With the second half of the season now upon us, we can now look to the trade deadline, just two week away. Mike Moustakas is expected to be one of the names dealt by then, as the Royals endure a painful rebuild season.
The trade market for Moustakas is probably going to be held up by the Manny Machado trade market, but there are indications that the Orioles are very close to dealing their All-Star infielder. The Royals won’t get nearly as much as the Orioles will get for Machado, and can expect something closer to what they got for Kelvin Herrera last month - two decent, but nowhere near elite prospects and a “lottery ticket”-type prospect.
The Royals have a bigger need for pitching in the organization over hitting, but they will probably take whatever they can get. With that in mind, let’s look at the most likely potential suitors, and who the Royals could target.
The Royals have been reportedly scouting Phillies prospects in anticipation of a trade, although it is not clear that Moustakas is a fit in Philadelphia. The Phillies have young power-hitting third baseman Maikel Franco, and while he has been inconsistent, his OPS is currently higher than Moustakas’. However he has fallen out of favor in Philly, being subjected to a more part-time role.
If the Phillies are looking to add a third baseman guys like Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina are off-limits unless it is for Manny Machado. There are some other interesting pitchers the Phillies could offer however, like righties Franklyn Kilome or Tom Eshelman or lefties JoJo Romero or Ranger Suarez. Former first overall pick Mickey Moniak could also be a possibility as a buy-low option, since the 20-year old outfielder has been a big disappointment thus far.
Who the Royals should target: Enyel de los Santos is in his third organization, which would ordinarily be a red flag. But the right-handed pitcher has blossomed as he has advanced through the minors, posting a 1.89 ERA with 8.2 strikeouts-per nine innings in 16 AAA starts after being acquired from the Padres for Freddy Galvis, after originally starting his career with the Mariners. The 22-year old throws in the mid-90s with a good change up, and his success as a starter will depend on development of his curveball. He has already seen Major League action and could be a decent relief candidate if starting doesn’t pan out.
The Phillies may want to send him in a package with Franco, although the Royals already have Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier at third. The Royals may instead prefer de los Santos in a package with Suarez, a 22-year old Venezuelan lefty who may need some refinement. Suarez and de los Santos were both been rumored to be coveted by the Orioles as part of the return for Machado.
Lottery ticket: Right-hander Victor Santos is just 17-years old and participating in the Gulf Coast League, a rookie league typically for players a few years older. He has an eye-popping strikeout-to-walk ratio of 29-3 in 25 1⁄3 innings.
Like the Phillies, the Braves already have an incumbent at third who is hitting about as well as Moustakas in Johan Camargo. However, acquiring Moose could allow them to use Camargo as a utility player all over the field, giving them more power and depth. As a rental, he would serve as a nice place holder until top prospect Austin Riley is ready to take over third.
The Braves have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, ranked #1 before the year by Baseball America. Royals fans may pine over former Kansas City-area high school pitcher Joey Wentz, from Shawnee Mission East, but he is probably out of reach for a rental. Lefties Kyle Muller, Tucker Davidson, or Ricardo Sanchez could be in play. Drew Waters could give them the speed they covet in centerfield, but he has some strikeout issues and is a long way away in low-A ball. The Royals could be interested in right-handers Matt Wisler or Lucas Sims, both former prospects still under the age of 26 that have struggled in limited Major League action.
Who the Royals should target: Bryse Wilson is described as a “bulldog” on the mound by MLB.com, which is a trait the Royals love. The 2016 fourth-round pick dominated minor league hitters until he reached AA this year, but he has still struck out 72 hitters in 65 innings at that level. The right-hander throws in the low-90s with an improved changeup, but an inconsistent slider. The Royals could pair him with Wisler or Sims to give them a candidate for next year’s rotation, or try for a higher-upside package with one of the younger lefties.
Lottery ticket: Jasseel de la Cruz has promise, but has lacked consistency thus far. The 21-year old right-hander has struck out nearly a hitter-per-inning in the South Atlantic League this year with a fastball that has been clocked anywhere from 90 to 96 mph, with a slider that has been plus at times.
New York Yankees
Then Yankees reportedly scouted Moustakas recently, but as a first baseman, since rookie Miguel Andujar has held his own at third so far. Greg Bird has come on recently, hitting .255/.333/.588 over his last 14 games, but the Yankees may look to hedge their bets on him. The Yankees have a pretty loaded farm system, complete with many arms the Royals would desperately like to get their hands on.
Domingo Acevedo has hit 103 on the gun, and throws in the high-90s, but the 24-year old doesn’t get quite as many strikeouts as you might think in AA ball and may not be available for Moustakas. Deivi Garcia has a great spin rate and has the whiffs to prove it with 12.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings in his career. Other right-handers like Freicer Perez, Juan Then, and Matt Sauer could be in play.
Who the Royals should target: Trevor Stephan is still fairly new to pitching, but he has dominated since being drafted out of Arkansas in 2017. The 22-year old right-hander has already advanced to AA ball and has 136 strikeouts in 118 1⁄3 innings and a 2.81 ERA in his short professional career. He throws in the mid-90s with movement and a deceptive delivery, and has found some success with a slider, although the development of his changeup will probably determine if he succeeds as a starter. The Royals could try to get him in a package with Billy McKinney, whose stock has fallen quite a bit, but could start in centerfield next year for the Royals with good power potential.
Lottery ticket: Roansy Contreras stands at just 5’10’’, but the 18-year old right-hander is mowing down hitters in the rookie New York-Penn League. The Dominican-born pitcher has a mid-90s fastball and has a 1.26 ERA in 28 2/3 innings with 32 strikeouts for Staten Island.
Boston Red Sox
Rafael Devers is the third baseman of the future, but he has struggled a bit this year and is currently on the shelf with a shoulder issue. Mike Moustakas could allow them to be more patient with Devers and get better defense, although their hitting profile is similar with their low-OBA, high-power approach.
Sam Travis has had a disappointing season in AAA and has yet to really develop power, and with Michael Chavis coming up and possibly moving to first, Travis may be out of the picture for Boston. Third baseman Bobby Dalbec has showed impressive power with 23 home runs in High-A ball but has big-time strikeout issues. Centerfielder Cole Brannen has the speed to burn the Royals love, but hasn’t hit at all and is in A ball. Pitchers Alex Scherff and Jalen Beeks could also be discussed.
Who the Royals should target: Mike Shawaryn features a low-90s fastball and a decent slider that has allowed him to strike out 85 hitters in 93 2⁄3 innings at AA Portland with a 3.65 ERA. The 23-year old right-hander is a strike-thrower that could make the jump to the big leagues as soon as next year. A package of Shawaryn and Travis could give the Royals some younger pieces that can contribute next year. If the Royals want someone further away with higher upside, they could look at lefty Darwinzon Hernandez, a 21-year old who has struck out over 10 hitters-per-nine-innings the last three seasons in A ball.
Lottery ticket: Marino Campana is 20 years old, young for the South Atlantic League, but has flashed solid power this year with 14 home runs in 77 games. He stands 6’4’’ with a good frame and can play left field, but will have to develop his plate discipline.