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How the Royals should approach the trade deadline

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To trade or not to trade? That is the question.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Usually I have a more structured post with what I think are generally well formated ideas. For this Thursday though I don't have anything particular to talk about other than just random thoughts. Random enough that they tie together in one article but not specific enough to carry a consensus idea. So below are just a few musings of mine on the trade deadline and the future of the Royals.

Trading Wade Davis

I can't begin to tell you how awful an idea I think it is for the Royals to not trade Davis. There seems to be a bubble for relievers right now as shown by what the Cubs just parted with to acquire about two and a half months of the services of Aroldis Chapman. I don't think that trade sets a reliever precedent any more than the Shelby Miller trade set a precedent for middle of the rotation pitchers. This isn't free agency run wild where the only cost is money so you can pay a little more than you should.

Market prices are set by buyers, not sellers, and as Dave Cameron so aptly put it the other day:

And we can see how this works in our own day-to-day lives. When you go the grocery store, the retailer doesn't try to convince you that if you don't buy their gallon of milk, they'll just have their employees drink it instead. In fact, they just slap expiration dates right on the milk cartons, which is the dairy equivalent of being designated for assignment. The leverage the store holds over you has nothing to do with the milk's utility to themselves, but instead, entirely to do with its utility to you, and the fact that if you don't buy that particular gallon of milk, someone else will. As long as there are people demanding milk, the store will set a price that reflects the market price that people will pay for it.

Now this was in relation to Chris Sale being traded potentially and how the White Sox don't have to trade him, but if they do then they want to be blown away. Of course they do...every trade the GM wants to be blown away by because if they turned down that kind of offer they'd be dumb.

Which brings us back to Wade Davis. Yes, the Royals don't have to trade Wade Davis right now and they can try again this winter or next July but in a market where teams are giving up top 20 prospects and a 2-WAR pitcher (admittedly in 2015) for a reliever (or for a rental as well) you have to jump on it.

Another thing that has been bouncing around in my head is how people expect a Davis trade to return far and away more than Chapman because of the extra year of control. While it's true that extra year is more valuable I think there are two things to consider.

First, Chapman and the Cubs were meant to be. The Cubs didn't really need an upgrade anywhere but one place where they could maybe use some help in the bullpen. They don't have one of the best bullpens in the league but they've got a formidable 8th and 9th inning duo with Strop and Rondon.

Strop: 2.79 ERA 3.11 FIP

Rondon: 1.95 ERA 2.44 FIP

Then you also include CJ Edwards who's been quite good this year since his callup (1.84 ERA 2.73 FIP) and you've got three guys all with FIPS near or below 3.00. That's without mentioning Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill who are having a good year by ERA (2.85 and 3.07 respectively).

The Cubs wanted/needed a left handed reliever so rumors were swirling for them to acquire either Miller or Chapman and the Yankees have the two best lefties in the game. The Cubs also had a bit of a surplus up the middle with Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Ben Zobrist in the majors. This meant they could deal from their surplus (in this case Gleyber Torres, who was proverbially blocked -which I think is a silly idea for someone who is in A-Ball) for their specific need.

So I don't think that the Chapman trade really set the market for the price of an elite reliever. This is a case of two teams matching up: one with the supply for a specific need and the other with demand/surplus to trade from.

Second, I'm not sure that Davis is a better reliever than Chapman as I've heard some discussion of.

Player IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP Team Defense fWAR
Chapman 31.1 12.64 2.30 1.84 1.93 2.27 -7.4 1.4
Davis 32.2 8.54 3.31 1.60 2.76 4.19 32.2 0.8

Both guys have pitched nearly an equal number of innings and while Davis has the shinier ERA, Chapman has the much prettier FIP and xFIP. That's of course due in part to Chapman striking out four batters more per nine innings and walking one fewer. I also included team defense to show you how much better the Royals defense is vs the Yankees (which impacts ERA). Remember that Wade Davis doesn't get to take the Royals defense with him and he could also be moving to a more homer friendly park (which is a cause for concern given his xFIP). Relievers are all about "what have you done for me lately" and Chapman has excellent peripherals.

Even though I usually hate this sort of stuff, I think there is an argument to be made that Chapman brings a bit of a psychological effect when he comes in (or even before).

Now the argument of course is that even if they were equal or Chapman is better, the extra year of control puts Davis' value over the top. I do agree that value wise Davis has more but going back to my first point: no team is going to give up multiple top assets for a reliever. The Royals would be just fine "settling" for a package like Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford. The Nationals aren't going to give up Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles for a year and a half of a reliever because the impact of one (even elite ones) is far less than ~14 years of control for assets worth something like $90M in surplus value.

So the Royals would be best suited to trade Wade Davis now if in fact there is a market that's currently paying a higher price for relievers. I think the Cubs/Chapman trade isn't great precedent and I don't think the Royals should be demanding an equal one. However I do think teams recognize that Davis is an elite reliever with another year of control and will pay some sort of a premium.

One final thought, Wade Davis isn't exactly cheap next year either as his extension was signed under the auspice that he'd be a starter. He's set to make $10M in 2017 which would rank him among the highest paid relievers in baseball next year.

Craig Kimbrel: $13.25M

David Robertson: $12M

Wade Davis: $10M

Andrew Miller: $9M

You can probably pencil in Aroldis Chapman right near Kimbrel and Robertson but Davis will still be among the highest paid relievers.

Trade away what you can get for a good price

Alright so I'm sure I'm in the minority here thinking that I just don't see how the 2017 Royals are 10-15 wins better than the current team. Before the season started I predicted they'd go 80-82, which lines up directly with Fangraphs projection. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system said 76 wins. The Royals current winning% is right in line with PECOTA's projections.

There were reasons to be concerned with this team and PECOTA/FG had and expressed their doubts. For the most part, their projections seemed to be right. PECOTA saw a middling offense with holes, a poor rotation, and a bullpen that wasn't as scary as it once was. I believe Fangraphs voiced the same complaints in unison of their poor 2016 projection.

This kinda brings me to my point for next year in wondering how this team projects to be substantially better?

Yes, they get a full season of Mike Moustakas (hopefully) but the team was at .500 the day he went down. Yes, they get more games (hopefully) from Lorenzo Cain however he missed a similar chunk of games in 2014 and they still made the World Series. Yes, they get a full season of Alex Gordon (hopefully) but Gordon missed 56 games last year too and they still won the World Series. Let's also mention that Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain will be a year older, with significant injury history in both their backgrounds.

This year they are getting perhaps a career year from Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez has bounced back but Yordano Ventura, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, and Alcides Escobar  have taken a big step back.

So next year you are hoping for:

A full season from Gordon (who hasn't been good even before or after his injury)

A full season from Lorenzo Cain

A full season from Mike Moustakas

Eric Hosmer bounceback

Alcides Escobar bounceback

Yordano Ventura bounceback

Then we also need to talk about the potential holes too (assuming no one re-signs): Kendrys Morales, Luke Hochevar, Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen, and god willing Alcides Escobar. The Royals are plausibly going to need a:

DH

RF

2B

SP

SP

RP

SS

Now maybe you pencil in Raul Mondesi at SS or 2B but it's going to be hard to expect him to be a good player at either side next year. Maybe you move Cuthbert to DH but it's hard to see his bat working there full time. Maybe you put Moustakas at DH but you are wasting his very good defense.

There are several "maybes" or ideas for next year but as of this moment it's hard to see solid fills for all those spots internally and it's pretty futile to expect to fill all of them externally.

To me...it doesn't make sense to try to keep the band together and go for another run. It's tough to concede immediately after winning a World Series certainly. I just think it's hard to squint your eyes and see a 90-win team next year. Then you think about after 2017 and it's hard to even see them being perhaps an 80 win team...

The Royals are always a club that needs to operate with regards for the future (except for last year in a way). I wrote something similar to that this past November and it still stands true.

If the Royals get legitimate offers for any of their players, they should strongly consider them. I'm talking Wade Davis, Eric Hosmer, Kelvin Herrera, Edinson Volquez, Lorenzo Cain, or even Sluggerrr. There is a certain plausible disappointment that can be felt from trying to hang on for too long. We as fans felt it when Moore didn't trade Joakim Soria or Greg Holland. The Reds felt it when they didn't start their rebuild quick enough. If you think a rebuild is both inevitable and in the immediate future, you should get started on it now rather than wait around to see what next year may bring. Each day the Royals wait, the less value their players have.

Now I'm not saying trade guys for pennies on the dollar, but if the Nationals come knocking with a good package for Davis, the Indians call for Kelvin Herrera (yes, I know), or some team is willing to give us a low-A flyer for Edinson Volquez you take that deal.

I was so baffled when I saw that the Royals may have turned down inquiries on Davis because the Chapman package didn't even get the conversation started. The Chapman package is a really good package for a reliever, and it's a bird in the hand. Davis' value will never be higher than it is now and there is a premium paid at the deadline.