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Right Field Trade Targets for the Royals

Just a few short days ago, Dayton Moore was forced to answer questions about the possibility of the Royals becoming sellers at the trade deadline. After four straight wins, the Royals are two games back in the race for the second Wild Card, and six games back in the AL Central. I didn’t think the team would be selling at the deadline anyway, but this recent surge appears to be putting any of those thoughts to rest.

Now it seems like the Royals are inching closer to “buyer” territory, and as Jayson Stark notes in this article, they are being pretty aggressive. The one position that continues to be mentioned as an area for improvement is right field, and it’s hard to argue against the results so far. Nori Aoki hasn’t been as good as everyone expected, and that’s certainly had a negative impact on the team’s record.

Jarrod Dyson makes a suitable platoon partner for Aoki, but Ned Yost hasn’t really been using them in a strict platoon situation, and if the players aren’t being used in the more narrow roles in which they can excel, it would make sense to look for an upgrade from the outside. Stark brings up a few specific names in the article, so I thought I’d give a few notes on each option. He also mentions Ben Zobrist, who would be a good fit, but who would also cost far more in a trade than I think the Royals would be willing to surrender. For that reason, he was excluded from the brief analysis below.

Dayan Viciedo

He’s currently under team control through the 2017 season, which would be a much bigger positive if he were a better player. Viciedo is hitting .241/.290/.403 this season, which isn’t much worse than his career 96 wRC+. He can play both corner outfield positions, though neither of them all that well, and he hasn’t stolen a base since 2010. Other than that, he’s a fine trade target. On the bright side, it wouldn’t take that much to pry him away from the White Sox. So there’s at least that.

Chris Denorfia

Denorfia is in the last year of his contract with the Padres, and I’m guessing he’d prefer it if his contract year was going better. His park-adjusted production (80 wRC+) isn’t good, but it’s also not as bad as the raw slash line (.246/.298/.325). Because of his struggles, I can’t imagine the Padres would need to be bowled over with an offer to deal him. Another couple of positives with Denorfia are his defense and baserunning ability, both of which rate out above average. Then again, he’s 33 years old, and his batted ball profile doesn’t suggest he’s due for a major bounce-back this year.

Alex Rios

The Rangers are in an interesting position, because if they hold onto some pieces, they could be competitive in 2015 with a healthy roster. But if they look to deal a few guys off, they might set themselves up for another less-than-competitive season next year, while strengthening the organization for the long term. Rios is due another $6 million-ish this season, and has a team option for $13.5 million in 2015, with a $1 million buyout. That could be a worthwhile investment for some players, but Rios isn’t getting any younger, and if his offense regresses much from his current 102 wRC+, he won’t have a ton of value overall. He may be one of the best options available, but I don’t think he’s worth the cost in dollars or prospects.

Marlon Byrd

It seems like there’s more smoke around the Byrd rumors than any other player out there, and I suppose it’s for good reason. The Phillies aren’t going to be contending for a few years, so it would make sense for them to sell a soon-to-be 37 year old. Byrd is under contract through 2015, but he has a partial no-trade clause with the Royals on it, and he may demand that his $8 million 2016 team option be picked up in order to waive that clause. His offense has been great in the last two years, including a 121 wRC+ in 2014, and I have little doubt it would continue for at least this season.

The problem, however, is he would be drawing a significant paycheck for at least another season, if not longer, and I don’t think it would be wise for the Royals to invest that kind of money in that kind of player. He’s not a total disaster defensively, and he could spend some time at DH if that position becomes available next year, but considering he’s arguably the best hitter on the market, the Phillies may ask for a more significant package of prospects in return.

Those are all of the names mentioned specifically in that Stark article, but I wanted to bring up another name that I think the Royals should go after, and they wouldn’t have to pay much for travel expenses to bring him to town.

Josh Willingham will be coming to Kansas City next week for three games as a member of the Minnesota Twins, and if the Royals are intent on adding a bat, and if I had a say, he’d stay in Kansas City once the series is over.

Willingham does two things very well. He gets on base, and he hits for power from the right side. It just so happens that the Royals’ offense is lacking in both of those categories. Make no mistake about it: his defense is not good. But getting on base 35% of the time and hitting for extra-bases frequently can cover a lot of ills. His 117 wRC+ would fit nicely in the middle of the Royals’ order.

He’s owed another $3 million or so for this season, but will become a free agent after that, meaning it shouldn’t require a massive haul to get the Twins to trade him. I won’t postulate what kind of prospects it would take, but logically, the organization’s top guys should be safe.

The money also makes it easier to institute a platoon if needed. Willingham is certainly passable against righties (112 wRC+), but if the Royals want to improve the defense on days against right-handers, they could add Dyson into the lineup instead, and put Willingham at DH, if they don’t think Billy Butler can do enough.

Having Willingham on the roster in place of someone like Raul Ibanez would give the team another above average bat, and one that brings quite a bit of value at the plate. It’s certainly possible a platoon of Dyson and Aoki could be more productive, but I’m not confident the Royals would use a strict platoon to maximize each player’s effectiveness, and Willingham’s bat would give the roster more depth and flexibility. Of all the options presented, he makes the most sense, and would likely give the Royals more of a boost as they gear up for the last two months of the season.

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