There has been a lot of talk about the Royals trading Ervin Santana, their most valuable trade chip that is not really part of the future. You can read a good discussion of Santana's trade value by stlfan here, and I'll get into Santana's trade value more a bit next week.
But today, I wanted to look a bit at trades that can help now and in the future. The Royals are in kind of an awkward no-man's land, not quite good enough to be buyers, but not terrible enough that they are definitely sellers. They probably should be sellers, but with the team near .500 and suspicion that some people in the organization may be feeling a hot seat, I can understand the temptation to not be complete sellers.
So let's take a look at some moves that could benefit the team not only this year year, but for the next couple of years. Such deals are possible, even if they are less probable. These are not trades that are rumored to happen, just a discussion of the kind of players the Royals should target.
3B Cheslor Cuthbert and P Kyle Smith to Miami for 1B/OF Logan Morrison
Why the Royals make the trade: Morrison is a Kansas City-native who is young and cheap. He is not eligible for arbitration until next year and is not eligible for free agency until 2017. He has excellent power with a .195 ISO and can draw walks with a .340 career on-base percentage and a walk rate of 11%. Cuthbert is likely blocked at third by Moustakas.
Why the Marlins make the trade: The Marlins are a notoriously cheap organization and may want to clear salary to be able to afford Giancarlo Stanton or simply to save money period. Morrison has been a thorn in management's side, filing a grievance against the team for gaming his service time and is an active Tweeter whose comments have been known to get him in hot water. Cuthbert and Smith give them more cheap talent in their pipeline, with Cuthbert possibly ready to step in and start at third base in a year or two.
Analysis: How great would it be to bring the Blue Valley West alum back home? Morrison idolizes George Brett, so to have him in the same organization as ol' #5 would be a terrific feel-good story. Morrison would also greatly help the Royals lineup, adding pop and plate discipline. Morrison is a first-baseman by trade, and has moved to the outfield since being promoted to the big leagues, although he is back at first again. He has never played an inning of right field, so he'd either have to learn a new position, or Alex Gordon will have to move.
The Marlins have been known to cut-bait cheaply on promising young players. They sold low on Cameron Maybin and Jeremy Hermida, only receiving a pair of relief pitchers in both deals. Morrison has put up much better numbers, but has also been an injury risk missing much of the year after knee surgery, along with back troubles.
Comparable trade: 2007 - Arizona trades OF Carlos Quentin to the Chicago White Sox for 1B Chris Carter
Quentin was a former top prospect with injury problems that had a terrific rookie campaign only to be disappointing his sophomore season. Scouts differed in their assessment of Carter, with John Sickels loving his bat and grading him a "B+" prospect while Baseball America ranked him as the tenth best prospect in the A's system right after he was dealt to Arizona (and dealt again to Oakland).
Why the trade won't happen: The Marlins won't want to trade Morrison until he can put up good numbers again and resurrect his trade value. Morrison doesn't really fit Kauffman Stadium's spacious outfield with his defensive limitations and gimpy knees.
Logan Morrison is recovering from a long two-year bout with knee troubles that have ended his season prematurely once already. Morrison is also coming off of his worst season in the majors, so his trade value is at an all-time low. Throw in the fact that he is arbitration-eligible next year and it seems difficult for any team to justify acquiring him or for the Marlins to trade him.
If a team was interested, the Marlins would be looking for a trade return similar or a little better than what they got for Yunel Escobar. That is, the Marlins may be content in trading him for a mid-tier, B-ranked prospect who has a decent shot at the majors soon. The Marlins would have an immediate need at first base, but chances are they would settle for any position and be looking more for value.
-Michael Jong, Fish Stripes
P Will Smith and IF Christian Colon to Milwaukee for 2B Rickie Weeks
Why the Royals make the trade: Weeks solidifies second base and gives them a legitimate top-of-the-order hitter, without requiring them to give up any solid prospects.
Why the Brewers make the trade: Milwaukee frees up a lot of money and the trade allows them to play Scooter Gennett, who is probably the future second baseman anyway.
Rickie Weeks is a former All-Star second baseman who is still just 30, but has fallen off the last two years with replacement level seasons. He still draws a fair amount of walks and has above average power for a second baseman, but his batting average has cratered, as he's hit just .227 since the start of 2012. Still, he's big a big upgrade at second for the Royals, and his .329 on-base-percentage this year would be a much better option in the #2 hole that Alcides Escobar. If the Royals took on his entire remaining contract, they would not have to part with much in the way of prospects. If they require the Brewers to eat some of his contract, the talent the Royals would have to give up increases.
Comparable trade: 2012 - Arizona trades OF Chris Young to Oakland for IF Cliff Pennington and IF Yordy Cabrera
Young was a former All-Star in the middle of a lucrative contract extension having a down season, much like Weeks is this year. The Diamondbacks were able to shed his salary in exchange for a fringe-starter in Pennington and a disappointing first round pick in Yordy Cabrera.
Why the trade won't happen: Weeks is owed double digit salaries in 2014 and most likely in 2015. Its a lot of money to commit to a player who has been below league average the last two seasons.
Rickie Weeks is hitting better lately, but I still think the Brewers would happily part with him if a team was willing to take on his contract. He's due roughly $5 million for the rest of 2013, $11 million for 2014 and has a vesting option for 2015 that will almost certainly get locked in if he's used as a regular starter. Weeks is an excellent hitter when he's on, but slow starts over the last two seasons have really knocked down his value.
If the Royals are willing to take Weeks' contract, they could probably have him for low-level prospects. If the Brewers do any significant selling this year it's likely to trigger a rebuilding effort and in that case Weeks would be relatively unlikely to be a significant part of this team's long-term future. If taking on most or all of Weeks' salary isn't something Kansas City is willing to do, then the Brewers also always need young pitching and could probably be helped by a prospect who can play second or third base.
-Kyle Lobner, Brew Crew Ball
SS Adalberto Mondesi and P Louis Coleman to San Diego for OF Kyle Blanks
Why the Royals make the trade: Blanks would be a great right-handed power bat to hit in the middle of the lineup. He's young, with several controllable years left and would not hurt the budget.
Why the Padres make the trade: The Padres have a bit of a glut in their outfield right now with Blanks, Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, and Cameron Maybin, with Jaff Decker close to big-league ready. The Padres are always looking to get younger and build assets, and selling on the oft-injured Blanks now for prospects helps their future.
I wrote a bit about Blanks when the Royals were rumored to be scouting Padres hitters. He's a former Top 100 Baseball America prospect with good power and plate discipline. He is more suited to first base or designated hitter, but has not been embarrassingly bad n in the spacious Petco outfield. Blanks has been bitten with the injury bug, suffering from plantar fasciitis in 2009, requiring Tommy John surgery in 2010, and landing on the disabled list with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder in 2012. Despite playing at pitcher-friendly Petco, almost half of Blanks' career home runs have come at home, so hitting at Kauffman should be a piece of cake.
Comparable trade: 2012 - Toronto trades OF Travis Snider to Pittsburgh for P Brad Lincoln
Snider and Blanks are pretty comparable as disappointing former prospects with good pop, low batting averages, decent plate discipline and questionable defense. Blanks is two years older than Snider when Snider was dealt for former first round bust-turned-excellent reliever Brad Lincoln.
The Padres don't really seem to need bullpen help, are going nowhere this year, and seem to have the philosophy that they can find relievers on the cheap, so I don't expect the Royals young relievers to headline a deal. They might have more interest in a lottery ticket like Mondesi, who has tremendous talent but is a million miles away from the big leagues.
Why the trade won't happen: The Padres value cheap, young players and Blanks is just that. To ease their outfield logjam, they are more likely to get rid of Will Venable (who the Royals could target instead) or Carlos Quentin. Blanks' defensive deficiencies are going to be a liability in Kauffman, although he has been adequate in left field in Petco.