Over the next few days, as the Kansas City Royals face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers, there could be more than an opportunity for the Royals to attempt to gain ground in the American League Central. There could be an opportunity for the Royals to scout for an outfielder as well.
Between Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and a returning Carl Crawford, there simply are not enough spots in the lineup for everyone. When prospect Joc Pederson seemingly on the fast track to the majors, and hitting at a .319/.434/.570 clip with 17 home runs. Even with the caveat that those numbers are being put up in the Pacific Coast League, a league notorious for inflating offensive statistics, Pederson has certainly put together an impressive first half to the season.
However, there are roadblocks to moving either Crawford, Ethier and/or Kemp. First, Crawford and Kemp have had injury concerns over the past few years. Crawford has appeared in a total of 191 games over the past two and a half seasons, while Kemp has played in a total of 246 over that same time frame. Second, Kemp has seen his power virtually disappear over the past season and a half, with a total of 13 home runs in his last 500 at bats. Ethier also has seen his power fade recently, dropping from 20 home runs in 2012 to 12 last year to a measly three home runs thus far in 2014.
However, the biggest obstacle, especially where the Royals are concerned, may be the salaries owed these players. Andre Ethier is owed another $53.5 Million over the next three years with a $17.5 Million vesting option and a $2.5 Million buyout. Kemp is slated to earn another $107 Million over the next five years. For the Royals to even consider either player, the Dodgers would likely need to eat a significant portion of those contracts.
While neither Kemp nor Ethier have performed up to their accustomed levels recently, there could be signs that either player could be a solid buy low candidate. Kemp has hit a line drive in 27.2% of his at bats, the highest rate of his career, proving that he is hitting the ball well. Ethier, meanwhile, has not hit the ball nearly as well, with a 20.8% line drive rate while hitting an infield popup in 12.2% of his at bats. However, that could be the result of inconsistent playing time and the potential need for a change of scenery may be what Ethier needs.
The Royals could use another power bat in the middle of their lineup. Although neither Matt Kemp nor Andre Ethier has the production of a power bat thus far this year, both have been that type of hitter in the past. Kemp, in particular, is showing signs that he may be set to get back to being that type of hitter.
If the Dodgers are willing to eat a good portion of their salaries, Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier could be an interesting trade piece for the Royals. This three game series will give the Royals an excellent chance to scout both players first hand.