Will the KC Royals shop MJ Melendez at the Winter Meetings?

Kansas City's outfielder-catcher could be on the block next week.
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A week from now, when the annual Winter Meetings are at full throttle, rumors of grand deals and bombshell signings swirl around Nashville, and baseball media stick like glue to the goings-on, KC Royals fans may have a better idea of just what kind of offseason this will be.

Difficult to imagine, of course, is the club taking the Meetings by storm, moving baseball heaven and earth, and heading back to Kansas City as a force suddenly to be reckoned with. It won't happen.

But will general manager J.J. Picollo, the man with the Kansas City plan, make any really significant moves? Will principal owner John Sherman shake loose the kind of cash necessary to pry a top-drawer free agent starter away from deep-pocket suitors like the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, or any other number of well-to-do free spenders? Can Picollo engineer a club-changing trade that nets his Royals a big, reliable bat?

Or will this club, like so many of its previous versions, make the kind of middle-of-the-road, uninspiring moves to which their fans have become accustomed?

Those questions will be answered for better or worse when the Meetings end next Wednesday. So will another — to fill immediate needs, is Picollo willing to part ways with any of his bigger names?

Like MJ Melendez?

What plans might the Royals have next week for MJ Melendez?

While Picollo and his front office confidants may not have catcher-outfielder Melendez at the top of their list of players to trade, his name is sure to come up in their conversations with other clubs. More than anything else, it is his power potential that will spur interest.

Only two full years have passed, remember, since Melendez bashed 41 homers, more than any other minor leaguer, in a spectacular 2021 season in which he also slashed .288/.386/.625 and drove in 103 runs. He hit 18 for the Royals as a rookie in 2022 and 16 for them last season.

But unless and until he regularly hits 20-25 homers per season, the potential to do so, which he clearly has, won't be enough to sustain an everyday big league role. His two-season .227 average and .314 OBP must also improve; to be fair, though, he slashed .273/.352/.485 in 2023's second half, a remarkable and encouraging improvement over his first-half .206/.289/.333.

Unfortunately, the outfield corners, the places to which the presences of Salvador Perez and Freddy Fermin behind the plate have forced him, remain a bit of a mystery to Melendez, whose glovework there is at best a work in progress.

Still, the memory of that 41-home run campaign endures. It won't go away. Instead, the possibility of Melendez achieving such a thing again will fuel interest in the player the Royals haven't seemed particularly eager to move.

Picollo may not overtly shop him when the Winter Meetings begin next weekend in Nashville, but Melendez's name may well be one of the first mentioned when trade talks get serious. He'll come up in more than one conversation.

Stay tuned.

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