As we approach August 1, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Kansas City Royals: 43-37, 2nd in AL Central
The reigning World Series champions continue to prove their doubters wrong and are in a strong spot to contend for the third consecutive season. Despite being behind the streaking Cleveland Indians—who sit in a relatively commanding first-place for how early the season is—the Royals swept them in mid-June (immediately before the Indians began their 14-game winning streak).
Dayton Moore has shown a knack for building a contender, despite making some controversial moves—that pan out all the same—and despite Ned Yost making some questionable managerial decisions—that also pan out for the best. It's become uncanny at this point. But will the Royals be able to make the same type of additions as they did last year?
What moves have they made so far?
The biggest moves the Royals have made so far this season involve addition by subtraction, as the team parted ways with second baseman Omar Infante. Since becoming a member of the Royals, Infante has slashed .238/.269/.328 and been below replacement level.
Last year, the Royals acquired Ben Zobrist at the trade deadline to help deal with Infante's ineffectiveness. This season, Whit Merrifield has taken the lion's share of duties and has played well enough to merit the release of Infante. His walk rate leaves something to be desired, but the Royals modus operandi the past few years has been focused on putting the ball in play. And who can argue with their success? Somewhat troublingly, Merrifield's BABIP is .381 over his 166 plate appearances which may indicate some regression is due. Especially in tandem with his 19.9 percent strikeout rate.
Other than that, the Royals made a minor deal shipping outfielder Jose Ramirez to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for cash considerations.
Are they buyers or sellers?
Until proven otherwise, it's safer to assume the Royals will be buyers. Although they seem to win in anomalous ways, and the trades they make are almost universally criticized, they have been winners. They were without Alex Gordon earlier in the season. They are without Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain at the moment. Yet the team remains very much in the thick of things.
The trick then becomes fixing the current roster while perhaps not jeopardizing the future as much as they would have before—prior to becoming World Series champions. Of course the goal seems to be to win again, but replicating the same cost as last year might not only be illogical but also impossible. Raking in huge trade deadline assets like Johnny Cueto and Zobrist last year worked, but how long can a team continue to operate this way?
Their top prospect, Raul Adalberto Mondesi is currently serving an abbreviated 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. After proving through the appellate process that the drug found in his sample was in some cold medicine he had been taking, MLB was able to shorten the sentence. In all likelihood then, this doesn't hamper his trade stock then if the Royals decide he is an expendable asset on the trade market. That being said, the 20-year old may serve more productive of an asset via a call-up instead.
Their other top-100 prospect is 24-year old, right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer. He is currently struggling with a shoulder issue but was originally expected to start making a big league impact this season. That may have to wait though.
The Royals are in most dire need of starting pitching. Not only are they not working late into games, but they rank fourth-worst in FIP among American League teams. The reason this is problematic is because their one most tantalizing trade chip might be one of their starting pitchers, Yordano Ventura. The Royals were rumored to have explored trading their young flamethrower. Whether another team wants to take on his additional baggage is questionable, especially since his performance hasn't lived up to the hype behind his 80-grade fastball.
The Royals may consider outfield additions with Cain on the disabled list and Paulo Orlando manning right field, and have reportedly been in preliminary talks with multiple teams on left-handed hitting outfielders. In addition, Kansas City could make some depth additions in the infield, with third base being a spot of focus with Moustakas being out for the year.
Moore recently downplayed the possibility of positional additions in talking to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, though the team appears to be at least considering upgrades at third base and right field.
Who will they target?
Though the starting pitching market has yet to fully shake out, Kansas City is known to be involved and has already been linked to Rays left-hander Matt Moore. The Royals could look at a couple of other options, including former farmhand Jake Odorizzi or Athletics lefty Rich Hill.
In their search for left-handed hitting outfielders, the Royals were reportedly looking into Jon Jay (Padres) before his forearm broke. With Cain on the disabled list, the need for a center fielder has increased. Reds trade chip Jay Bruce could also be a fit.
Kansas City has some interest in third baseman Danny Valencia, and could look to acquire him if the decision is made to upgrade the hot corner. Over his now year-long stint with the Athletics, Valencia has redefined himself from a platoon righty into an everyday third baseman. By wRC+, Valencia is the sixth-best third baseman in all of baseball with at least 240 plate appearances. The bidding could get steep for him though. in his services, but he's under team control for the 2017 season as well.
At the very least, I would predict the Royals to drive a substantial amount of rumors. If the AL Central remains close, the Royals will likely consider themselves in that race. If the Indians start to really pull away into July then perhaps the Royals take a more measured approach; one that takes the future into consideration.
However, if the Moore and the rest of the Royals' front office feel that they are presented with a deal that greatly increases their chances of winning this year, I doubt they'd turn it down. The time for doubting the Royals is long over.