Would the KC Royals go all in for Luis Robert Jr. at the trade deadline?

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It is never too early for the KC Royals to start wheeling and dealing. The squad survived their slippery schedule stretch, going 5-7 against four division-leading teams. That isn't enough for Kansas City to go all in for a 2024 postseason run, but they still proved they can hang with the league's best even on their bad days. Star players can make those bad days fewer and farther between. Could Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr. be that difference-maker?

The 2023 All-Star and Silver Slugger is inarguably the most valuable centerfielder available on the market at the trade deadline. Chicago is nearly where Kansas City was at this point last year: sitting at 19-54, mired in last place, and suffering from a clear direction. They are prime sellers, with plenty of quality trade targets. However, none is bigger than 26-year-old Robert.

Luis Robert would be the KC Royals biggest trade in years.

Robert reached new heights while realizing some of his fascinating tools last year. With a strong hitting line of .264/.315/.542, a career-high 38 home runs, 36 doubles, a triple, and 20 stolen bases (in 24 tries), the dynamic center fielder maintained his health for a career-high 145 games.

Robert ranked in the 84th percentile of MLB players in terms of sprint speed, per Statcast, and was among the league leaders in barrel rate. Those traits, plus a Gold Glove-caliber glove in center field, will have teams lighting up Chicago general manager Chris Getz's phone.

Enter the New York Post's Jon Heyman. He posited Kansas City as a sensible landing spot for Robert, emphasizing them as a potential Robert suitor. It set Royals social media ablaze, marking the first time in this surprising season someone mentioned Kansas City and a top trade candidate in the same breath. Yet, the reported lofty trade price seemingly puts Robert out of the Royals' reach. That is, assuming they don't trade the farm for him.

I don't want to focus on a potential trade package for Robert, because the sticker shock is massive, no matter the players involved. But, let's ask this question: would mortgaging their future be worth landing Robert?

Luis Robert is picking up where his All-Star season left off.

Robert's most prominent red flag is certainly a dodgy bill of health. He suffered a Grade 2 strain of his hip flexor early this season and was sidelined for the majority of April and all of May. After an absence of nearly two months, Robert returned from the injured list on June 4. He wasted little time reminding people of the impact he brings to a game, going 2-for-4 with a homer in his return. Since his June 4 return, .167/.271/.524 line, 110 wRC+, and five home runs in 12 games. His abysmal batting average correlates with his equally absurd .118 BABIP; hopefully, a rebound is in Robert's near future.

Still, Robert is under contract through 2027, with a month and a half to go before the July 30 trade deadline. His MLB career at the plate makes him valuable, but his glove and speed on the basepaths only increase it exponentially.

Kansas City's outfield performance has been lackluster across the 2024 season, but the center field is their strongest position. Between Kyle Isbel and Garrett Hampson, those two have been getting it done in the field and surging this month at the plate. Investing their resources in a traditional corner outfielder feels wiser, especially with the farm system lacking prospects at that position.

If Kansas City was just an elite center fielder away from the pennant, I would strongly advocate for this trade. However, an all-in move without the capital to rebound if said move doesn't have the best-case scenario is unwise. I trust the Royals to improve in several lower-level moves, but still improve their current outfield or bullpen.

Robert is special. Robert is exciting. But he can continue being so in Chicago or another organization. The Royals do not have the appropriate resources to swing an intradivision trade of this magnitude. The betting odds favor pigs flying before the Royals trade for Robert.

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