The 2014 season has been a bumpy ride for the Kansas City Royals, who are in the midst of a tough stretch of games (six losses in their last seven) on the heels of a 10-game winning streak that had bumped them up to first place in the AL Central.
Though Kansas City has slipped back into second place, the team is still very much a contender this season. There are several holes to fill on the roster (more on that later), but the Royals are still only four games behind the division-leading Tigers and 1.5 games back in the wild-card race. That means general manager Dayton Moore will be looking to acquire some much-needed help if the Royals hope to sneak into the playoffs—in other words, they're buyers as long as they stay within reach of a postseason spot.
But who should they get? The team has obvious needs at several positions, yet most of the struggling players aren't expendable. Third base has been a disaster, but after coming this far with Mike Moustakas, the team is understandably hesitant to give up on him just yet. Omar Infante has a .294 OBP, but his contract doesn't expire for a few more seasons. Most of the roster is set, whether the Royals like it or not, and this isn't looking like the season for that to change.
That doesn't mean, however, that the Royals can't make any substantial moves this July. Let's take a look at who they might pursue.
The Royals are looking for an upgrade in right field, according to The Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough, and the high-achieving Smith could be a good fit. McCullough mentions the Padres outfielder in his article, and the move would make plenty of sense for a couple of reasons.
Always reliable but never flashy, Smith has put together a career year for a Padres offense that has been otherwise miserable. (San Diego's team OPS is .610, which, for some perspective, is 82 points lower than Madison Bumgarner's.) With his impending free agency and the Padres' clear inability to contend this year, whoever becomes the next GM for San Diego could sell high on Smith, though the team might be reluctant to get rid of its only competent hitter.
The Padres' batting leader(s).
This is purely speculation, but given the mediocrity of the Royals bullpen, the team's clear need for a good left-handed reliever and the Mariners' interest in Billy Butler (who might be done as a Royal after this season), this could happen. The Mariners would obviously throw in someone else here, maybe a bench player (see below), but with the possibility of contending this season and Butler's recent success, Seattle might be willing to give up a lot for the veteran first baseman.
He's cheap (salary-wise), he's on a team (the Marlins) that could fall off at any time and he's consistently hitting the ball well this year, with a .308 batting average and .372 OBP. As Royals Review's Max Rieper writes, the Marlins could look to sell McGehee if they fail to stay in the hunt, and they would likely be interested in getting rid of his contract while also having the opportunity to sell high on an unpredictable player who could regress at a moment's notice. This would also be a good get for a Royals team that hasn't had much luck at third base this year. Maybe Mike Moustakas isn't who we thought he was.
Any Bench Player
One important key to postseason success is depth, so those key late-inning pinch-hit at-bats don't turn into automatic outs. The Royals don't have much of that, as McCullough briefly touches on in his article, and they would be well off trading for a catcher or utility infielder who could help lessen the offensive blow of Danny Valencia (.305 OBP), Justin Maxwell (.409 OPS), Pedro Ciriaco (.484 OPS) and Brett Hayes (3-for-35, .283 OPS). That's the Royals bench as it currently stands, and it is ugly. Quite literally, any potential acquisition would be better than what's currently occupying the Royals bench.