The obvious answer is: No, the Royals shouldn't trade Wade Davis.
They shouldn't mess with
a good the best thing.
The Royals owe a lot of their success to the strength of their bullpen. Not to mention the fact that Davis has been historically good over the last few seasons, and he's under team control for two more years. He's a fan favorite with all kinds of nicknames and hashtags (and merchandising opportunities!).
On the other hand, relief pitching looks like a seller's market this offseason. If San Diego can get Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen for Craig Kimbrel (who has three years of relatively expensive team control remaining on his deal and is coming off of his worst season as a professional), imagine what the Royals could get for Davis? Not only would an infusion of talent like that help the Royals' system, but it could open up the payroll a little more and afford the team a more plausible opportunity to re-sign Alex Gordon or target another free agent.
Aaaaaand, unfortunately, you could've said all of those things about Greg Holland two years ago. In 2013, Holland was coming off of a season in which he finished ninth in AL Cy Young voting two years in a row because of his almost pathological numbers. Then, he got hurt and subsequently non-tendered in November after becoming expensive through arbitration. He might be back, and he might return to spin the violent artistry that once flickered on the walls of our collective feels cavern ... but with the benefit of hindsight it clearly would've been better for the Royals if they had traded him after 2014.
In many ways, Davis was even better. He finished eighth in Cy Young voting in 2014 and sixth last season (not that Cy Young voting is a great yardstick for pitchers--especially relievers--but you have to be pretty damn good to finish that high as a reliever). There is no arbitrary two-year window for dominant relief pitching that all players must pass through in their careers, but it would be silly not to compare Davis' value to the value Holland had at a similar point in his career.
Davis will make $8 million in 2016 and the Royals have a $10 million team option for 2017. So, two years of control remaining. Same as Holland had at the end of 2014. He'll be 32 when he becomes a free agent in 2018, so he's a little older than Holland, but you can see the parallels. The Wader might end up staying healthy and being spectacular until he's 40 years old, but even if he doesn't flame out the way Holland did, Davis will be getting considerably more expensive after the two years of control the Royals have left.
Trading him sounds like an awful thing to do, but this is just a hypothetical situation being played out. The Royals won't trade him.
But what if they did?
Based on rumors and perceived needs, a few teams that come to mind are the Astros, Dodgers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, and Rangers. Some of those teams are more likely to add a reliever than others, but Wade Davis isn't a normal reliever. It's far from a given that other GMs would be willing to offer a Dombrowski-esque package -- even for a cyborg. But it seems fair to assume the Royals wouldn't take less than what the Padres got for Kimbrel. They might not even take the package the Red Sox sent to San Diego. But hypothetically, those teams have the need and the means to put something similar together. Here's an unnecessarily
The Astros seem unlikely to give up elite prospects for a closer, but if they start jonesing for some Davis, they could start with someone like Kyle Tucker or maybe even Alex Bregman (the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft), and build from there with pieces like Tony Kemp or Nolan Fontana. Tucker and Bregman seem to be ranked relatively close to where Margot has been on lists this winter.
The Dodgers have Kenley Jansen, but they are the Dodgers. They don't care. They've reportedly been looking to bolster their pen and Davis would be one hell of a way to do that. Andrew Friedman has the pieces, but it's doubtful he'd part with them. However, if he was looking to put together a Bostonian package for some reason he could start with Jose Peraza, Jose De Leon, or Grant Holmes and then tack on a guy or two like Jacob Scavuzzo or Chase De Jong.
The Cubs are probably more focused on other areas, but Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Davis would make a pretty funereal seven-eight-nine. They could offer something based around Billy McKinney or Ian Happ and sweeten the deal with one of their promising lefties like Carson Sands, Justin Steele, or Bryan Hudson.
Arizona has Brad Ziegler, but Wade Davis makes him look like Runelvys Hernandez. They have some interesting arms at the top of their system. Guys like Archie Bradley, Aaron Blair, Braden Shipley, and Yoan Lopez could represent something close to the same value as Margot. Socrates Brito and/or Domingo Leyba would be compelling tack-ons.
The conversation with Texas would probably begin and end very quickly as well. Nomar Mazara seems borderline untouchable, but if the Royals are hypothetically trading Wade M.F.N. Davis, they need to have lofty demands. Lewis Brinson might be more realistic, and he's interesting too, but the Rangers would probably have to add some pretty alluring secondary pieces to make it work. Yeyson Yrizarri? Travis Demeritte? Ti'Quan Forbes? I dunno.
As far as the Royals go, Herrera could close if Davis was moved, and while it would be a slight change in the team's successful formula, but that formula has reshaped the market as well. Relievers seem to be valued more than they ever have, and if the Royals want to continue to look for inefficiencies in that market that will help them move forward, they might want to at least consider cashing in on the rabid demand for relief pitching that they have apparently created.
Again, don't attempt to injure me. This won't happen. But there's a phantom out there in scope of viable futures in which this happens; and there, in that ethereal ghostmorrow, it works out nicely.
But don't worry.
Wade Davis is a cyborg not a ghost.