The trade deadline is expected to be quieter this year, although we have already seen a few deals, including one from the Royals. A diminished market hasn’t kept national baseball writers from dreaming up trades, even if the likelihood of some of these deals is rather remote. I thought we’d take a look at what some evaluators think of what our Royals could do.
Much of the trade talk for the Royals has centered around their relievers, who have been surprisingly good this year. Trevor Rosenthal has been a solid closer with one of the best fastballs in the league, Greg Holland has returned to be a solid setup man, Scott Barlow has emerged as a good fireman, and Josh Staumont has become a rookie sensation with his 100 mph fastball.
Jim Bowden of The Athletic suggests the Royals empty out their pen and ship the quartet to Cincinnati in exchange for infield prospect Jonathan India and power-hitting outfielder Aristides Aquino. India, who was teammates with Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar at the University of Florida, was a 2018 first-round pick by the Reds, and was a consensus top 100 prospect before the 2019 season. But he was a bit underwhelming last year, hitting .259/.365/.402 with 11 home runs in 121 games across High-A and Double-A and Fangraphs ranks him as the #5 prospect in the system, a 45+ Future Value.
Aquino was a rookie sensation in 2019, hitting .259/.316/.576 with 19 home runs in 56 games as a 25-year old outfielder. However it is unclear if that was a fluke, as he never put up huge power numbers in the minors and he showed plate discipline issues as a minor leaguer.
In Aquino, the Royals get a power bat that they can replace Alex Gordon with in left field next year, India can be either a valuable prospect trade piece in the future or be moved to second base if the Royals decide to play Bobby Witt Jr. at third.
It seems very unlikely the Royals would completely empty out their pen, especially if that included potential long-term assets like Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont. Let’s see what the trade simulator at Baseball Trade Value says.
The Royals would be getting the better end of this under their values, but that is putting a lot of faith in India’s tools. Trading young relievers like Barlow and Staumont does make some sense if you can get an everyday player out of it, but Aquino and India may be too risky to cash your bullpen chips on.
Bowden isn’t done wheeling and dealing between the Royals and Reds. Although the Royals seem rather committed to keeping Whit Merrifield, he suggests moving Whit to the Queen City along with Rosenthal for outfielder Jesse Winkler and right-handed pitcher Tyler Mahle.
The Royals get Winker, who is four years younger than Merrifield and his having his breakout season, as shown by his .315 average with 6 home runs and on-base percentage of .444. Mahle, 25, would immediately go into the Royals’ starting rotation.
Merrifield should be more attractive to the Reds as a long-term asset beyond this year as they are only on the periphery of a pennant race this season. The Royals have had a pretty high asking price for him, and for good reason. The 27-year old Winkler hit .269/.357/.473 with 16 home run sin 384 plate appearances last year, and actually leads the league in OPS+ with 193 after a hot start where he has hit .333/.451/.679 with 8 home runs in 102 plate appearances. The 25-year old Mahle had a 5.14 ERA and 4.66 FIP with a strikeout per inning in 25 starts for the Reds last year, and has 4.41 ERA and 4.01 FIP this year in 16 1⁄3 innings.
Would the Reds take away two contributors from their Major League club to add Merrifield and Rosenthal? It seems unlikely, just as unlikely as the Royals moving Merrifield for anything but elite prospects. Still, let’s humor Bowden with the Trade Value simulator.
The relievers have drawn the most trade attention from the Royals, but a strong start has led some to focus on starting pitcher Danny Duffy. Duffy has a 3.99 ERA with 34 innings in 29 1⁄3 innings in his first six starts and while he hasn’t been a workhorse, he has a track record of being a solid pitcher who can give you a pretty dominant start on occasion.
In an article targeting some of the biggest holes for contending teams, Eno Sarris at The Athletic identifies starting pitching as a great need for the Toronto Blue Jays. Jays starters have a 4.66 ERA and 5.11 FIP, but the team has hung around as a post-season contender with a .500 record that would put them in the playoffs as an eight-seed.
Sarris suggests the Blue Jays could target Royals starter Danny Duffy, writing:
How about this: the Royals send Danny Duffy and a little bit of money to the Jays for Anthony Kay? Duffy projects to be much better than Kay, who hasn’t ever really shown a great strikeout rate, and the Jays would get Duffy next year, too.
Anthony Kay was a former Mets first-round pick who was acquired last summer in a trade for Marcus Stroman. The 25-year old left-hander got into some action with the Jays last year, and has appeared in seven games this year with a 3.14 ERA with 12 strikeouts and 8 walks in 14 1/3 innings. In 2019, he gave up 44 runs in 57 1⁄3 innings in Triple-A with a high walk rate. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #11 pitcher in the Blue Jays organization, writing he has a high spin-rate fastball that sits at 92-94 mph with a hard curve and an above-average change up. What does the Baseball Trade Value machine say about this deal?
Duffy has negative trade value, due to the $15.5 million owed to him next year. However, money means different things to different teams. To a team strapped for cash or up against the luxury tax threshold, Duffy certainly has negative value. But to a team like the Royals, which has some financial flexibility, Duffy has positive value as a 1.3 fWAR pitcher last year. The Royals are not under any financial pressure to move Duffy. In fact, he could serve as a mentor to the young class of pitchers coming up, and could eventually transition into a relief role in Kansas City. There is also a close relationship between Duffy and Dayton Moore, a relationship that caused Duffy to once tweet “bury me a Royal.”
The trade idea is not the first by a national writer involving Duffy this week. Earlier, MLB.com writer Anthony Castrovince suggested the Royals could include Duffy in a deal to the Yankees with Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont for infielder Miguel Andújar and right-handed pitcher Nick Nelson. Andújar had a terrific 2018 season, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting by hitting .297/.328/.527 with 27 home runs and 2.9 rWAR. However he missed most of last season with a torn labrum and he has only played in ten games this year. He is also a very poor defender at third and would likely have to move to the outfield or first base. Nelson is a 24-year old low-ceiling, MLB-ready pitcher who had a 2.81 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 89 2⁄3 innings across High-A, Double-AA, and Triple-A last year, and has already seen a handful of Major League innings.
It is not unreasonable to consider including Staumont in a trade for a young Major League regular. But is a low walk rate, poor defending hitter coming off injury the best fit for the Royals?
Andújar’s trade value doesn’t reflect his injury, and Staumont is likely undervalued since he has only thrown a handful of innings so far. Teams are smart to try to get in on Staumont while his price isn’t too high, but the Royals are likely going to want to hold onto him unless they get an offer that knocks their socks off.
Coming up with trades is hard work, that’s why so few of them actually happen. The uncertainty over this year’s market will only add to that difficulty. These trade ideas will almost certainly not come to fruition, but it is interesting to think about and get an idea of what outside observers think of Royals players on the trade market.
Which trade idea do you like the most?
This poll is closed
Royals bullpen to the Reds for Jonathan India and Aristides Aquino
Whit Merrifield and Trevor Rosenthal to the Reds for Jesse Winkler and Tyler Mahle
Danny Duffy to the Blue Jays for Anthony Kay
Duffy, Rosenthal, and Staumont to the Yankees for Miguel Andujar
Blech, none of these trades