The Royals have gone into the Winter Meetings with many questions surrounding them. How do they improve an 81-team that still has the core of a championship club, but still has huge holes remaining? How do you improve the club with the financial limitations set by ownership? How do you improve the team without depleting and already depleted farm system?
Dayton Moore has said he may have to be creative, which may mean a surprising trade. I wanted to update the trade value rankings from last year, taking into consideration age, performance, and contract status. I ranked each player on the 40-man roster in order of what I think their perceived trade value is on the open market.
Sorry Alex, but the $60 million remaining on your deal makes you pretty much immovable without the Royals eating a substantial amount of money. Gordon had a career-worst year at the plate in 2016, but his defense and walk rate still made him an above replacement level player, albeit barely. But with Gordon turning 33 this winter, the concern is that he might be washed up, or close to it, and with the Royals on the hook for so much money, he probably has negative value, even if he rebounds a bit.
Young was god awful last year, and while he is owed just over $7 million, it is hard to see anyone thinking he has much upside left. The Royals will probably give him a chance to prove himself out of the bullpen, but he would be an easy call to release by mid-season if he continues to struggle.
Soria probably wasn’t quite as bad as many fans thought he was after he gave the lead to opponents 13 times over the year. His 4.05 ERA was below average, but not god awful for a reliever, it was the fact he was thrust into high-leverage situations so much that highlighted his deficiencies. But he sure wasn’t good, and he isn’t worth the $18 million left on his deal, making a trade unlikely, even in a market crazy for relief pitchers.
Minor missed all of last season recovering from a shoulder injury and his upside when healthy isn’t terribly high, but he is only owed $5.25 million, and if he is healthy, he could be a serviceable mid-rotation starter. Minor’s trade value could go up quite a bit this summer if he can prove he is healthy and effective, but those are still big question marks.
Vargas is in a similar boat to Minor, although he has established a bit more health witha few starts at the end of last season after missing much of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery. Vargas is owed $8 million next year, but like Minor, his trade value could rise a bit with a healthy showing.
Miguel Almonte, Andrew Edwards, Cam Gallagher, Kevin McCarthy, Ramon Torres
These are all pretty fungible players that would have a decent chance of clearing waivers. Brooks Pounders would probably be on this list if he were still on the team, and the Royals got a nothing minor league reliever with a history of Tommy John surgery for him.
I put Starling just a tick above those guys because his defense could play in the Majors and some team may look at his physical tools and think they could fix him. But if Starling has another disaster season like last year, he’s probably waiver wire fodder.
Scott Alexander, Drew Butera, Brian Flynn
These guys are slightly more valuable than waiver wire fodder, and could be serviceable role players. Butera’s contract actually probably makes him less valuable than Flynn or Alexander, who will only make the league minimum.
I think Colon could be on the outs soon. He’s a guy that could be dealt in spring training if the Royals are in a roster crunch as he’ll be out of options. If they trade him, the return will be pretty negligible.
Gore is always one of the more difficult guys to peg. How do you value a guy who is the best in the league at a skill, but is well below Major League level at pretty much every other aspect of the game? Gore is a nice weapon to have in the post-season though, maybe his trade value is higher than we think.
Burns can at least play Major League-quality baseball, but he was recently dealt for a “AAAA player” in Brett Eibner. He has some upside - he was a 2.8 WAR player in 2015 - but it requires him getting lucky on balls hit in play. He has speed but has very soft contact and is an average to below-average defender and baserunner despite his speed.
Samir Duenez, Alec Mills
These guys have some upside, but aren’t top ten prospects in the system or anything. Duenez is a young first baseman, but doesn’t have a lot of power. Mills seems like a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Esky is the 2014 ALCS MVP, but his defense declined quite a bit in 2016 and his bat has been pretty putrid the last few years. The Royals exercised his $6 million option this season, but they might have considered turning it down. Despite his Gold Glove, I wouldn’t expect much of a market for one year of a near replacement level player like Escobar.
Jorge Bonifacio, Jake Junis
They aren’t top prospects or anything, but they do have a chance to be sorta useful. Bonifacio showed good pop in AAA last year and is just 23 but has trouble drawing walks. Junis doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he could become a mid-rotation guy if you squint. They could be a nice second piece in a trade for a Major Leaguer,
Whit’s performance last year still seems a bit fluky, but he was a 1.6 WAR player, has several controllable years left, and does bring some good speed and defense to the table. I could see a team parting with a decent reliever or role player for him.
Orlando seems a bit fluky like Whit, except he has done it for two years, suggest perhaps he’s not so fluky. He still projects more like a fourth outfielder, but a good one, which has value to club.
Oh Kyle Zimmer. I am still tantalized by his potential, and maybe the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery is the break he needs for his career. But time is running out.
Kennedy’s trade value is tough to figure out. He was quite good last year, but has a huge deal that will almost certainly overpay him in the later years, especially since the deal is backloaded with $56.5 million remaining over the next four years. He will likely be worse away from spacious Kauffman Stadium and he has an opt-out that he could take next winter. If teams get desperate for starting pitching, someone could get Kennedy if the Royals were motivated enough, but the return would probably be small.
Cuthbert was kinda sorta okay in his rookie season, but his defense is still a bit suspect. He’s only 23 so you can project his bat to improve, so I can see a team swapping a young back-of-the-rotation pitcher or low upside hitter for him.
Dyson’s name has come up a lot in trade rumors, and if he is traded I will be very curious to see the return. By WAR, he was the most valuable Royals position player last year and has been a very valuable player the last few years. He is cheap, and can help a lot of teams that need speed and defense.
Dozier really resurrected his career in a big way last year, and could be an attractive trade piece for the Royals if they need to acquire pitching. He is still not a Top 100 prospect, but he is Major League-ready, with plenty of controllable years left.
Strahm really burst onto the scene last year and it looks like he could at the very least be a very good Major League reliever. The Royals will try him as a starter which could increase his trade value even more if successful.
I may be underrating Moose, but he still has only had about seven good months at the plate - his 2015 season and April of 2016 before his season was cut short. He is coming off a major knee injury and only has one year left before free agency, but could still a decent prospect, although I’m not sure if he warrants a Top 100 prospect.
Hosmer will be another interesting case if he hits the trade market. He looks the part of a superstar with his good looks, great tools, big hits in the spotlight, and his home run and RBI totals. But the metrics show an average to below-average offensive first baseman with poor defense. Which version of Hosmer will opposing clubs see?
With relievers so en vogue right now, I would guess Herrera would net a pretty good package. He has been among the top 20 relievers in baseball by WAR the last four seasons, and could easily step into either a setup role or closer role for any contender. He won’t warrant elite prospects, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Herrera nets one of the top prospects from another organization with the way this reliever market is going.
Mondesi looked pretty overwhelmed at the plate in his Major League debut season, but he does have some pretty remarkable tools that teams would be interested in. Factor in his age and the fact he has six more controllable years and he is one of the better assets the Royals have in the fold, despite his unimpressive numbers.
The 30-year old regressed a bit offensively and played in his fewest games since 2012. Even with his bat not up to MVP-contender status as it was in 2015, his defense should still be an attractive asset to other clubs. I think the Royals could require a Top 100 prospect, although someone at the lower end.
The lefty had a breakout season last year and could be very attractive to other clubs seeking a lefty power arm. He only has one year left before free agency, and he may try to work out a long-term deal with the Royals, but if they move him, they could probably expect a decent Top 100 prospect for him if another team believes his 2016 season was for real.
It is starting to look like Ventura is not going to become the All-Star level pitcher we might have thought, but he is still a solid 2-3 WAR pitcher signed at a very club-friendly deal. He is only guaranteed $12 million, but could be under club control through 2021. If the Royals are tired of his antics, they will still find a good market for Ventura’s arm.
I cannot say it enough - the market for elite relievers is BANANAS. Davis, when healthy, is among the best of the best. The only thing that hurts him right now is the forearm injury he suffered last summer that could hurt his value. I wouldn’t expect the Royals to get the kind of package teams got for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller last year, but it shouldn’t be a big step down. The Royals should expect at least one Top 100 prospect, another top ten prospect in an organization, and probably a lottery ticket prospect as well.
If there is a player that won’t be moved in a firesale, it will be Salvador Perez. He is the heart and soul of the team, the face of the franchise, and he just signed a long-term deal that keeps him in Kansas City through 2021. The new contract makes him not quite as valuable as a trade asset before since he makes more money now, but he is still a young 4 WAR catcher, the best defensive catcher in the league, with 20 HR+ power. He does have some holes to his offensive game, his framing, and his body has taken a beating. But he would still be the most valuable asset the Royals have to trade. Thankfully, Royals fans shouldn’t have to worry about that scenario.