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Blowin’ it up

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Let’s find a trade for Whit Merrifield

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

We’re gonna have to face some harsh realizations:

  1. The Royals are bad; they should probably be better than they are, but they aren’t.
  2. The idea of a soft rebuild was fun (while it lasted?) but it’s probably not a possibility anymore. It’s time to embrace the concept of a hard rebuild.
  3. A hard rebuild means there will be some bad(er) baseball ahead.
  4. A hard rebuild also means the trading of players, some being harder to see leave than others.

That all being said, let’s take a look at some of the players the Royals could use to add to the growing wave of talent for the future. For trade simulations I used the Baseball Trade Simulator along with some references to the MLB Pipeline Prospect Rankings (although I would also like to point you to the Royals Farm Report Draft Guide that has their updated Royals Top 10 prospect rankings).

Let’s get to it! It’s Demo Day!

Here’s what I think the roster will look like over the next 5 years if no free agents are signed or no trades are completed outside of this exercise:

That’s a very rough draft of what it’d look like and I am 100% sure it will not look like that, even by the end of the season. But this is where we’re gonna start.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The big one!

Like all big demolitions, you start with the biggest weight-bearing pillar. No, you say? That’s a super dangerous way to start it? Yeah you’re probably right but go ahead and shut up real fast. We need to make the biggest splash because the biggest haul will guide the following trades, and that splash is Whit.

This one also hurts the most because we all love Whit. He’s the best player on this team and, during the whole Nicky Lopez call-up, it seemed like he was the leader in the clubhouse. He’s good. He’s cheap. He’s a leader. It makes sense why he’s the most valuable trade piece KC has and it’s also the move that hurts the most.

Potential landing spot.

...all of them...every of them. Every team planning on contending in the next 1-3 years should be in on Whit. Between his versatility, tool-set, and cheap contract, he should be a fit for every team. Sorting through the contenders in 2019, Boston, Cleveland, Texas, Oakland, LA Dodgers, and Colorado could all use Whit’s services over the next few years. I think there is one team in particular that fits the best: the Oakland A’s.

Whit’s versatility is most valuable in the NL, where he adds flexibility to get the best possible player into the best situation at any given time. His contract could also lead to big market teams like the Dodgers and Red Sox to get into a bidding war to pay for his performance per dollar to save money. But I think Oakland makes the most sense here.

Currently Oakland is nine games out of the AL West lead and they’d have to catch Texas and Houston to get to that home ALDS series. They are also just 1.5 games out of the Wild Card game. With the single trade deadline of July 31 instead of the non-waiver trade deadline AND waiver trade deadline, teams are forced to make their move before August instead of waiting to see if they can keep it up. So the A’s will have to shit or get off the pot by July 31. They might be more apt to make this trade for Whit because he’ll be able to help them now, and the next few years.

They have a lineup full of table clearers but not many table setters. They’re also getting the 9th least wRC+ from their 2B position with 80. They COULD call-up prospect Jorge Mateo who is currently slashing .327/.361/.553 in AAA. But he’s no sure thing like Whit is. Adding Whit to that lineup would put that lineup into overdrive and keep their team payroll relatively cheap.

The compensation

Let’s use this cool new trade machine!

LHP AJ Puk, OF Jameson Hannah, 3B Sheldon Neuse, and RHP Brian Howard.

This package seems like the kind of big asking price that Dayton Moore has been referencing. Let’s break it down piece by piece.

Per MLB Pipeline

A 6’-7” lefty that throws gas and has a nasty slider? YAHTZEE! He’d fit right in with the current starting pitching crop making their way through the system. Thinking about having a rotation of Keller, Singer, Puk, Lynch, and Kowar by 2021 is erotic to me.

Per MLB Pipeline

Hannah seems like a guy that we already have a few of (Isbel, Gigliotti, Hicklen) but you can’t go wrong with having a bunch of athletic centerfield types with good hit and speed tools.

Per MLB Pipeline

This is another DM type of guy in a corner infielder that plays good defense and a passable bat i.e. Kelvin Gutierrez, Cheslor Cuthbert, etc. But Neuse is hitting really well in AAA this year while walking more and striking out less. That’s a recipe for outperforming a projection.

Per MLB Pipeline

In the end, Howard might be another one of those AAAA pitchers that KC seems to be overloaded with. He doesn’t seem to have overwhelming stuff, but as the scouting report says, his groundball/pop up inducing tendencies is exactly what Dayton wants in a pitcher these days. He’d join the current inventory of stopgaps fighting to prove themselves until the thoroughbreds get here.

Where does that leave us?

In short it leaves us Whit-less. As good as the A’s lineup will look by adding Whit, the KC lineup will be on the opposite end of that spectrum but, who cares, we’re in rebuild mode. It also gives us a potential future rotation that could open a contention window and keep it open for a while. It’d also open up a 40 man roster spot that could lead to promoting guys like Bubba (sexy) or Mejia/Arteaga (practical). It also brings in some prospect depth that would add pressure to the front office to stop signing low upside guys like Chris Owings and Lucas Duda and start giving meaningful ABs to young guys.

Along the same lines, it would also leave a spot in the outfield that could be filled by a cheap/manageable deal for Gordo in 2020. There are signs that Alex could be headed back down to Earth from a fantastic start, but he will always provide good defense and could be flipped at the deadline next year. Or better yet, we could use Gordo’s money and Whit’s money to extend some of our core pieces, but that’s for another day.

Below is where I think this move takes us in the long run:

This is the first move of a hard rebuild and there are more pieces to move out. Likewise, this is the first submission to a series of articles where I play GM and build a contender from the ground up...errr... maybe it’s more like the 3rd floor up. Regardless, this team will look very different when I’m done with it. Until next time.

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