The Royals are hurting, both figuratively and literally. The team suffered two major blows this week when they received the news they would be without All-Star left-fielder Alex Gordon for 3-4 weeks with wrist injury, then discovered that All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas had an ACL tear that would end his 2016 season. For now, they will be counting on young rookies to hold down the fort - Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield, and Brett Eibner. Under a best case scenario, each of these players continues to hit like they have in the minor leagues, and the Royals do not lose a beat.
But hitting in the Pacific Coast League is not like hitting at the Major League level, and the Royals may want to hedge their bets should these rookies not be able to make the adjustment to big league breaking balls. Last year, the Royals addressed their depth by making a major trade, acquiring the versatile Ben Zobrist. The trade turned out to be huge, as Zobrist's ability to play left field allowed him to fill in for an injured Alex Gordon, and his ability to play second base allowed him to fill in for a slumping, then injured Omar Infante.
This year, the Royals may again be in need of a veteran player capable of playing multiple positions. Between the injuries to Gordon and Moustakas, the continued offensive incompetence of Omar Infante, and the still uncertain situation in right field, the Royals could use someone capable of filling in all over the field. They likely won't be able to find, or even afford another Ben Zobrist. But there are a few veterans that might be able to help them out without costing them top prospects. Here are a few names that could interest them this summer.
Martin Prado, Miami Marlins
The Royals were reportedly interested in Prado last trade deadline, and he was probably the "Plan B" if they failed to acquire Ben Zobrist. Prado is capable of playing second, third, and the outfield and is off to a terrific start, hitting .339/.378/.404. Prado brings the high-contact approach the Royals favor, with a strikeout rate of just 11% in his career.
Prado is an impending free agent, earning $11 million this year. The Miami Marlins are in fourth place, but are 25-22, and if they hang around in contention they may be reluctant to move Prado. Still, the Marlins can be an erratic organization that likes to save money, so dumping Prado for young players is not out of the question, even if the Marlins hover near a Wild Card spot.
Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics
Lowrie has experience playing second, shortstop, and third base, and is a capable, if a slightly below-average bat with a line of .250/.322/.366 from 2014-2016. Lowrie is a switch-hitter, which would help the Royals as their lineup becomes righty-heavy with the loss of Gordon and Moustakas. He has been plagued with injuries over his career, but in a depth role he could be rested more to mitigate the injury risk.
The biggest impediment with Lowrie is his contract. He is owed $7.5 million this season, plus $6.5 million in 2017 and a $1 million buyout for 2018. The Royals would have little use to pay for him in 2017 with Moustakas returning and Raul Mondesi likely ready to come up by then. However, if they feel like they can fit his salary in somehow, he could be a versatile infielder with some pop.
Steve Pearce, Tampa Bay Rays
Pearce has been one of Tampa Bay's better hitters, so don't expect him to hit the market unless the Rays are out of it. He has been a solid right-handed bat, hitting .290/.384/.523 with seven home runs. He is primarily a first baseman, but has spent significant time in the outfield, has made a few starts at second, and has even started a game at third base this year. The Royals may not have need for another right-handed bat, but Pearce has been a lefty masher, with a career line of .272/.353/.507 against southpaws. He is not a very gifted defender, but his bat may be the best of this lot. Pearce is a free agent this winter and is earning just $4.75 million this year.
Yunel Escobar, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Escobar is not quite as versatile as he has played only third base this year and has experience at shortstop, but has not played second in a long time and has just one inning of experience in left field. Still, he could fill in at third base, and spell Alcides Escobar on occasion, and as an impending free agent, his salary would be off the books by the time Mike Moustakas returned. The 33-year old Cuban infielder is hitting .314/.371/.427 but could be moved if the Angels continue to have a disappointing season. He has lost a step defensively, but has had a solid bat with an ability to draw walks and avoid strikeouts. Escobar earns $7 million this year with a $7 million club option for next year with a $1 million buyout.
Chris Coghlan, Oakland Athletics
The left-handed Coghlan has played second base, third base, and outfield for the Athletics this year. What he hasn't done is hit. His offense has taken a nosedive to .153/.224/.298 in 143 plate appearances so far this year. However he was a useful offensive player last year with the Cubs, hitting .250/.341/.443 with 16 home runs in 503 plate appearances. The Royals could try to buy Coghlan low and add his power potential to the lineup, banking he will return to form. The former Rookie of the Year is a career .271/.341/.430 hitter against right-handed pitching, making him a good fit with some of the Royals right-handed bats. Coghlan earns $4.8 million this year and will be a free agent this winter.
Aaron Hill, Milwaukee Brewers
The 12-year veteran is a former All-Star with the Blue Jays who is trying to hang on with the Milwaukee Brewers at age 34. He has played both second base and third base this season, although he has no experience in the outfield. Hill has good pop for an infielder with a career ISO of .154, and he smashed three home runs in a game earlier this month. He is an adequate defender at second, but has struggled a bit this year at third base. Hill is earning $12 million this year, but the Diamondbacks are already paying or $6.5 million of his salary, leaving the Brewers to pay the rest.
Gordon Beckham, Atlanta Braves
Beckham has had a pretty disappointing career, but is off to a good start for his hometown Braves, hitting .311/.414/.446 in 87 plate appearances. He has played second, shortstop, and third base this year. He brings a little bit of power, a little bit of plate discipline, and is not terrible in the field. But his overall line as a big leaguer is quite poor, with a line of .244/.307/.373. Still, it would not much to get him in a trade, and he is only earning $1.25 million this year. If the Royals were in a real pinch, he would be the band-aid to a gaping wound.
Yangervis Solarte is not even eligible for arbitration yet, but the Padres could move him because well, they trade everyone it seems. His high-contact approach would be attractive to the Royals but it might take too much to lure him from San Diego. Danny Valencia can play third base and the outfield and shows some good pop, but has been rumored to be a poor teammate and the Royals already rid themselves of him once. Erick Aybar has been a trainwreck this year, so the Braves would be happy to move him. The Royals could bank on him returning to career numbers, although Aybar has little experience recently at second or third base.