As each day that ticks by and the Royals find themselves in either last place in the AL or last in the AL Central, the more likely it is that they become sellers. Dayton Moore is fairly hesitant to do such a thing but there are only so many games left in the season and so much ground to make up. Often when a team is out of contention there will be coverage of who they could trade. I’d argue that unless you see this as only a temporary matter, you should trade anyone and everyone if you are going to go full rebuild. It remains to be seen what path the Royals will take, but they have several short-term pieces (guys not locked up beyond this summer) that could be moved.
Two of those pieces are players that play positions of need at the trade deadline. Often guys traded in July fit three categories: outfielder, starting pitcher, and reliever. That group would include Lorenzo Cain and Kelvin Herrera. Cain is under control only for a few more months while Herrera won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season.
Earlier this morning, Dave Schoenfeld at ESPN proposed a trade that would send Herrera/Cain to the Nationals in return for Juan Soto and a “second-tier pitching prospect”:
The trade: Soto and a second-tier pitching prospect for Herrera and Cain. As good as Soto is, he's also just 18 and a few years from the majors. He's probably a left fielder in the long run since he lacks a prototypical right fielder's arm. The Nationals make a huge upgrade in center field with Cain (who is a free agent) to replace the injured Adam Eaton and acquire Herrera for this season and next.
Soto was signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2015, and received the largest signing bonus ($1.5M) for a July 2 guy that the Nationals have ever paid out. Though he wasn’t highly ranked among the top few guys in that class, that faith in his development has paid off for the Nationals. He’s done nothing but hit at each level he’s been in and has been very impressive during his full season debut this year where he’s the age of a draft eligible high-school senior.
The profile on Soto is that of a prototypical right fielder, featuring above average power and decent speed. He’ll be more valuable at the plate than in the outfield defensively as he probably isn’t anything more than an average fielder there with a less than stellar arm.
He’s not done growing yet of course as he’s just 18 years old, and as he matures you could see him growing into more power (but he’ll also lose speed from his already below average wheels). He has a decent idea at the plate, has posted strong walk-rates in the minors so far, and makes a lot of contact. If the hit tool grades out at the end as even a 50 then you are talking about a guy with 50 hit and 60 power who also gets on base. It’s not a star profile given his defensive profile and base running, but it’s an easy everyday regular.
In their recently updated top 100, Baseball America ranked him 59th.
As for that second-tier pitching prospect, the Nationals are usually stocked full of arms that match that term. Here are few guys possible:
Austin Voth - MLB ready guy who has had some success in ~180 innings of AAA. Not great stuff overall and he’s 25 years old but profiles as a #4/5 type.
Erick Fedde - Likely to get thrown around as a name, but the Nationals just moved him to the bullpen to get him ready to be called up. They’ll have him make his debut there and then worry about converting him back next year or so.
Jesus Luzardo - I had him as a possibility for the Royals in the 2016 draft but he went to the Nationals in the third. Luzardo was pegged for Tommy John surgery before even signing his contract and went under the knife two months ago. He was one of the better prep lefties in the draft and the Nationals have a track record of taking these sort of guys (needing TJS) and turning them into good pitchers.
Joan Baez - Baez would be your typical Latin American low-level flyer if he was younger. Instead he’s a 22-year old in A+ due to (as you probably guessed) control issue. The fastball can touch upper-90’s and there’s a cromulent curveball as well but there’s not much of a third pitch and as mentioned the control is the biggest barrier.
A.J. Cole - Just going to include him here because he just seems like a Dayton Moore guy. Cole made his MLB debut in 2015 but is still rookie eligible thanks to just being ineffective so far in the bigs. He’s similar to a Nate Karns-lite (lacks the raw stuff) where if he can bring in his command and maybe squeeze a little more juice out of his arsenal, he’s a #3-4 starter.
Would you go for this trade?
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