Every rebuilding team needs assets. The ability to trade veterans on short or expiring contracts at the MLB trade deadline plays a crucial role in rebuilding farm systems. The Chicago White Sox added Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, and Michael Kopech through trades. Eloy Jimenez is now one of the top prospects in all of baseball and Michael Kopech is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
Last year, the Royals traded Kelvin Herrera and Jon Jay during the season and acquired four prospects in Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins, Yohanse Morel, and Elvis Luciano, that would all rate in their top 30 prospects right now (Luciano is currently a Rule 5 player for Toronto). Should Luciano be returned to KC, the Royals would have two elite defensive prospects and two wild card teenage pitchers added to the system after trading an average center fielder and a non-closing reliever.
You get the idea. Want to jump start your rebuild? Find assets that other people want and then trade them for prospects.
In my opinion, Salvador Perez was the Royals single most valuable trade asset before his elbow injury (assuming younger/controllable assets like Mondesi were off the table). The five time Gold Glove award winner and former World Series MVP would’ve likely returned the Royals a king’s ransom, given his overall profile. He’s marketable, a great teammate, leader in the clubhouse, Gold Glove catcher, and has good power for a catcher.
Remove Salvy from the conversation, and I think it’s fair to question what trade assets the Royals have left. For the sake of this conversation, we’re going to assume that players like Adalberto Mondesi, Brad Keller, Ryan O’Hearn, and any prospect is off the table. With that being said, here’s who is left.
#1: Whit Merrifield, 2B/CF
Whit Merrifield is pretty clearly the answer here. Coming off of a 5.2 fWAR season, the Royals super-utility man would be a highly coveted asset at this year’s trade deadline, especially given his new, guaranteed contract. I said we weren’t going to put young, controllable players on this list, but Merrifield is not young. Currently entering his age-30 season, I can see a scenario developing that could persuade the Royals to trade Merrifield. Say Nicky Lopez has a great season with AAA Omaha, Bubba Starling makes strides, Brett Phillips hits well, and the Royals are 20 games below .500 come July, Whit Merrifield could be a hot commodity among contenders looking to fill a void at the top of the lineup.
#2: Jorge Soler, OF/DH
Jorge Soler was once traded for the best closer in baseball, before he ever proved anything in the big leagues. Imagine if he proves he can handle big league pitching. There are always teams that need bats. If Soler can stay healthy through July, given the Royals glut of outfielders between AAA and the big leagues, I could see a team giving up something worth trading for in July. There’s a huge drop off between my expected (theoretical) return for Merrifield versus Soler, but I think Soler could be worth shopping nonetheless if he’s hitting well (which I expect he will).
#3: Kyle Zimmer, RP
Put down the pitch forks and hang on a second. Relievers are perhaps the most replaceable and most inconsistent players on any given team. We all know about Kyle Zimmer’s injury history. Zimmer looks healthy for now, but if he’s pitching well in July, the Royals absolutely need to consider taking offers on him. He’s been the most pleasant Surprise (hehe) from Spring Training and I am stoked for him as a Tommy John Surgery recipient. I hope he’s able to have a lengthy career from here on out, but the Royals don’t need to wait around and take that gamble. If he’s healthy and pitching well in July, Zimmer needs to be on another team.
#4/5/6: Wily Peralta, Brad Boxberger, Jake Diekman, RPs
Thus ends the hope of getting anything significant in return at the deadline. Take your pick at who you think returns the most of these three, but they could all feasibly fetch SOMETHING. I don’t expect any of these pitchers to be on the roster on August 1.
#7: Alex Gordon, OF
Alex Gordon is owed $20M for the 2019 season and has a $4M buyout in the off-season. He’s not going to fetch anything in a trade. However, if Gordon can be slightly above average against RHP through July, stays healthy, and continues playing Gold Glove defense in LF (all things he did in 2018) then maybe someone eats his contract for August and September if you’re willing to send $4M with him for the buyout. The Royals play 52 games between August and September, or 32.1% of their total games for the season. If someone is willing to eat $5+M of his 2019 salary to take Gordon for a playoff push, opening up a spot in the Royals outfield for one of the younger guys, let them have him. It’s been one heck of a ride for Gordon in Kansas City, but I’d like to see him go out in a playoff run.
#8: Terrance Gore, OF
Another outfielder that certainly won’t return much in the way of value, Gore could be coveted at the deadline nonetheless. Take an 18-year old lottery arm from the rookie team of a contender and call it a day.
The Royals no longer have highly coveted assets that they can use to rebuild the farm system. They’re not going to move a player like Mondesi leaving them with Whit Merrifield and some lottery tickets. Lottery tickets hit every once in a while, but like the stocking stuffer from your Granny every Christmas, I’m not gonna bank on any of the Royals lottery tickets returning anything more than another lottery ticket this year.