We’re gonna have to face some harsh realizations:
- The Royals are bad; they should probably be better than they are, but they aren’t.
- 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.
- A hard rebuild means there will be some bad(er) baseball ahead.
- 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).
Today we’re making the final significant move, which I will break down. It is my Magnum Opus, if we’re being honest. I’ll also try to tie up some loose ends and do a final recap of where we ended up. Sound good? Let’s get started.
Homer Bailey to the New York Yankees
Coming into the year, I had a lot of doubts that Homer Bailey was going to turn into a tradeable commodity by the trade deadline and he’d just turn into a wasted roster spot. Instead, he’s posted a very respectable 4.55 xFIP and 8.26 K/9. His BB/9 is still a bit high because #AlwaysRoyal, but it’s still a very manageable 3.81. Going into this, I didn’t see a clear trade partner, and even if I did, I didn’t think it’d result in anything more than a lottery ticket or two. But I’ve found a very interesting scenario in trading with the Bronx Buttholes.
Currently the Yankees are running the stacked AL East, leading the Rays by 6.5 games and the Red Sox by 11. They’ve done so while also dealing with a crazy amount of injuries. The Ringer wrote about this unprecedented string of bad luck much better than I ever would. One could argue that this will happen when you invest in a bunch of 33+ year olds vets, but I digress. The starters have produced the following this year:
Luis Severino was expected to be ready to return to action in July until he had a setback during his rehab, now they’re looking at August (if at all). Domingo German is currently on the 10 day IL but he’s expected back on Wednesday.Even so, there’s a better chance of me pitching for the Royals this year than there is of CC, Tanaka, and Happ all being healthy for the rest of the year. They need some depth. Bailey’s xFIP and fWAR would slot in their #4 rotation spot quite nicely while providing said depth. So we’ve established the justification from a competition standpoint.
OF Jacoby Ellsbury, 1B Greg Bird, UTIL Tyler Wade, OF Ryder Green, RHP Luis Gil, and $18 million.
When I started looking at scenarios, I started at Greg Bird. Going by Baseball Trade Value’s tool, they would line up for a 1 for 1 trade, and I’d do that deal in a heart beat (more on that below). But something else the Royals should probably be trying to do is taking on bad contracts for prospects. The Yankees have, at least, one really bad contract that we could take on without any significant issues.
Over the next 3-ish seasons, Jacoby Ellsbury is owed around $37M and the guy, stop me if you’ve heard this before, cannot stay healthy. He missed all of 2018 and 2019 battling plantar fascitis. At age 35, he’s probably not going to be of value on the field, but in 2017, he put up 101 wRC+ in 400 ABs. I’m not counting on that by any means, but a fella can dream.
His presence doesn’t change the probable starting outfielders next year, who are likely going to be a mixture of Soler, Phillips, Bubba, and Boni. And if you’re truly determined to see if he still has something left in the tank, then make him the 4th OF/2nd DH; limit his fielding reps and keep him healthy. Who knows, maybe he becomes a trade candidate in 2020 himself.
His real value is bringing in potential future pieces/lottery tickets in this deal. In this scenario, I’ve got the Yankees paying just under half the contract and I’ve spread it out as such:
Most of that $19M is probably lost money and ownership might not be into paying it, but it’s not enough to hamstring a 100+ loss team that should be trotting out youngins and reclamation projects anyways. And speaking of youngins and reclamations...
Tyler Wade and Greg Bird kinda fit both of those. Both are still young and cheap and could be something. For one reason or another, neither guy has found their place in New York and considering how set they are, I don’t know if they ever will.
Wade seems to profile a lot like Nicky Lopez. Athletic middle infielder with good contact skills and above average speed and little power. Wade will strike out more but that’s because Nicky is a freak when it comes to plate discipline, at least coming up through the system that is. The Yankees have even started playing Wade in the outfield just to get him regular ABs in AAA. At 24 years old, he still has 4 years of control and 2 options remaining, so there’s still time for him to figure it out.
Greg Bird has seemingly been given the opportunity to win the starting gig for NY since 2015. He’s always had competition/platoon duties to compete with during those times though. He’s been quite the roller coaster...
He had a impressive debut in a partial 2015 season but lost 2016 to a torn labrum and hasn’t quite picked up where he left off. He still has the ability to draw walks and hit dingers, so there’s potential value in that. But you’ll need him to do so while staying well above the Mendoza Line, which seems to be a struggle. He’s currently on the 60 day IL and rehabbing from plantar fascitis (no I am not targeting those players) and could make it back some time after the All-Star break. All this being said, he might be the same guy as Ryan O’Hearn, but we’re gonna roll the dice.
Gil might be the definition of a lottery ticket. A 70 grade FB and a 60 grade curveball are jumping off the page right now. He’s having a good year in A ball so maybe he’s figured something out. If so, he’d be a great addition to a potential rotation. But think of that combo in the bullpen along with all the other flamethrowers I’ve amassed thus far. That might be the better bet and I think that’s a good floor to have in your back pocket.
Green’s tool kinda look a bit like Seuly Matias’s to me. Always going to struggle to put bat on ball, but has raw power and a strong arm in the corner outfield. Again, we’re betting on lottery tickets with tools, and Ryder has that. Welcome aboard, Ryder.
The rest of the loose ends
Billy Hamilton is not dealt as there are no takers for his speed and defense. I think he assumes the Terrence Gore role.
Terrence Gore is also not dealt even with his recent return to SB success. I think he eventually gets DFA’d and ends up on a contender playoff roster.
Lucas Duda is DFA’d to find regular ABs for projects Bird/O’Hearn.
Wily Peralta stays on the roster for the rest of the year, eating low leverage innings, and is allowed to walk in the offseason. Get it? He’s going to walk...because he allows a lot of walks...to...ya know...opposing...er...teams.
Jorge Soler is the primary provider of offensive power for this lineup for the rest of the year, allowing him to make a run at the Royals season HR record.
Alex Gordon finishes the season with the Royals as he decides he doesn’t want to play for anyone else.
Where does this leave us?
After the dust has settled and start to examine our work, what we’re left with is a stronger farm system with some “tweener” lottery tickets with a couple years to carve out their role for the future. I would say there are 14 players (some aren’t listed in this table) that can be considered “tweeners” and that’s not including the live arms in the bullpen with big question marks.
I’ve also added 5 players with overall grades of 50+ that likely contribute at the major league level at some point. When added in with the players that are currently in the system with 50+ grades, that puts us at 16 players. Now let’s throw in a likely Top 5 pick in the 2020 draft and international signee, Erick Pena, and we’re at 18. There’s a decent chance that, by 2021, 5 of those 18 guys are considered Top 100 prospects (Puk, Singer, Lynch, Witt, 2020 pick) too. And for context, coming into the 2019 season, the San Diego Padres were considered by most to have the best farm system in the league. They had 20 50+ players and 7 considered to be in the Top 100. The Royals would likely have a system in the top half by the end of this season and a top 5 system by 2021.
I think this series of moves makes the Royals competitive by 2022. They’ll be anchored by a bonkers rotation complemented by a bullpen full of flamethrowers. The lineup has plenty of concerns, especially if some of these big bats don’t take steps forward this year, but there’s good balance and very good defense there. And again, this is all happening without bringing in any free agents. There will be payroll flexibility to fill any voids that might come up. I think these moves significantly move up the contention window timeline and they put out an entertaining team in the meantime, which would continue to serve the 2 masters they insist that they’re currently serving, and personally, I’m ready for it. Let’s blow it the hell up!
*Josh comes home to a seemingly empty house after a long day of Chippendaling and pours himself a tall glass of almond milk because dairy gives him the poops. He closes the refrigerator door and David Glass is standing there with an inexplicable eye patch.*
Josh: Mr. Glass? How did you get in here? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOUR EYE?!?!
Mr. Glass: Josh, the Royals need you. Will you come with me?
*close up to Josh’s steady lip totally not quivering from the massive amount of adrenaline currently surging through his veins; it begins to smile; black*