Between Alex Gordon's injury, Alex Rios' ineffectiveness, and the tenebrous unknown of potential replacements like Reymond Fuentes and Whit Merrifield, it may behoove the Royals to poke around at a few outfielders who might be available at the upcoming trade deadline.
Seth Smith, Seattle Mariners
2017: Club Option, $7,000,000 ($250,000 buyout)
2015 Stats: 256 PA, .259/.332/.456, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 27 R
Career triple slash: .265/.345/.454
Smith is an interesting option, but his availability is suspect: Seattle would have to continue their current performance this season and find it reasonable enough to punt on a pretty good outfielder who is nowhere near cost prohibitive. He's a left-handed bat who fits best in a platoon, which creates more complications in that the Royals already have Jarrod Dyson for that role who is better but in different ways.
He's not considered to be a good defender, but he's been very good against right-handed pitching in his career (.275/.355/.478, 122 wRC+). He has played both left and right field, his contract is decent enough, and he provides a modicum of cover if the Royals do not re-sign Alex Gordon.
His cost to acquire is hard to figure. Seattle has some interesting free agent decisions to make in 2016, but Smith is relatively cheap and pretty productive, although in a niche sort of way.
Acquisition cost: Christian Binford. Smith was acquired last winter for pitcher Brandon Maurer, so it would make sense for the Mariners to flip him for a low-ceiling arm that could help them soon.
Austin Jackson, Seattle Mariners
2016: Free Agent
2015 Stats: .254/.300/.363, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 25 R, 8 SB
Career triple slash: .272/.334/.399
Speaking of Seattle outfielders and free agent decisions, Austin Jackson. He came over from Detroit in that weird three-team trade in which Seattle acquired Jackson from Detroit by sending Nick Franklin to Tampa, who sent David Price to Detroit for Drew Smyly.
He vastly underperformed for the Mariners last year, hitting .229/.267/.260 in 236 plate appearances. He has missed time with some minor injuries this season, and his slash line isn't pretty, but it has improved slightly since coming back from the disabled list in May. He's a good defender in his age-28 season, and the Mariners might be inclined to move his remaining salary considering his performance.
The truth may simply be that Jackson doesn't profile well for big ballparks. That would certainly be a concern for Kansas City. He hits more fly balls than you would like for a guy with his speed (career 31.6%), but it would appear that he has adjusted his approach to cut back this season (26.6%). Franklin Gutierrez is back in the fold, so it could make sense for the Mariners to cut bait on Jackson, especially if they think they can't, or won't, re-sign him. He also hits right-handed, if you are into that sort of thing.
Acquisition Cost: A couple of C+ prospects like Sam Selman and Zane Evans.
Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics
2016: Arb. 3
2015 Stats: .286/.344/.459, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 37 R
Career triple slash: .251/.310/.435
Putting aside Reddick's remarks from earlier in the season during Lawriepalooza, he makes sense for the Royals in a similar vein to Seth Smith; he's a left-handed hitter who is much better against right-handed pitching. I'm not sure that I necessarily buy into his slash line this season as his splits against right-handed hitters are so out of whack with his career numbers (he's hitting .329/.383/.534 against RHPs in 2015, .263/.321/.457 for his career).
He's a better defender than Smith, and his remaining year of arbitration is not likely to be much cheaper. For this season, though, he's decidedly earning less, but comes with the caveats of A) Jarrod Dyson being a thing, and B) injuries. He missed time early in the season with an oblique strain. He missed time last season with a knee injury. He missed time in 2013 with ongoing wrist problems.
Oakland is likely to move him during this trade period, or at the very least during the off-season, because that's what they do. He would be a tough sell considering what happened in April, and I'm not sure that Kansas City would be willing to pay the price to acquire him. Still, he presents an interesting long-term option if the team thinks they can't re-sign Alex Gordon.
Acquisition Cost: The Angels are trying to pursue Josh Reddick, and other teams are no doubt interested. The A's may ask for a guy like Brandon Finnegan, but with Reddick's complaints about playing time they may look to move him for less. A top ten Royals prospect with upside, although not an elite one like Erik Skoglund or Scott Blewett plus a lower level arm with upside like Pedro Fernandez could be enough.
Cameron Maybin, Atlanta Braves
2017: Club Option, $9,000,000 ($1,000,000 buyout)
2015 Stats: .295/.361/.428, 8 HR, 44 RBI, 37 R, 15 SB
Career triple slash: .252/.315/.373
In the middle of a career year, Cameron Maybin is the most expensive player on this list, both contract-wise and in terms of what it would cost to acquire him. The Braves are by no means out of the race, but they are certainly looking at the rest of the field from the back row. Their Wild Card chances are slim, and they are staring up at the Nationals (who have the only positive run differential in the National League East) and the Mets (whose rotation consists of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Old Man Bartolo Colon, and Jon Niese. That is, until Steven Matz gets healthy again).
That being said, Maybin is Atlanta's best outfielder, they are in a strong sell high position this year, he's under contract for another year (plus a cheap club option), and the Braves don't exactly have a plethora of outfielders burning their way through the high minors (Braxton Davidson is their highest rated outfielder, and he is in Low-A right now. There's also Mallex Smith, who isn't rated as highly but is in AAA right now). And it is for all of those reasons that he would be an attractive trade option, particularly for a team like the Royals who do not have a commitment to a right fielder beyond this season.
Maybin's defense has not been rated well recently, but there's a lot of volatility in his metrics because he has not played much the past two seasons. He tore his PCL in 2013 which has possibly melted his defensive value (he put up positive years in 2011 and 2012). He might be around average, but he also plays center field for Atlanta, something he would not be doing in Kansas City.
Unlike most of these other guys, he's right-handed, something the Royals sorely need to balance out their order (leaving Dyson to freely roam as a super sub and platoon option). Maybin also doesn't have much of a platoon split, so he can be an everyday guy. He has good speed and runs the bases well, and it would appear that he is finally over the myriad of ailments that plagued his last few seasons in San Diego. I was surprised to learn that he's only 28 years old, a year younger than Lorenzo Cain, even though he made his major league debut in 2007.
His slash line isn't likely to stay this good for the next two seasons, but when healthy, he's an average bat who steals bases, who may (or may not) play average defense, but rates out as an average player with upside on a pretty lean contract.
Acquisition Cost: The Braves want to make a splash when they move to Cobb County to start the 2017 season and will be looking for guys to be major league ready around that time. They are also drawing a lot of interest in Maybin and they have all of the leverage, so a couple of prospects like Miguel Almonte and Jorge Bonifacio would be likely to trump the other teams' offers.
Gerardo Parra, Milwaukee Brewers
2016: Free Agent
2015 Stats: .309/.346/.491, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 39 R
Career triple slash: .277/.327/.403
Milwaukee is bad, and there are likely going to be a few dozen phone calls made to Doug Melvin inquiring about everything that isn't bolted down (which, as far as I can tell, is nothing) or radioactive (which, as far as I can tell, is Ryan Braun). Mike Fiers is likely to be traded, as is Adam Lind and Francisco Rodriguez. Carlos Gomez is certainly going to get discussed a lot. Old friend of the show Jeremy Jeffress (who is having his second consecutive sub-3.00 ERA season) might even have an admirer or two (he apparently doesn't hit arbitration until 2017). Hell, somebody might want to buy low on Kyle Lohse. Matt Garza might get sold for magic beans just to clear his contract. Neal Cotts might even intrigue as a mid-innings guy. The Brewers' tap room should be open for business.
Along those lines, we find Gerardo Parra. Yet another left-handed bat, the good news is, he isn't quite as bad against left-handed pitching (.262/.319/.405 this season) as the other guys on this list. The career numbers aren't great, though, so Jarrod Dyson still complicates things as a potentially better option.
The bad news is that it is hard to say where Parra is at defensively; the last two seasons have not been good by the numbers, but he was phenomenal in 2013 (26 Runs, according to FanGraphs) and average or above in the three seasons prior to that. It is probably fair to say that he is average at best, but likely slightly under.
He's also likely the easiest player to acquire on this list; Milwaukee doesn't have a reason to hang onto him, he's a free agent in three months, and aside from maintaining some false air of respectability, the Brewers should be having a fire sale that rivals the Marlins. Only you know, with less good players.