The Royals are still debating on whether to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, with recent reports that they are at least open to the idea of trading veterans for young prospects to re-stock the farm system next week. Today Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports that the Nationals are interested in Royals closer Wade Davis, although the asking price from the Royals is high, higher than what the Yankees are asking for star closer Aroldis Chapman.
The high asking price makes sense, as the Royals are not under the gun to trade Davis. He is not eligible for free agency until after 2017, unlike Chapman, who is a two-month rental for clubs. Davis has been arguably the best reliever in baseball over the past three seasons, with a minuscule ERA of 1.00 in 171 innings of work. He is the only reliever in baseball history to post back-to-back seasons of an ERA of 1.00 or less with at least 50 innings pitched.
Davis has spent some time on the disabled list recently with a forearm injury, but has returned to throw three scoreless outings since returning. In 31 2/3 innings this year, he has a 1.14 ERA, although his strikeout numbers are down dramatically to 8.53 per-nine-innings. He has converted 21 of 23 save opportunities this season.
The Nationals currently have volatile reliever Jonathan Papelbon closing out games right now, but they also have the best bullpen ERA in the National League, so adding another reliever would not seem to be a high priority. Expecting them to meet a high asking price might be wishful thinking. Baseball America ranked their farm system the fifth-best in baseball last winter. The Nats are said to be unwilling to deal away top prospects Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, Victor Robles, or Reynaldo Lopez for Chapman. John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked their top 20 prospects and close-to-MLB ready pitchers like A.J. Cole and Austin Voth could interest the Royals.
Davis is owed $8 million this year and has a $10 million club option for 2017. The shelf-life for relievers is not great, so it would make some sense for the Royals to move Davis before he gets hurt again or is no longer the dominant reliever he has been. They also have bullpen depth to withstand a loss like Davis with Kelvin Herrera pitching well, and Greg Holland a possibility to re-sign if he returns this year.
On the other hand, the Royals have a window of opportunity to compete this year and next, and having a shut-down reliever like Wade Davis could mean the difference between making the post-season and staying home. Dayton Moore will have to decide which direction he wants to take the club, and he has just over a week to make that decision.