We continue our exploration of possible trade targets for the Royals by looking at second basemen. With Chris Getz still hitting anemically, and Johnny Giavotella not looking all that great, the Royals may decide to tender Emilio Bonifacio who looked impressive on the basepaths but was average at the plate and dreadful in the field. If they look to upgrade the position, here are some possibilities for a trade.
The Expensive Veterans
The Royals don't really have room in their budget to add one of these players unless they either increase payroll or get someone to eat a lot of the money owed on these contracts.
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Royals were rumored to be interested in Kendrick at the trade deadline, and the Angels seem determined to move him this winter. Kendrick is easily the best proven player on this list, as he was a 3.3 WAR player in 2013, hitting .297/.335/.439 with 13 HR 54 RBI. He would be a huge upgrade at second and could fill in as a top of the order hitter. The 30-year old is owed $19 million over the next two seasons. Kendrick does have a limited no-trade clause that includes the Royals, however those are not iron-clad as players often waive them in return for compensation. A trade for a player of Kendrick's stature would cost the Royals dearly in talent, with probably a player like Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura at play.
Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox
The 33-year old former Royals infielder signed a three-year deal with Chicago last winter after a 2.7 WAR season in Tampa Bay in 2012. The first season of that deal has already been a disaster with Keppinger hitting .253/.283/.317 in 2013. Keppinger is owed $8.5 million over the next two seasons - not a huge amount - but Chicago may want to rid themselves of the contract to save costs. Keppinger did hit a bit better later in the year - he hit .274/.321/.357 after June 1, but he'll be 34 on Opening Day.
Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
The Rangers have a glut of middle infielders with Elvis Andrus locked at shortstop and uber-prospect Jurickson Profar ready for big league action. Ian Kinsler may be the odd man out unless they decide to shift him to first base. Kinsler, a former Mizzou Tiger, hit .277/.344/.413 with 5.0 WAR for the Rangers. The 31-year old is still owed $63 million over the next four seasons, including $16 million next year, so its hard to see how the Royals can afford his contract without Texas absorbing some of the cost.
Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves
Uggla has been absolutely dreadful in 2013, so much so that the Braves left him off their post-season roster. Uggla has always been able to hit for power, smacking 231 career home runs and a .458 career slugging percentage. But his awful defense and lack of contact caught up to him this year, as he hit just .179/.309/.362 for -1.3 WAR. Still, he managed to draw 77 walks and hit 22 home runs, better than any Royals hitter save for Billy Butler's 79 walks. If Uggla can manage to make a bit more contact, he could be valuable. As recently as 2012 he was a 2.9 WAR player. He is owed $26 million over the next two seasons, so the Braves would likely have to pay for some of his contract.
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewrs
Ned should be familiar with what Weeks can do from their days together in Milwaukee, however that productive Rickie Weeks is long gone. Weeks has been an awful player the last two seasons, producing a combined -1.5 WAR. Weeks is owed $11.5 million in 2014 with a $11.5 million vesting option for 2015. The Brewers would likely have to eat most of that to get a deal done. If the Royals think the 31-year old still has something left in the tank, it could be an interesting reclamation project like Melky Cabrera, but most likely Weeks is toast.
The Young Veterans
Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
The Royals were rumored to be interested in Beckham at the deadline. The former 2008 first round pick was a 2.1 WAR player his rookie season, but has been a disappointment ever since. He hit just .267/.322/.372 in 2013 and is arbitration-eligible, with an expected salary around $4 million. Beckham has some pop, hitting 16 home runs in 2012, but cannot make enough contact to be valuable and is below average defensively. Beckham is not a free agent until after the 2016 season, and is still only 27 years old.
Danny Espinsosa, Washington Nationals
After two 2.5 WAR seasons, Espinosa had a disastrous third season in 2013. He hit .158/.193/.272 in 167 plate appearances, was demoted, and lost his starting job to prospect Anthony Rendon. Espinosa has great power for a middle infielder, hitting 38 home runs over 2011-2012. He can also swipe a bag or two, stealing 37 bases over the same period. He also led the league in strikeouts in 2012 with 189. With Rendon at second now, Espinosa could be on the way out and should be an interesting reclamation project for a team needing a second base upgrade. Espinosa is a very good fielder, and doesn't turn 27 until late April.
Logan Forsythe, San Diego Padres
I wrote a bit about Forsythe here when the Royals were scouting Padres hitters. Forsythe is a right-handed hitter who can play all over the infield. The former first round pick broke into the big leagues in 2011 and struggled initially. He improved in 2012 but slumped badly in 2013, hitting .214/.281/.332 in 243 plate appearances. Forsythe has pretty marginal power, but has shown a terrific ability to get on base, once drawing 102 walks in a minor league season. The big knock on Forsythe has been injuries. He suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2011, a foot injury in 2012, and he opened this year on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis. Forsythe still doesn't make a lot of money so the Padres aren't that motivated to move him. But with Jed Gyorko playing well at second and their desire to re-sign Chase Headley at third, Forsythe's role will be as a depth/utility player. If the Royals offer something more useful to the Padres, they might be able to land a player who can draw a walk. But can he stay healthy?
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
The Mets are reportedly open to trading Murphy although they do not feel the need to move him. Some reports indicate they would like to move him to first base and upgrade the defense at second base. Murphy is a very poor defender - only Rickie Weeks and Dan Uggla had a worse defensive WAR than Murphy at second base. Murphy earns his meal ticket with his bat, hitting .286/.319/.415 with 13 HR 78 RBI in 2013. Despite his defensive liabilities, he's been a steady 1.5 WAR player, with a 3.0 WAR season in 2011. Murphy is arbitration-eligible and should get a salary between $4-5 million, and is not a free agent until 2016.
Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays
Rodriguez is a low-OBA, decent slugging middle infielder who has been a solid and cheap bench contributor for the Rays. He hit .246/.320/.385 in 222 plate apperances for the Rays in 2013. Sean is a lefty-masher, posting a .750 OPS against southpaws versus a .603 OPS against righties. His defense has been all over the map. He had 2.2 dWAR in 2010 primarily at second base, but was replacement level this year, although this year he was asked to play all over the field. Rodriguez may not be an every day player, but he might make an effective platoon partner, and he should still be cheap enough to fit in the Royals budget.
Scott Sizemore, Oakland Athletics
Sizemore put together a pretty decent 2011 season for the Tigers and A's, hitting .245/.342/.399 with 11 HR 56 RBI in 429 plate appearances. The problem is, he's had just six plate appearances in the two years since. Sizemore was a good hitter in the minors who fell out of favor in Detroit and was dealt to Oakland where he thrived in 2011. A freak knee-injury in spring training wiped out his 2012 season. In the first week of the 2013 season, Sizemore re-tore his ACL, wiping out the rest of his 2013 season. Sizemore should be eligible for arbitration this winter, and is a possible non-tender candidate, but the Royals should consider making a deal for him if they feel confident he can bounce back from his knee injuries.
Jose Ramirez or Ronny Rodriguez, Cleveland Indians
Ramirez was graded a C+ prospect by John Sickels before the year. The 20-year old hit .272/.325/.349 in AA with 33 steals before earning a brief cup of coffee with the Indians. The Indians currently have Jason Kipnis at second and Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop with Francisco Lindor coming up and Dorssys Paulino behind him. Some of their middle infield talent could be expendable. If not Ramirez, then 21-year old shortstop Ronny Rodriguez could be an option as well. Rodriguez hit .265/.291/.376 in AA, but hit 19 home runs the previous season. The infielder may fit better at second, although his poor on-base skills may limit his value.
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona has Aaron Hill signed long-term at second base and Didi Gregorious with an impressive debut at shortstop. The twenty-two year old Owings could be the odd man out. Owings had a fantastic year in AAA, although it was in the thin air of Reno, Nevada. He hit .330/.359/.482 with 12 HR 81 RBI and 20 steals. Owings has displayed good power for a middle infielder although his plate discipline is terrible. Sickels describes him as having good defensive tools, so he should be able to transition well to second base. He's not considered an elite prospect, but it may cost some talent to acquire him.
Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
Wong is also a prospect held in high regard, but could be available with Matt Carpenter ahead of him at second base in St. Louis. Sickels graded Wong as a "B" prospect, calling him a steady glove who can get on base and hit for some power. Wong hit .303/.369/.466 with 20 steals in 21 attempts in AAA before getting a cup of coffee with the Cardinals. While the Cards may elect to move Carpenter to third and cut David Freese loose, they may decide to use Wong as trade bait for a Major League player like a shut down reliever.