre. They are under .500 in June and I would still bet they will finish the season under that mark as well. Cleveland is okay, but their pitching staff is going to be susceptible to long droughts, and the Twins are just a bad team.
What does all of this mean? In my opinion it is pretty simple. Right now the Royals are 3 games below .500 and looking at a fairly easy stretch of the schedule leading up to the break. If come the All-Star game the Royals are not at or above .500 it is probably time to sell because the Tigers will probably be out of reach in that case and teams like Oakland, Baltimor, Tampa Bay, and Toronto are going to make a wild card difficult to get as well. If the Royals can be 3+ games over .500 the next three weeks, then they will probably be close enough in one or the other that an acquisition makes sense.
Being 3 games out of a playoff spot or so would be enough for me to expect a push. Otherwise it is time to cash in Ervin Santana who could probably bring a decent haul the way he has been pitching.
Being of an optimistic sort of persuasion I wanted to spend a little time talking about acquisition. There are two obvious places that the Royals could improve, second base and right field, which have been discussed with names like Chase Utley and Giancarlo Stanton being thrown around. I also think that third base and short stop should also at least be in consideration for trades. Mike Moustakas might be coming around and long-term Alcides Escobaris not going
anywhere, but it might be worth upgrading one of those two positions temporarily if they continue to struggle.
Let’s deal with the two mentioned first. Even Buster Olney mentioned the Royals as a good candidate to trade for Chase Utley, and it makes sense on paper. Second base needs an upgrade, Utley is in the last year of his contract, and a high on-base guy with some thump would really make the batting order more formidable. It would be very exciting, and equally terrifying, to see this sort of trade. Utley’s games played since 2009 have been 115, 103, 83, and so far 48 this year. See the declining trend? That would be high risk and $5+ million in salary depending on when you signed him.
The other player, Giancarlo Stanton, that many people have mentioned is also high risk. Stanton is only 23 and possibly has the most raw power of any player in major league baseball. He also has exactly one season where he stayed healthy. Last year he only managed 123 games and has already been on the DL for much of this season. Last year’s was a knee issue, and this year’s a hamstring. This may be bad luck, but even in 2011 he battled some injuries without going on the DL. Along with injury issues, the cost of Stanton would be huge. He would be under team control for 2014, 15, and 16 on top of the rest of this season. My guess is that to get Stanton would cost Yordano Ventura plus at least a couple of the Cheslor Cuthbert, Adalberto Mondesi, Kyle Zimmer, or some other prospect that Miami liked. Basically it would strip the farm system. Again it would be very exciting and completely terrifying. Jose Altuve is another player I have heard mentioned that may be similarly cost prohibitive.
These are not the only two players that might be a good fit for the Royals though. There are a litany of Alfonao Soriano and Aramis Ramirez types that will likely be available, but I don’t like most of them. There are a few teams though, that have interesting players and may fall far enough out of contention to sell. The Giants have Hunter Pence who would be a good add in right field and is in the last year of arbitration. Both Carlos Quentin and Chase Headleymight make sense if the
Padres become sellers. Headley still has another year of arbitration, so this might only happen if they Royals decide to call it quits completely with Moustakas. Quentin would be under control for two more years and has had injury issues so it would depend heavily on cost. Chris Denorfia would come from them cheaper and is signed through next year, but I don’t trust him.
Another Philadelphia player, Michael Young, might be worth looking into as well. He could play second or third, probably not terribly well, but his bat is an upgrade at either spot based on what has gone on so far at those positions this year. He would likely be a pretty cheap add as well. I would call Minnesota about Josh Willingham who is signed through next year and would add some power.
Hopefully, for once, we can have serious discussions about the Royals trading to get better for this year rather than the future. I haven’t spent a lot of time on it yet, but the next few weeks could cause this to become the biggest topic surrounding the team. Three weeks until All-Star time, and three weeks to find out if the Royals should buy or sell.