The Kansas City Royals are very bad. This might be an understatement, but it is still true. The Royals are very bad.
Kansas City has also traded two of its better players this season already. Jon Jay and Kelvin Herrera were both traded in June. Expect more trades to happen. Mike Moustakas almost assuredly won’t be a Royal by the end of the month. Lucas Duda and Whit Merrifield are distinct trade possibilities as well. Danny Duffy is also likely to be traded this offseason or next year at the trade deadline after he re-establishes himself.
Naturally, there is frustration that the Royals are trading the guys that everyone actually enjoys watching. But there is also something else, too, which always happens for bad teams that trade these players: there is a surprising amount of confusion about why on earth the Royals are trading their good players away.
If you’re not one of those people, you can find those people saying so on social media. And if you are one, chances are you are thinking something like this:
Just when we start getting our stuff together, you start giving away our proven assets— Eileen (@AngelicZombie07) June 7, 2018
I have realized that lots of people simply just don’t understand why baseball teams do this. When people realize I write at Royals Review, people inevitably ask me about Royals transactions and happenings. Fellow fans. They always ask about why the Royals did something or other, especially when it involves a trade of a good player. Heck, my own parents, who watch more Royals broadcasts than I do, asked my why the Royals traded Kelvin Herrera.
So here are a few reasons why the Royals, who are bad, are trading their good players.
The Royals don’t just ‘give’ players away
There’s a verb that’s used a lot when a bad team trades good players to other teams. That verb is ‘give.’ Why did the Royals give away ______? Heck, Eileen used it in my example above.
The first thing to understand is that no team simply gives their players to other teams. That is not how trading works. That is not how competitive businesses work. When trading players, even bad ones, teams look to get comparable value in return. Yes, we can quibble about which team got the better end of the trade, but nobody is giving away players for funsies.
And while some fans keep tabs on the minor leagues and follow the prospects received in a return, the fact is that most Royals fans don’t follow the minor leagues at all. That’s totally fine—but keep in mind that just because you can’t see the return for the trade doesn’t mean that it’s not there.
A good player’s value is wasted on a bad team
Let’s say that your doctor puts you on a strict low-sugar diet. When you get home, you open your fridge to find the decadent, homemade cheesecake you made a few days ago. It’s delectable, with a New York style, chocolate drizzle, crumbly graham cracker crust.
That cheesecake is delicious. It’s doing it’s job. It’s fantastic. You just can’t eat it or use it. In order to get proper use out of it, someone else has to eat it. Maybe you sell it, maybe you trade it for vegetables out of your neighbor’s extensive and delicious vegetable garden. Whatever.
Good players on an awful MLB team are like that cheesecake. Yeah, they’re fun. It’s nice having them around. But they can’t solve your problem, and they don’t do anything for you. Better to convert them to things you can actually use, or convert them to players you can use later.
Kelvin Herrera was the Cheesecake Factory 30th Anniversary chocolate cheesecake. The Royals traded him for actual value rather than watching him rot and mold in the fridge before discarding.
It’s all about the farm
Ever wonder why bad teams like the Royals always acquire prospects as opposed to established big league players? Well, it has to do with baseball’s salary structure. Teams control a player’s rights for six full seasons once that player makes the big leagues, and they are paid cheaply in their first three seasons. The Royals are going to be bad this year, bad next year, and probably bad the year after that. Why trade for a proven player when they’ll just burn three years of service time during bad seasons? Better just to get a minor league prospect who can debut when he’s ready.
Also, good teams are built on the foundation of good farm systems. That’s how it works in the modern era. The last three World Series victors—the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, and Royals—all boasted excellent farm systems before winning it all. Kansas City is trying to get back to that point.