KC Royals Trade Targets: Clay Buchholz, Jeff Samardzija

The latest KC Royals rumors whisper that the team is interested in Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz and White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija, according to Boston Globe reporter Nick Cafardo.

The Kansas City Royals are among a list of teams pursuing the pair of pitchers who are both number two or three starters rather than staff aces. Thus, the Royals, Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers think that they won’t have to give up the farm to obtain them.

Earlier, we heard reports that the KC Royals are interested in Reds starters Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. My colleague David Hill here at Kings of Kauffman has also explored the possiblity of acquiring Oakland A’s starter Scott Kazmir.

Clearly, as conventional wisdom around the league suggests, Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore is looking to add a rotation piece for the playoff push.

While emergency starters Chris Young (7-3, 2.71 ERA) and Joe Blanton (2-0, 1.73 ERA) have pitched better than anyone could have expected, the KC Royals rotation has the feel of a MacGyvered contraption held together by duct tape and bailing wire. Kansas City Royals starters rank dead last in major league baseball with 399.0 innings pitched.

Despite limited innings from their starters, the KC Royals rank second in the American League with a 3.47 staff ERA. They’ve managed this feat due to leaning on their outstanding bullpen more than any team in major-league baseball.

May 17, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) throws the ball to first against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Both Clay Buchholz and Jeff Samardzija are 30-year-old, right handed starters that can be occasionally, but not consistently, dominant. Neither are viewed as aces, but are considered above-average starters by scouts.

Samardzija is more of an innings-eater between the two, pitching over 200 innings each of the last two seasons. While Buchholz has never pitched 200 innings in a season, he is throwing the ball better than Samardzija this year.

Buchholz  has a 5-6 record with a 3.68 ERA and an outstanding 2.71 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).  Meanwhile, Samardzija counters with a 5-4 record, and a pedestrian 4.56 ERA for the White Sox. His FIP is a much more respectable 3.66.

The bottom line is that while neither pitcher has enjoyed many favors from their defense this season, Buchholz has been dominant while Samardzija’s FIP is close to league average. Samardzija, however, might command less in trade due to his adjusted ERA (ERA+ which accounts for park factors, opponent quality, and team defense) of 83 (17% worse than league average).

There are, however, problems with both of these potential trade targets. MLB Trade Rumors reports that the Red Sox are reluctant to deal Clay Buchholz, while the White Sox are a division-rival of the Kansas City Royals. Of course, with Chicago falling out of contention, that old-school tradition might not be much of a deterrent to deal.

I, however, am not so hot on pulling the trigger on such a trade before the KC Royals give AAA prospect John Lamb a trial in Kansas City. Lamb leads the Pacific Coast League with eight wins, along with an outstanding 2.71 ERA that ranks fifth among PCL starters.

In short, it seems a waste of prospects to deal for Buchholz or Samardzija before finding out if Lamb’s dominance in the PCL can translate to Kansas City.