It is beginning to look like Raul Ibanez is not quite the solution in right-field we thought he might be. With Nori Aoki set to return pretty soon we could see Ibanez released soon, but with Aoki struggling much of the year and the team seemingly not ready to commit to Jarrod Dyson in a full-time role, the Royals are likely still in the market for an upgrade in right-field. We continue our look at potential trade targets by looking at Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.
Willingham is a 35 year old left-fielder hitting .215/.364/.424 with 8 HR 25 RBI for the Twins. With Minnesota sinking to last place in the Central, they will be looking to sell. Willingham will earn $3.5 million over the rest of the season and is a free agent this winter. His salary is probably manageable for the Royals if the reports are true that they are willing to take on some salary.
Willingham is an 11-year veteran who has always been a low-average, high walk, good power hitter. The right-hander has a career line of .254/.360/.469 and hit a career high 35 home runs as recently as 2012. He has always been a defensive liability however, putting up negative dWAR every year since 2009, with -3.6 dWAR combined over 2012-2013. Willingham has also played just 35 games in right-field in his career, so a trade would require either he or Alex Gordon moving positions in the middle of a season.
Jim Bowden mentions the Royals as a possibility for Willingham and offers this potential trade:
The Royals probably would get Willingham for left-handed starter Sam Selman, but they might try to get the Twins to take Angel Baez first.
Selman was a second round pick in 2012 who started strong but majorly struggled with his command last year and may be a reliever now in AA. John Sickels ranked the southpaw out of Vanderbilt a "B-" prospect before the year, but that stock has fallen since then as Selman has posted a 4.31 ERA and nearly 5 walks per nine innings.
Baez is a 23-year old right hander who has also had some command issues but has seen a spike in strikeouts this year in AA, with 11.4 whiffs per nine innings, to go with a 4.40 ERA. Sickels had him listed on the "Honorable Mention" list.
Does it make sense? Kansas City makes a lot of sense, but I don't like the idea of trading for another relief pitcher no matter how many strikeouts he gets. I'd rather take a chance on a fringey starting pitcher prospect with a bit less swing-and-miss potential. Selman might be capable of sneaking into Minnesota's Top 20 next year but it's not a guarantee.
Neither pitcher should be a prospect the Royals miss too much, so if that is all that it takes to get Willingham, the Royals should at least explore the option. Heck, I would probably package the two for Willingham if I thought Josh could fit in defensively with the Royals. While teams are loathe to trade within their own division, this is a lower-profile trade that is not likely to burn either team in the future, so if it can help both teams, it should happen. (On a side note, the Royals and Twins have only hooked up on a trade ONCE ever. The Royals sent reliever Tom Burgmeier to the Twins in 1974 for minor leaguer Ken Gill.) Bowden mentions the Reds and Mariners could also be interested in Willingham, so the Royals may need to top their offer to land the slugger.