Potential Trade Targets for the Royals: The Pitchers

Jennifer Stewart

The Royals may be looking at replicating the Ervin Santana trade to fill out the rotation. Who might be available as a "bounce-back" candidate?

The offseason is here and while the Hot Stove is still officially a few weeks away from firing up, we know Dayton Moore likes to move quickly. Let us refer to this article to examine Dayton's offseason plans.

"We’re going to look internally first. Then we’re going to look for trades, and then we’ll focus on the free-agent market. We’re not an organization that is going to be excited to go real long term with older players."

My sense is that trades will be how Dayton will want to operate this winter. The club will not have a ton of room to operate financially unless David Glass significantly increases payroll. I get the sense that Dayton is shying away from free agency overall after being burned by Jose Guillen and to a lesser extent, Gil Meche. Plus free agents won't sign here unless we overpay! Keep repeating this until its true!

So what kind of trades could Dayton pursue?

The likeliest course, if Santana and/or Chen depart, would be to seek another trade for a bounce-back candidate, preferably one entering a contract year to avoid a long-term commitment.

Jeff Zimmerman did a good job looking at our rotation prospects for next year. Dayton will probably want to add one more veteran pitcher in the middle of that rotation to keep the pitching from regressing too much. Let's take a look at some pitchers that could be traded as "bounce-back candidates" with a year or two left of control. Later, I wll take a look at second basemen and outfielders.

LHP Brett Anderson, Oakland Athletics

Anderson has an $8 million option Oakland will certainly decline, leaving him arbitration-eligible. The 25-year old Anderson has talent - he was the 7th best prospect in 2009, and has a 3.81 ERA in 84 Major League games pitched. But he has made just 43 starts the last four seasons, and was dreadful in 2013 with a 6.02 ERA in 16 games (5 starts). The Royals reportedly offered a deal for Anderson last winter for Wil Myers only to be turned down. Anderson is a Tommy John surgery survivor, although that was back in 2011. He missed time this year due to an ankle injury. If his option is declined, Anderson would be eligible for free agency next winter. He could be a decent buy-low opportunity for the Royals if Billy Beane is willing to part with depth.

RHP Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers

Billingsley has been discussed here before as he has been a very effective pitcher for the Dodgers. He has generally been between a 1.5 to 3.5 WAR pitcher when healthy, and is still under 30 years old. Billingsley is owed $12 million in 2014 with a $14 million club option and a $3 million buyout. However, he has pitched just 12 innings this year before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery. He has targeted Opening Day 2014 as his return date. To make a trade happen, the Dodgers would almost certainly have to eat most of the money owed to Billingsley.

RHP Tommy Hanson, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Angels seemingly got a steal of a deal when they acquired Hanson from the Braves for reliever Jordan Walden last winter. Sure, Hanson was coming off a 4.48 ERA season, but he had struck out 8 hitters per nine innings, and had three solid Major League seasons under his belt prior to that.

Hanson turned out to be a disaster, posting a 5.42 ERA in thirteen starts, and missing time due to an injured tricep and ineffectiveness. Hanson has long battled injuries throughout his career, but has a ton of strikeouts. He may be a non-tender candidate, but as an ex-Brave, he might still be enticing enough to take a gamble on as a buy-low candidate.

LHP J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays

Happ was a 4.2 WAR pitcher for the Phillies way back in 2009 before being dealt to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal. He was pretty good in limited action in 2010 before being dreadful in 2011. He spent 2013 with the Blue Jays, putting up a 4.53 ERA in eighteen starts. He missed some time after being struck in the head with a line drive in May. Happ can still strike hitters out - he struck out a hitter per inning in 2012. His problem has been command. He has 4.0 walks per nine innings in his career. Happ's FIP has been respectable in each of the past two seasons - it was 4.31 this year. Happ turns 31 next week and is owed $5.2 million next year with a $6.7 club option for 2015.

RHP Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays

Dare we deal with Tampa Bay again? The Royals were linked to Hellickson last winter in regards to a possible Wil Myers deal. Then Hellickson went out and had a disappointing season, posting a career worst 5.17 ERA, despite career highs in strikeouts per 9 innings and walks per 9 innings. His FIP was just 4.22, lower than in previous seasons, so perhaps playing in front of Kansas City’s defense will improve his numbers dramatically. The Rays understand stats however, so Hellickson’s trade value may not be low just because of his disappointing 2013 ERA. The Iowa native will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this year and is not eligible for free agency until after 2016.

RHP Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies

The right-hander has generally been a solid, but not spectacular 1 to 1.5 WAR pitcher the last three years for the Phillies. Kendrick has one more year until he hits free agency and will not hit 30 until next August. Kendrick’s ERA spiked in 2013 to 4.70, up from 3.90 the previous season. Much of that was due to a spike in BABIP to .306, and his FIP was still 4.01, a career best. Philadelphia may decide they need to completely rebuild, meaning Kendick could get dealt for whatever they can get for him.

RHP Brandon McCarthy, Arizona Diamondbacks

The sabermetric darling signed a two-year deal with Arizona last winter, but the oft-injured righty made just 22 starts, posting a 4.53 ERA. He missed two months in 2013 with an inflamed shoulder, but finished the season strong with a 2.94 ERA over his last seven starts. Brandon has been an effective pitcher when healthy, showing good command and a variety of pitches. McCarthy has also suffered from a variety of injuries throughout his career from a stress fracture in his right shoulder to inflammation in his right elbow to a head injury from a freak line drive to the head in 2012. He did suffer a seizure last June related to the head injury, so he continues to be a health risk. McCarthy is owed $9 million in 2014 and with the Diamondbacks young, stacked rotation, they might look to deal McCarthy to save some money.

RHP Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays

Morrow missed the last two months of the year with a nerve injury in his right forearm, so a trade for him would come with uncertainty over his health. Morrow has always made scouts drool with a fastball in the upper nineties, but has struggled to put an effective secondary repertoire together. He put up very good FIPs in full seasons with the Jays in 2010 and 2011 and posted a 2.96 ERA (3.65 FIP) in 2012. He has struck out over a batter per inning in his career, although those numbers took a sharp dive in ten starts last year. Morrow is owed $8 million in 2014 with a $10 million club option and a $1 million buyout, so the injury risk would possibly require Toronto eating some of that money.

LHP Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres

The 30 year old southpaw put up solid ERAs from 2010 to 2012, but his strikeout numbers took a massive drop in 2011. He struck out just 4.8 hitters per 9 innings in 2011, and carried those numbers into 2012. He has generally outperformed his FIP, perhaps helped by Petco Field. Richard made just eleven starts in 2013 and was awful with a 7.01 ERA. He missed the last 2 1/2 months of the season after having surgery on his left shoulder. He is eligible for arbitration and could be a non-tender candidate, should the Padres elect not to pay him the $6-7 million he would be owed. The Royals could swoop in and offer San Diego a deal (for Luke Hochevar?) or wait for them to non-tender the lefty.

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