Despite the trade deadline being three weeks ago and the Royals making their big moves then, there is still a chance of another deal happening in August. Last week I explained how teams can make trades in August after the supposed July 31 trade deadline. Typically, players acquired in August are either (a) not good enough for any team to bother blocking a trade; or (b) too expensive for any team to risk claiming off waivers. However, some of these players can prove to be useful. The Royals acquired Josh Willingham in August of last year, and would not have won the Wild Card game without his big hit.
The Royals would probably look at any transaction with the view of how it would help them in October. With that, there are a few areas they could still address - starting pitching and a right-handed bench bat.
The Royals will definitely have Johnny Cueto open Game One of the American League Divisional Series, followed by Edinson Volquez. They were hoping Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy would step up to claim the next two spots, but both have been inconsistent much of the year. The Royals have other options like Chris Young and Kris Medlen, but they may seek another arm to have even more options in October.
Ian Kennedy has been a trade target in the past for the Royals, but he was already claimed and pulled back, meaning he cannot be traded at this point. Others have suggested James Shields or Milwaukee's Kyle Lohse could be possibilities, but Shields makes too much money and Lohse has been terrible.
That leaves the pickings to be a bit slim. Would any of these arms be much of an upgrade over what we have?
Jesse Chavez, Athletics
Chavez is still pretty cheap and has been effective, so the odds of him clearing waivers is not very good. If he were to clear, he'd be a nice option not only for this year, but a solid rotation candidate for next year as well. The former Royals right-hander has a 3.75 ERA with a 3.59 FIP and has struck out 7.7 per-nine-innings this year. He throws one of the best cutters in the league. The asking price for him might be a bit higher than other August trade candidates since he is not a free agent this winter, but Chavez represents one of the more attractive options.
Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies
The 34-year old is another ex-Royals pitcher who might benefit the club with a reunion. De la Rosa has a 4.50 ERA and 4.24 FIP with 8.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, but has struggled with walks a bit. Coors Field may be the source of his problems, as de la Rosa has a 3.17 ERA in ten road starts this year. De la Rosa is signed through next year, but will earn $12.5 million in 2016, so the Rockies may have to eat some money to move him to Kansas City.
Mike Pelfrey, Twins
Pelfrey is everything Jeremy Guthrie hopes to be, with the second-lowest strikeout rate in all of baseball. Despite an inability to miss bats, Pelfrey has pitched well with a 3.62 ERA and 3.90 FIP in 23 starts this year, despite a disastrous 2014 season. The Wichita State grad would earn less than $1 million the remainder of the season and is a free agent this winter. Pelfrey has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, with a 3.26 ERA over his last eight starts, and has induced over half the balls hit to be groundballs this year.
Alfredo Simon, Tigers
Simon has been a disappointment with the Tigers since being acquired last winter, but his 4.20 FIP isn't terrible. Like Pelfrey, Simons can induce a fair amount of groundballs. Simon tossed a one-hit, complete game shutout his last time out against the Rangers, but has been pretty terrible the last two months with a 6.97 ERA in his last eleven starts.
It is well past time to cut ties with Alex Rios, who has never recovered from a pinkie injury that sidelined him for over a month. The Royals would be better off starting either Ben Zobrist in right field in October, or a platoon of Jarrod Dyson and a right-handed bat. Alex Rios could be that bat, but his numbers against lefties this year are uninspiring (.225/.274/.292). Paulo Orlando could be that bat, but his numbers haven't been great either, and he actually has a reverse split.
Adding a right-handed outfield bat would allow the Royals to either start Zobrist at second to replace the offensively awful Omar Infante, or to provide a bat late in innings off the bench that can hit tough lefties. Here are a few options:
Davis is pretty cheap - he earns $5 million this year - so he would stand a good chance of getting claimed by someone. If he can clear, he fits the Royals pretty well as a guy that can not only provide a right-handed bench bat, but would not embarrass the team in the field. Davis is a lifetime .297/.352/.444 hitter against left-handers, making him an excellent platoon partner with Jarrod Dyson. Like Dyson, Davis can swipe some bases, lessening the need for the Royals to carry numerous pinch runners on the roster.
The name "Frenchy" may still cause that vein to bulge in your forehead, but Jeff Francoeur has had a renaissance at the plate in Philadelphia, hitting .280/.307/.490 with 12 HR 38 RBI in 90 games. While he has his defensive issues, he may be able to help the club as a bat off the bench. Francoeur does have a reverse split this year and his road numbers are pretty bad - .250/.293/.394. Still, he's a terrific clubhouse presence, for whatever that's worth, and a terrific guy off the field. Francoeur makes very little money and is a free agent next year.
The Royals were said to be interested in Gomes last year. He has made his living mashing lefties, with a career line of .274/.378/.480 against southpaws. Even this year, while his overall numbers are crummy, he has managed to do adequately against left-handers, hitting .231/.409/.385 in 88 plate appearances. Gomes is a liability on defense, so he would serve mostly as a pinch-hitter. And if the Royals do win it all, he'll be the best-dressed player when the team is invited to the White House.
The Royals pursued Hunter last winter, but he opted to end his career in Minnesota, where it all began for him. But would he want to end his career on a sinking ship or chase a ring with the Royals? Hunter has slumped badly in the second half, hitting just .158/.208/.301 in 37 games. More rest as a bench bat might revive his bat, which still has a fair amount of pop with 18 home runs this year. Hunter is a liability in the field, but if he's willing to take a smaller role and accept a trade, he may be able to get that ring that has eluded him in his career.
Ryan Raburn is yet another defensively-challenged outfielder, known best for this play against the Royals, so his utility would be to serve as a pinch-hitter. Raburn has rebounded from a terrible season at the plate in 2014 by platooning mostly against lefties, hitting them especially hard with a line of .294/.366/.524. Raburn is very cheap, so he may not clear waivers, and he is a free agent this winter.
Valencia is another ex-Royals player from just last year who was recently placed on waivers by Toronto and claimed by Oakland. He has hit .291/.327/.521 overall this year with 11 HR 39 RBI in 70 games. Valencia also has a reverse split, although his numbers against lefties are not terrible - .299/.352/.443. Valencia has positional versatility, playing both third base and the outfield this year. He could spell Mike Moustakas against tough lefties or move to the outfield if needed (although he has basically no experience in right field). There have been whispers that Valencia is not well-liked in clubhouses, which is why he bounces around so much, but the Royals should know him well, so if they're able to tolerate him he might be a solid pickup.