The Royals are looking to upgrade their team after four consecutive losing seasons, but after millions in financial losses due to the pandemic, money could be too tight to splurge on free agency. Instead, the Royals may have to turn to trades to improve the team.
If the Royals do make a deal, what kind of assets do they have to offer? Let’s rank the trade value of the players on the 40-man roster, keeping in mind contract status, years of club control, and age.
39-37. Chance Adams, Scott Blewett, Foster Griffin - The Royals will likely need some 40-man roster spots soon, and these two would be my best bet to be designated for assignment. Adams was lit up in 8 2⁄3 innings for the Royals this year after they acquired him from the Yankees, and Blewett got just three innings. Griffin had a shaky minor league track record and is out all of next year after Tommy John surgery.
36. Erick Mejia - He can play a lot of positions and has a lot of speed, and Royals brass seems to like him, but Mejia doesn’t hit enough to be all that valuable.
35. Gabe Speier - The club is a bit light on left-handed relievers which could keep Speier around, but he is a fairly fungible arm in an era in which lefty specialists are not as valuable after the rule change requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three hitters.
34. Glenn Sparkman - He may well be non-tendered in December, although the Royals do seem to like his potential as a reliever. A forearm strain cost him most of this year, and the 28-year old right-hander has a 5.99 ERA in 180 1⁄3 Major League innings.
33. Bubba Starling - The club still seems fairly high on him, but the 28-year old former first-rounder has now hit .204/.246/.298 in 261 Major League plate appearances. Once younger outfielders like Kyle Isble and Khalil Lee are ready, it will be tough to justify keeping Starling around.
32. Nick Heath - The Kansas native is fun to root for with an infectious personality, and he brings the blazing speed the Royals love. But he hasn’t been a big threat with the bat, and he will turn 27 this month, so he is not a young prospect anymore. He has a chance to make the team as a reserve, but he won’t have trade value until he can show he can hit big league pitching.
31. Kelvin Gutierrez - Gutierrez had some promise, but injuries have really kept him from much big league playing time. He could get a chance next year if the Royals part ways with Maikel Franco, but his opportunities are slipping away.
30. Jake Newberry - Newberry has shown he can hold his own and miss some bats with a 4.07 ERA in 66 1⁄3 innings over parts of the last three seasons, but he has trouble with walks and is a fairly fungible 25-year old reliever.
29. Carlos Sanabria - The Royals just picked him up off waivers from the Astros, so they may want to see what his fastball looks like. The right-hander turns 24 in January, and he will have to develop some better control soon to stick in the big leagues.
28. Ryan McBroom - The Royals did a good job taking a chance on McBroom, and he has shown he can have big league power, smacking six home runs in 36 games this year. But he is pretty one-dimensional, without much defense or ability to get on base. He has value, but it probably wasn’t a good sign when the Royals optioned him down at the end of last year.
27. Maikel Franco - It’s not that Franco isn’t any good - he was actually an impressive hitter for the Royals this year. It’s that he will likely make some $8 million through arbitration next year, and he’s a free agent after that. He is a candidate to be non-tendered, although the Royals may have interest in bringing him back on their terms.
26. Richard Lovelady - The lefty has a great minor league track record, but the Royals only gave him one inning of big league action last year. The Royals don’t have a ton of lefty relief options for next year, so perhaps Lovelady can get a shot, but he may find more opportunities in a different organization.
25. Cam Gallagher - The 27-year old seems like a perfectly fine backup catcher with great framing skills, a solid arm, and despite an underwhelming bat, he can run into a pitch and smack it out once in awhile.
24. Jeison Guzman - Youth and great defense are the two things going in Guzman’s favor right now. He just turned 22 and scouts rave about his glove at shortstop, but his bat has yet to develop.
23. Lucius Fox - The Royals got him from the Rays for Brett Phillips earlier this summer. The speedy shortstop was once a top prospect, but his bat hasn’t come around. He is still just 23 years old and MLB ready, so the Royals could see what he can do next summer.
22. Ryan O’Hearn - The lefty can mash, but has some holes to his game have been exposed. If he can adjust, he could have quite a bit of value, but his opportunities are closing, particularly with Hunter Dozier moving to first base.
21. Meibrys Viloria - Left-handed catchers with a good glove will have some sort of demand. The Royals shouldn’t expect a ton for the 23-year old, but with catching a point of depth for the organization, Viloria could be included in a trade.
20. Tyler Zuber - The rookie right-hander had a terrific strike out rate with 12.3 per-nine-innings but he also had the second-highest walk rate for any pitcher with at least 20 innings pitched. He has a good fastball/slider combo that shows good potential, and he could move up this list quickly if he can throw strikes more consistently next year.
19. Danny Duffy - The veteran lefty is one of the better starting pitchers for the Royals. However, his $15.5 million salary next year makes him difficult to move. If the Royals were to eat some of the salary, he could move up this list. The team hasn’t had an appetite for doing that in the past, but under new owner John Sherman, who knows?
18. Nicky Lopez - The second baseman has some obvious skills - he is a Gold Glove-caliber defender, has good speed (although poor baserunning this year), and can draw a few walks. But his total lack of pop is a big liability, and even pumping iron last off-season didn’t translate into much improvement in the power category. The Royals seem likely to stick with him at second for now, but playing time may dwindle after that if his bat doesn’t develop.
17. Carlos Hernandez - The Royals aggressively promoted Hernandez in part due to the pandemic, but the 23-year old right-hander held his own in 14 2⁄3 innings. He is likely headed to Double-A next year, but a live arm like his will have trade value.
16. Ronald Bolaños - The 24-year old Cuban was picked up from the Padres in a deal for Tim Hill last year, and while he struggled in a few innings for the Royals this season, he has a big arm that has some potential. Walks are an issue, although some feel a move to the pen may help him in that regard.
15. Jakob Junis - The right-hander now has big league 476 innings under his belt, and he seems like a perfectly decent fifth starter. The Royals have made rumblings about unlocking more potential by moving him to the bullpen and using his slider more, and that could increase his trade value.
14. Edward Olivares - The 24-year old came over from the Padres in the Trevor Rosenthal deal. He profiles as a fourth outfielder, but impressed with the Royals, showing good power and speed.
13. Jesse Hahn - I thought Hahn was a non-tender candidate last year after not pitching for nearly two seasons, but he rebounded this year to look like a dominant reliever. Opponents hit a ridiculous .071 against the 31-year old right-hander this year and he struck out 19 hitters in 17 1⁄3 innings. Hahn is just a year away from free agency and could be an interesting trade candidate next summer.
12. Jorge Soler - You might think the former home run king would rank higher on this list, but home runs are cheap, and Soler is a defensive liability. He is also under club control for one more year, and is set to make around $9 million next year. With teams taking austerity measures and NL teams likely not needing designated hitters, there may not be much of a trade market for him.
11. Kyle Zimmer - The former first round pick is finally healthy and he showed what he is capable of this year with a 1.57 ERA and 26 strikeouts in just 23 innings. He is nearly 30 years old already, so the clock is ticking, but he has several cost-controlled seasons left, so he should be a valuable asset - if he can stay healthy.
10. Franchy Cordero - You want to talk power/speed combos, talk about Franchy Cordero. He has 70-grade speed and can fly around the bases, but also possesses 70-grade power with tape measure home runs. He strikes out a ton and has trouble staying healthy, but if he can reach anywhere close to his potential, the Royals could have a very valuable player on their hands.
9. Scott Barlow - The former minor league free agent had a breakthrough season as a reliever with 39 strikeouts in 30 innings. He has seen his velocity tick up to 95 mph this season, so if he can keep it up, he can be yet another cheap, yet effective bullpen arm in Mike Matheny’s arsenal.
8. Salvador Perez - The heart and soul of this team, Salvy rebounded from Tommy John surgery in a big way, leading catchers in most offensive categories and winning the Silver Slugger Award. At 30 year old, Salvy shows few signs of slowing down, and is worth his $14.2 million salary, but the trade market for catchers is always hard to peg. Regardless, it is very unlikely the Royals end up trading their All-Star catcher, even if he is eligible for free agency next fall.
7. Kris Bubic - He gets overlooked in the class of 2018 college pitcher draftees, but Bubic made it to the big leagues quickly and held his own, with a 4.32 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 50 innings over ten starts. With teams in on velocity so much, they may look past a lefty who throws a change up 30 percent of the time, but if Bubic continues to get hitters out, he’ll have quite a bit of value.
6. Hunter Dozier - He slumped over the last three weeks of the season and moving to first base makes him less valuable than if he had stuck in the outfield. But over the last two seasons, Dozier has a 119 wRC+, making him among the top 60 hitters in baseball over that time. He is already 29 years old, but isn’t a free agent until 2024, making him pretty valuable if any team is looking for a power bat.
5. Josh Staumont - Though he stands with a rail-thin frame, Staumont opened eyes with a 100 mph fastball this summer and much-improved control. With 2020 being his first full season, Staumont would fetch a high price if the Royals shopped him, but instead they’ll probably look to him to be a big part of returning their bullpen to its former glory.
4. Whit Merrifield - Teams have come calling for Merrifield for the past year or two, but a high asking price has kept a deal from happening. Whit’s numbers fell a bit this year, but he is still a terrific leadoff hitter capable of playing multiple positions with a very club-friendly contract. The Royals may not be able to get several top prospects for him, but Merrifield is still a very valuable trade chip if they ever wanted to move him.
3. Adalberto Mondesi - Everyone agrees he has loads of potential, but Mondesi has now played 308 big league games and has been a well-below average hitter. He shows glimpses of brilliance - his tear at the end of this year was enough to get fans excited - and he has a speed and defense combo that makes him valuable regardless of his bat. The Royals have him under club control through 2023, but time is running out on him reaching his superstar potential.
2. Brad Keller - It is well past time to declare that Keller is legit. The former Rule 5 pick doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but he finds ways to get guys out with a 3.50 ERA and 3.90 FIP over the last three seasons. He is still just 25, and with pitching always in demand, he would be a valuable trade piece if the Royals weren’t already penciling him into the top of their rotation.
1. Brady Singer - The Royals have high expectations for the former first round pick, and he largely met them in his rookie season. The right-hander got stronger as the season went on, nearly throwing a no-hitter late in the year. Dayton Moore says pitching is the currency of baseball, and the Royals have struck gold with their 2018 draft class, led by Singer.