As we approach July 31, 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: 23-54, 5th in the AL Central
The Royals are clearly in a new era after enjoying one of their best runs in franchise history from 2013-17, when they won at least 80 games each season, made back-to-back trips to the World Series from 2014-15 and won a world championship in 2015.
They are going back and forth with the Orioles as far as having the worst record in baseball. Not only that, but the organization has also been trying replenish its farm system after being at the bottom of the league as well.
Because of the state of the organization as a whole, the Royals were one of the first teams to admit they were talking to teams about selling their assets this summer.
What moves have they made so far?
The Royals actually dealt two of their biggest trade chips they have available within a 10-day span, as they traded closer Kelvin Herrera and outfielder Jon Jay. They dealt Jay to the Diamondbacks on June 8 for minor-league pitchers Gabe Speier and Elvis Luciano. Then on June 18, the Royals sent Herrera to the Nationals for prospects Blake Perkins, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Yohanse Morel.
The two trades signify that their long-term rebuild is in full swing and that they want to build an eventual contender again from the ground up.
Who (else) could they sell?
Even after selling Herrera and Jay, the Royals still have a ton of chips who they could get some value in return. Those chips are Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Whit Merrifield, Lucas Duda and Jason Hammel.
Moustakas is the biggest name of the bunch, as he is one of the last key cogs to the Royals’ World Series title in 2015. The 29-year-old Moustakaes would be a clear rental for any club, as he is playing on a one-year, $5.6 million deal that included $2.2 million in incentives and he wants to get paid after being snubbed of a big contract following a 38-homer season in 2017. In the offseason, the issue for Moustakas was that contending teams, particularly in the American League, didn’t need a third baseman. However, the National League might have some contenders that could use his services. Among those teams are the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals and Dodgers. But, the Royals ideally want a nice haul in return, which could deter these clubs from going after him.
Another member of their glory years, Duffy has gone from a being a reliever to a promising young ace, and now to a struggling starter that has a bunch of question marks. Because he is in the latter stage, teams are worried to try to take on Duffy and the remaining money on his five-year, $65 million contract, which he signed just before last season. In addition, teams would not part with prospects the Royals would ideally want in a deal. The only possible team that would be remotely interested in him is the Phillies, which checked in on him during the offseason.
If the Royals are making everyone available at this point, Merrifield may be their top trade chip because he is a promising young second baseman who is only in his third season in the big leagues. In that short amount of time, the 29-year-old Merrifield led the AL in stolen bases with 34 during a breakout campaign last year, when he hit 19 homers and had 78 RBI in 145 games. Though he is 29, his contract is friendly because he is not eligible for arbitration until 2020 and is a free agent in 2023. The catch, though, is that the Royals ideally want a big return for Merrifield. The other issue is that not a lot of contending teams need a second baseman or believe that is a player who will put them over the top.
As for Kennedy, Duda and Hammel, they are players the Royals would love to sell, but they are all struggling. In addition, Kennedy’s high-priced contract ($16 million per year over the next two seasons) and Duda’s injury history are major concerns that prospective trade partners do not want to take on.
The Royals will find a way to deal Moustakas, but their other trade chips will stay in Kansas City.
Out of all the contending teams, Moustakas fits with the Braves the best, so that is where he will land. Because of his contract and the Braves’ current farm system, which is one of the best in the majors, Kansas City and Atlanta will be able to make a compromise that will benefit both parties. Going to Atlanta will allow Moustakas to help a young franchise make a push for the postseason while showcasing enough of himself to land a big contract in free agency. As for the Royals, they will be able to get a prospect or two that will be key to their rebuild.