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Royals interested in Justin Ruggiano, Carlos Villanueva

The Royals are reportedly checking out Cubs players in a possible trade.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

According to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago, the Royals are interested in a pair of Cubs players for a possible mid-season trade - outfielder Justin Ruggiano and pitcher Carlos Villanueva.

The Royals have two connections with Carlos Villanueva in Ned Yost and Dale Sveum and he could add depth to Kansas City’s bullpen. Levine mentioned the possibility of Carlos Villanueva and Justin Ruggiano being packaged in a deal with the Royals to net the Cubs the best possible return.
Several teams are interested in Carlos Villanueva according to Levine. The Blue Jays have been scouting Villanueva and is the only other team that has been connected to Villanueva by the mainstream media.

The 32 year old Justin Ruggiano is a right-handed bat who is hitting .298/.367/.464 with 4 HR 20 RBI in 169 plate appearances. Ruggiano was a late-bloomer in his career, not reaching the big leagues until age 25, and not sticking in the big leagues until age 30. He put up a terrific .313/.374/.535 line in 2012 in part-time duty with the Marlins, but slumped to .222/.298/.396 last year, although with 18 home runs, leading Miami to deal him to the Cubs. Ruggian can mash lefties, hitting .263/.332/.507 against southpaws in his career. Ruggiano is only due about $1 million the remainder of the season, and will be eligible for his second year of arbitration this winter.

Carlos Villanueva, 30, was a target for the Royals when he was a free agent back in 2012. The right-handed swingman has been disappointing for the Cubs since they signed him, putting up a 4.06 ERA in 128 2/3 innings in 2013, and a bloated 6.18 ERA in 51 innings pitched this year. Despite his bloated ERA, Villanueva has put up a solid FIP both years, and strikes out nearly 8 hitters per nine innings. Not surprisingly, Villanueva has pitched much better as a reliever than a starter this year. Hitters are hitting .246/.313/.418 against him coming out of the pen, but .404/.423/.566 off of him as a starter. Most likely, the Royals see him as bullpen depth and a long reliever who can give them a better option to start than Bruce Chen or Joe Saunders if they need a sixth starting pitcher. Villanueva is owed $2.5 million the rest of the year and is eligible for free agency this winter.

The asking price for either player by themselves is likely to be low, especially with Villanueva owed a decent chunk of change left. Packaging them together might net a better prospect, but not significantly so.

The article also mentions the Mariners are looking at outfielder Junior Lake, a young, cost-controlled player who is a good defender and has pop, but hasn't played much right-field. Lake had a terrific rookie season last year, but the right-handed hitter is hitting just .216/.243/.376 with 9 HR 25 RBI this year.