Friday Hot Stove Roundup - Royals Talking Butler to Toronto?

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Billy Butler to Toronto? A Justin Maxwell/Dee Gordon swap? Is Infante ours? Will Shaun Marcum come home? Let's review a day's worth of rumors.

The Winter Meetings wrapped up in Orlando yesterday with the Royals not making a single move, but that doesn't mean they don't have a lot of pots on the burner. As Dayton puts it:

"Oftentimes," Moore said, "(the meetings) are a precursor to another deal or an opportunity to make a deal. More than anything else, you’re able to dissect your team and get a good evaluation of the other 29 teams."

The most notable trade rumor was from Toronto columnist Jeff Blair, who reported the Royals and Blue Jays had discussed a swap that would send Billy Butler and prospects to north of the border. Bob Dutton's discussions with club officials seem to suggest the Royals are willing and perhaps even eager to deal Butler.

Even now, a trade involving Butler is possible. The Royals have All-Star catcher Salvy Perez under control through 2019 but are already seeking ways to keep him in the lineup when he isn’t behind the plate."Before too long," a club official said, "the DH spot has to be a rotating position for us. It really does."

It is hard to imagine what kind of return the Royals would be interested in from Toronto for that price. Both clubs need a second baseman quite badly. The Royals could use a starting pitcher, but Toronto's rotation was a mess last year. Veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buerhle might be available, but both are quite costly (Dickey makes $12 million next year, Buerhle a ridiculous $18 million) so its hard to see how that makes sense for the Royals. The Blue Jays have some nice pitching prospects like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Robert Osuna, but the earlier reports were the Royals sending prospects to Toronto.

Other possibilities include Colby Rasmus, who the Jays have been rumored to be dangling as trade bait, or even slugger Jose Bautista. Its hard to see how the pieces fit right now, but that hasn't stopped Dayton in the past. At the very least, I think there is at least a 50/50 chance right now that Country Breakfast does not open the season in Royals blue.

In other hot stove news, the Royals are still pursuing Omar Infante, but the club seems very unwilling to go a fourth year.

The Royals can’t afford long-term deals that, effectively, produce dead money in the closing years. (Can Seattle, for example, really expect Robinson Cano to be worth $24 million a year at age 39, 40 and 41?)"We just can’t do that," Moore said. "For us, players have to be able to produce over the entire length of the contract."

Dan Szymborski ran ZIPS to project Infante as a 1.7 WAR player in 2014, 1.5 in 2015, 1.3 in 2016, and 0.8 in 2017. The Yanks have indicated they are out of the bidding, holding firm at three years $24 million. Is Omar as good as ours? Not so fast, as it appears the Reds have emerged as an unlikely bidder, although they would have to move Brandon Phillips to make room for Infante.

The "holy crap are you serious Dayton" trade rumor that briefly surfaced yesterday was a proposed swap of Justin Maxwell to the Dodgers for infielder Dee Gordon. Fortunately, that rumor was quickly shot down. Dee, son of former Royals pitcher Tom Gordon, is a left-handed shortstop and former prospect who has disappointed in recent years. In 669 MLB plate appearances, the 25 year old Gordon has hit .256/.301/.312 with no power, but 66 career steals. Yuck.

Jayson Stark reports the Royals are one of the teams in on Kansas City native Shaun Marcum. The 32 year old Marcum had a 5.29 ERA in 14 games with the Mets last year, but was a solid 1-2 WAR pitcher before that. Cleveland and Texas are also pursuing the right-hander who recently underwent surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome in July. Marcum would probably sign for a one-year deal with incentives.

A new name attached to the Royals is pitcher Jason Hammel. Hammel had a 4.97 ERA in 26 games with the Orioles last year, but posted a 3.43 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning in 20 starts in 2012. Hammel is pretty much a back-of-the-rotation guy that should be pretty cheap. The right-hander is just 31, and has only twice made 30 starts in a season.

Finally, the end of the winter meetings marks the end of Royals coverage from Bob Dutton, who is leaving the Kansas City Star to cover the Seattle Mariners for the Tacoma News Tribune. In all sincerity, we will miss Bob and his acerbic wit. He was a veteran sportswriter who reflected both the best of the old guard, while at the same time embracing new technologies such as Twitter. He will be missed.

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