If you haven’t noticed, the Royals aren’t playing very well. They are on pace for 110 losses and the Orioles are the only team who has lost more games than the Royals 46. They do, however, have several tradable assets. Whether it was intentional or not, Kansas City holds several assets that have either trade friendly contracts (Whit Merrifield) or are perfect rentals (Mike Moustakas).
We are officially smack dab in the middle of June, leaving the Royals with roughly six weeks to work this for their benefit. They already dealt Jon Jay when he was at his highest value, but he was a stopgap. There will be more trades, but who is at the top of that list?
We are going to take a look today with our Royals Hot Stove Index. This index will be a mixture of my personal opinions on who the Royals should look to trade, as well as a realistic look at who they might actually trade, based on organization comments and history.
5. Salvador Perez
Yeah, this isn’t happening. Like, ever. Sal means too much to the franchise. With a lot of the guys on the Royals roster, the difference between a future in Kansas City or a future in another uniform could ultimately come down to how Dayton Moore views the rebuild.
Given his history and how he approached the last two offseasons, it’s apparent that he doesn’t want a prolonged rebuild. The writing on the wall, however, suggests that it will be a long rebuild. The rise of Seuly Matias and Khalil Lee have made the farm more appealing than it was even just a few months ago, but their roads to Kansas City are still long ones and the rest of the system is pretty thin.
Salvador Perez, meanwhile, is 28 and has caught more innings than any catcher in baseball since 2013. Do the Royals think Sal will be a contributor on their next postseason competitor? Maybe. Even if they don’t, they think that he’s a future Hall of Famer if he stays healthy. Given that the entire 2015 core will likely be gone after this season with the exception of Sal, it shouldn’t really surprise us that Moore wants to keep him around.
That doesn’t, however, change the fact that Sal is one of the Royals best trade assets, even in a down season. His value forces him on this list, but unless something changes, he isn’t going anywhere.
4. Jorge Soler
Here me out. Again, we have to consider the mindset of the front office while also considering a realistic view of the Royals next window.
Jorge Soler breaking out has been really fun. He hits baseballs far and walks often. But will he be around when the Royals next window opens up? 2018 is the seventh season that Perez entered as the presumptive starter, so it’s weird to think that he is just two years older (28) than Soler (26).
This is the first time Soler has produced at the Major League level but he isn’t exactly a young pup. It is also true that we probably haven’t seen the best of Soler, given his advanced understanding of the strikezone and his unearthly pop.
I wasn’t kidding when I said the fate of Royals like Soler rests on Moore’s view of the rebuild. If he thinks the Royals could compete again soon, Soler’s upside could make him a major piece. If the rebuild is going to be a long one, Soler’s team-friendly contract and somewhat wicked upside could make him the Royals most valuable trade asset.
3. Kelvin Herrera
Lost in the shuffle of a lot of losing and a lot of bad bullpening has been the vengeance of Kelvin Herrera. 2017 was without a doubt his worst season as a pro, but we all knew that he was not that guy. The 28-year-old has responded by being one of the most unhittable relievers in baseball.
Herrera hasn’t struck out batters at this low of a rate (7.71 K/9) since 2014, but he also hasn’t had a season where he walked batters at a rate even as remotely low as this season (0.70 BB/9). Only James Pazos has fewer walks than Herrera’s two. Oh, and both of those walks came in his last appearance. Before that, he hadn’t walked a hitter all season.
Most will remember HDH for Wade Davis and Greg Holland because they had all the saves, but Herrera has a long history shutting down batters. He will be an easy target.
2. Mike Moustakas
You will be hard pressed to find a better rental in the history of rentals than Mike Moustakas. Despite a recent slump, Moose is on pace for back-to-back 30 home run campaigns and is still a capable defender at the hot corner, all while playing on a ridiculous one-year, $6.5 million contract.
If we assume that teams pay $8-9 million per WAR, Moose has already outplayed his contract (1.2 fWAR) and we aren’t even halfway through the season. That also means that, going strictly off of value, Moustakas would more or less be playing for free if traded.
Not really, but you get what I‘m saying.
Moustakas will be a hot commodity because he is a legit power bat, but also because of his obscene contract. The only reason that he isn’t number one on this list is because he is slumping a bit and will be a free-agent again this winter after being cheated by the system.
Our own Max Rieper wrote about the urgency the Royals should feel to trade Moustakas. Moore has always been defensive of his players and after standing behind Moustakas through all of his struggles, we shouldn’t be surprised that Moore is hesitant to trade him. However, it is clear that the Royals need all hands on deck for this rebuild, and Kansas City would get a pretty penny in return for Moustakas’ services.
1. Whit Merrifield
Maybe this is controversial, but Whit Merrifield is the Royals best player. That is a nuanced claim, but when everything is considered, it’s hard to argue its validity. Whit was far better than anybody could have asked for in 2017. He hit 19 home runs after never hitting more than 10 during any minor league stop. He also led the American League in stolen bases and was a three-win player.
He has responded with an even better season. Through 65 games, he has accumulated 70% of his 2017 fWAR output with a 2.0 mark. At the moment, he is pacing that of at least a four-win player, as well as seeing an increase in BB%, OBP, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. That’s not to mention that metrics like him as a defender more than they did in 2017. Yes, Whit is 29, but he is also a guy that is a legitimate value player who can play any position and who just happens to have four years of club control left.
Whit Merrifield is an asset. It is still yet to be seen if the Royals will deal him, but he is their best asset.