The Royals have been rather active on the rumor grapevine recently. They’ve been connected to most starting pitching trade targets as the end of July approaches. Now comes some rumblings that the KC Royals could acquire slugger Carlos Beltran from the Yankees with reliever Luke Hochevar as part of the return package.
This story comes from New York Post writer George A. King III, whose sources informed him that the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals discussed such a deal earlier this summer. Both Beltran and Luke Hochevar are in the final year of their contracts.
If this report is true, the thinking behind such a proposed swap is rather interesting.
Presumably, the KC Royals would have to pitch in some prospects in addition to Hochevar to land Carlos Beltran. That much is obvious. But, that still leaves a few questions.
For one thing, why would the Yankees want Hochevar when they have a loaded bullpen featuring Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman? The quick answer to that one is that Chapman is a free-agent and the Yankees might be thinking of flipping him at the trade deadline. Hochevar could be an immediate fill-in, while being a guy that they believe they can sign during the winter.
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For the Royals, landing Carlos Beltran would have two benefits: 1) shore up right field and 2) balance the KC Royals lineup.
I suspect this discussion took place quite awhile ago, like back when Alex Gordon was still on the disabled list after breaking his hand in late May and the Kansas City Royals weren’t certain what they could expect from their young outfielders. Since then, Paulo Orlando and Brett Eibner have provided the team solid production.
At this point, the front office has to be less worried about the outfield spot with rookies Eibner and Whit Merrifield able to play that position while continuing to produce at the plate, and Alex Gordon’s return. Even so, Gordon is only hitting .204/.310/.336 and the league could figure out the young guys at any time now.
Carlos Beltran is having a terrific age-39 season slashing .303/.339/.548 with 20 doubles and 19 home runs. Beltran is no longer the five-tool player he was in his youth with the KC Royals, but he would bring switch-hitting pop to the lineup. Since the Kansas City Royals only have two left handed regulars in Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer, along with switch-hitting designated hitter Kendrys Morales, KC typically fields only three lefty bats and six right handed hitters.
Acquiring Beltran would improve the KC Royals power (Beltran’s 19 home runs would lead the team), he’d also give the Royals an optimal 5-4 righty/lefty lineup split against right handed pitchers. Deploying two switch hitters would also make it tough for opponents to bring in a left-handed specialist in the late innings.
The thing is, such a deal could happen if general manager Dayton Moore balks at the price for starting pitching, but still feels the need to do SOMETHING to help out his team at the trade deadline. If the KC Royals can build on the momentum from Monday night’s eighth inning rally against the Cleveland Indians, they could put Moore in just such a position.