In one week the Winter Meetings being, where wheeling and dealing takes place between MLB General Managers. The Royals aren't expected to be terribly active in the trade market, as their top concern is probably retaining this nucleus and building through free agency to fill the holes left by departing free agents James Shields, Billy Butler, and Nori Aoki. However, should they look to make a trade, what assets do they have for a deal? I thought we should have a discussion as to the trade value of the current Royals. Here is the rankings, in ascending order, of the Royals on the 40-man roster in terms of trade value.
39. Omar Infante
Omar Infante has the most negative trade value at this point, that is, he is the player the Royals would have to pay the most money to get someone to take his contract off their hands. Infante is owed $25.25 million over the the next three seasons (that includes his $2 million buyout for 2018), and while that's not as bad a millstone as Ryan Howard's contract, its more than a 32-year old coming off a .632 OPS season should expect to receive. Infante may still be useful the next few seasons, but the Royals would have to kick in a few million bucks and not expect to get much in return to move Infante.
38. Jeremy Guthrie
Guthrie is essentially owed $12.2 million for one more year (his salary plus a buyout for his 2016 mutual option), which is an overpay for a 35-year old with a slightly-below league-average ERA, but honestly, its not that much of an overpay for the proverbial "innings eater." With only one year of obligation left, Guthrie would probably be tradeable if the Royals kicked in a few million, so long as he maintains his "useful, back-of-the-rotation" numbers and doesn't completely implode.
29.-37. Aaron Brooks, Francisley Bueno, Casey Coleman, Brian Flynn, Johnny Giavotella, Ryan Jackson, Erik Kratz, Paulo Orlando, Moises Sierra
Say, is that a spare bag of baseballs you got there?
20.-28. Lane Adams, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Cheslor Cuthbert, Reymond Fuentes, John Lamb, Michael Mariot, Francisco Pena, Carlos Peguero
Say, is that two bags of baseballs you got there?
19. Terrance Gore
I don't think he'd actually net you much in a trade, but the Royals would probably be willing to hang onto him just for what he can do in the post-season should they ever return.
18. Orlando Carlixte
I only have him a touch over the replacement-level groupings earlier if only because I think his glove might be seen as an asset, and teams might believe his bat could be non-terrible someday. Ah, hope.
17. Christian Colon
Colon will probably never live up to his first-round draft pick status but he could be a useful utility player. Those kind of players don't net much in return, maybe a fringy-bullpen arm, or AAAA starting pitcher.
16. Jason Frasor
His team-friendly deal is nice, but he's 37. I suppose if he puts up a decent season again, he could be spun off for a low-ceiling AAA player like the Royals dealt last summer in Spencer Patton to acquire Frasor.
15. Jorge Bonifacio
The sun is setting on his prospect status. I could see him being trade bait for a Major Leaguer coming off a bad season on a bad contract or something. But he's not a headliner to net a good player in a trade.
14. Mike Moustakas
He probably helped his trade value quite a bit with his post-season trade value, at least with the teams that believe with their eyes, and not with their stats. But Moose has pretty much settled into what he is - a terrible on-base hitter with some pop and good defense. He's not going to be that cheap anymore, but he could probably be moved for somebody else's disappointment.
13. Jarrod Dyson
Dyson's value is sneaky. He is a 2.8 rWAR player, but he doesn't seem like a 2.8 rWAR player and I think that will hurt his trade value. I think he is still seen as a part-time player with a nice gimmick - his speed. Its possible the Royals could net a nice return from another stat-oriented team that sees him as an underrated asset, but more likely you're getting a decent reliever or low-ceiling minor leaguer for him.
12. Jason Vargas
Vargas is owed $25 million over the next three years, which is about the going rate for what he is - a perfectly serviceable, average Major League starting pitcher. Vargas is 31, so there might be some concerns about him getting older, but Vargas could be easily moved if the team wanted to trade him, I just wouldn't expect a terrific bounty.
11. Kelvin Herrera
Herrera had a career-best year in ERA (1.41) and FIP (2.69) but curiously had his worst strikeout-per-nine innings ratio (7.6) and walks-per-nine innings (3.3). Still, he's a flamethrower that could close for many teams and is just now entering his first year of arbitration and under club control through 2018. He could net a useful player or prospect for a bullpen-starved team.
10. Alcides Escobar
If his two club options are picked up, Escobar is owed $14.75 million over the next three seasons, a terrific bargain. Aside from his disastrous 2013 season, Escobar has consistently been a 2-3 WAR player since joining the Royals, creating terrific surplus value for them. Still in his prime, Escobar could net you a decent prospect or two, although certainly not anyone elite.
9. Lorenzo Cain
Cain finally put it all together in 2014 with his finest season at age 28. His 5 rWAR season was sixth among all American League outfielders, and he enjoyed his best season at the plate, hitting .301/.339/.412. Cain is under club control for three more seasons, and with teams placing a higher emphasis on defense, Cain would net a decent package of prospects or a solid starting MLB player, although his health concerns and inconsistent offensive performance will mitigate his value.
8. Danny Duffy
Duffy has put up a 2.64 ERA over his last 201 innings, but has drastically outperformed his FIP (3.76) over that time. His strikeout numbers have plummeted, but so have his walk numbers. He is a Tommy John surgery survivor who was left off the post-season rotation due to a rib injury, so health has to be a concern. Still, he's just 25, entering his first year of arbitration, with three year of club control left. Pitching isn't quite the commodity it once was, but the talent with Duffy is clear, and a team should be willing to pay a significant price to acquire him.
7. Eric Hosmer
Hosmer tantalizes us with his potential, but thus far he has alternated two good seasons with two bad ones, and has yet to put it all together for a fantastic All-Star-type season. Hosmer has a sterling defensive reputation (that may or may not be earned) and opened some eyes with his post-season performance, but he is already starting to get expensive and his play has been inconsistent. His youth and the scarcity of young talent at his position could lead the Royals to net a decent return that could include solid Major League talent.
6. Brandon Finnegan
The 2014 draft pick impressed in his short Major League stint that included the post-season, and if he were eligible, he would probably be on a lot of Top 100 prospect lists. He is still not a super-elite prospect, and has yet to prove he can be a successful starting pitcher, but Finnegan has enough potential and is "close to MLB-ready" enough to be the centerpiece of a trade for a borderline-All-Star type player
5. Wade Davis and 4. Greg Holland
I will give Holland the slight edge here because I believe most General Managers still believe in DA SAVES and the mystical ability to close in the ninth inning, so Holland has more trade value. Both pitchers are eligible for free agency after 2016. Davis is actually the cheaper option, as he's owed $18 million over the next two years, while Holland will surely make more in arbitration. It is always hard to peg trade value for elite relievers. While the Eric Gagne trade has been the standard-bearer, its not clear that closers will net such a return anymore. Still, the Royals should be able to ask for a solid starting player, or a package of minor leaguers that should include a Top 100 prospect.
3. Alex Gordon
Gordo is the most valuable Royals player of all, but his trade value is mitigated by the fact he is only under contract for one more year. He has a player option for 2016, which he says he will exercise for the Royals, but he may not be so willing to stay for another club. The Jason Heyward trade for pitchers Shelby Miller and Jordan Walden probably sets a good comp for what the Royals could expect to get in return for Gordon.
2. Yordano Ventura
Ventura is young, cheap, playoff-tested, and has five years of club control left, making him of the most valuable pitchers in the game. His two biggest drawbacks are that he is still a bit unproven, and he's still a big injury risk. Still, the Royals could get quite a nice return of an All-Star-caliber player with a year or two remaining on his deal or an elite prospect if they ever wanted to deal the flamethrower.
1. Salvador Perez
Has Salvy's agent been disbarred from the practice of law yet? That contract is still quite criminal. Salvador Perez would be eligible for arbitration had he not signed a five-year, $7 million contract back in February 2012. Instead he'll be paid roughly the same as what Aaron Crow could hope to get in arbitration - $2 million. I'm sure Salvador has peace of mind with the long-term security he signed up for, but man that's a lot of money he's leaving on the table. With the Royals owning his rights through 2019, Salvy's age-29 season, Perez is easily the Royals most valuable trade commodity.