OF Dairon Blanco
The hope is that outfielder Dairon Blanco will have a breakout year for the Royals. He stuck with the big league club for 69 games last season, impacting the game in all facets. He was a menace on the basepaths, with 24 stolen bases, and was only caught stealing five times. His 30.3 feet/second spring speed was the fourth fastest in the league and top amongst outfielders. Blanco made a name for himself swiping bags in the minors, and that facet of his game transitioned seamlessly to the majors.
One thing that fans overlooked were his contributions at the plate. After all, he was one of Kansas City's best bats in the second half. He led the Royals with a 143 wRC+, surpassing AL MVP candidate Bobby Witt Jr.'s 139 mark. Blanco got on base at an excellent clip and did damage with his base-stealing abilities. It is a rather straightforward and successful approach for the 30-year-old rookie.
That last part is why the Royals need to constantly be gauging Blanco's trade value: his age. The Cuba native had a relatively late start to his MLB career, and that severely hinders his value. Sure, the same thing could be said of All-Star Whit Merrifield, but his rise is the exception rather than the rule. A baseball player's speed can disappear fast, whether it be via injury, age, or inexplicable reasons. Blanco's only elite tool is his speed, and that makes his value very fluid.
Also, does his age fit the current Royals timeline? I understand Kansas City's free agency additions were on the older side, but most of the 40-man roster remains under 30 years of age. If Kansas City sees a Blanco replacement in a player like Tyler Tolbert or Garrett Hampson, the Royals should move on from Blanco with an appropriate trade partner. After all, speed kills, and contenders will want to have that in spades.
I love Blanco; I really do. I genuinely believe he would be a top-five fWAR position player on the 2024 Royals. I just do not believe that Kansas City should keep him at all costs. It would be wiser to trade him at his relative peak and lean upon a younger and similar player in Tolbert. Plus, Blanco's tools are elite enough that Kansas City could add more lower-level minor leaguers.