Honestly, the Kansas City Royals have been frustratingly inactive during this off-season. It doesn’t help that the few moves made have not been very inspiring. Sure, Ryan Yarborough and Jordan Lyles are MLB pitchers, but they are certainly not good or great ones. Plus, general manager J.J. Picollo said “the dollars are going to be challenging,” so the Royals actually making an impactful move in free agency was unlikely from the get-go. It is frustrating, but somewhat understandable.
The Royals got their pitching coaching staff, including Brian Sweeney and Zach Bove, together late in the game. The team did not want to rush any transactions until they had their coaching leaders in place. Also, the Royals are not set up to be contenders in 2023, and one “big” free agent signing would not have changed that. This team’s young core still needs time, and adding unneeded veterans only makes the process harder. frustrating, but expected.
While the Royals can make excuses about why better free agents did not come to Kansas City, that is not the only way to acquire players. While the Royals need to woo players in free agency, they can eliminate players’ opinions from the decision-making process using trades. Kansas City’s 2015 World Series championship came mostly from players the Royals traded for, not signed. Players like Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Johnny Cueto, and more all came from trades. If the Royals still believe in that successful formula from 2014 and 2015, trades will be the way Kansas City builds another championship team.
The Royals right now need some help in the rotation to help out a thin one. Kansas City’s lack of developing pitchers in the minors has hampered the team’s outlook for several seasons now. While new personnel will hopefully turn that area around, their efforts will not yield immediate returns but will yield returns years down the road. The Royals’ limited funds and below-average farm system also make trading for premier pitching nearly impossible. If the Royals wanted to trade for pitching depth, what are some teams with players available that the Royals can afford?
Names to watch: Hayden Wesneski, Adrian Sampson, and Javier Assad
The Chicago Cubs have been slightly confusing this offseason. The Cubs look nothing like 2016’s World Series-winning team, with most of those players moving on in their careers. A transactional approach in the 2022 season drew criticism from fans but set the team up for a retooling. Many thought they would be content to sit out on the biggest free agents this offseason, but they then landed shortstop Dansby Swanson. The Cubs are still far away from contending, but their offseason approach signals a defense-first approach.
If the Cubs wanted to get more offensive help, they will have plenty of pitchers to choose from. Their starting rotation is crowded, especially after the team brought back veteran starter Drew Smyly. That could push young starters like Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad out of the rotation, limiting their growth and decreasing their trade value. If the Cubs decide they or other fringe starters are expendable, the Royals should at least inquire. Both are young, controllable players who posted good statistics in limited action last season.
Names to watch: Edward Cabrera, Huascar Brazoban, Anthony Bender
If the Cubs have some arms to spare, the Miami Marlins have droves of pitchers to move. The Marlins are buried in a tough NL East division but might have the division’s best pitching staff. Yes, better than the vaunted New York Mets. Their top four starters in 2022 are all 26 years old or younger and are led by 2022 Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara. If only they had the bats to match, Miami could make a playoff push in 2023.
Pablo Lopez has been the most notable name shopped by Miami, but he is not the only pitcher available. The Marlins need to use their surplus of pitchers to address an offensive attack worse than even the Royals. Their strikeout percentage, on-base percentage, and WRC+ all rank below league average and below Kansas City’s respective standing. Former Royals prospect Anthony Bender would be an interesting reunion candidate, but there are plenty of high-upside pitchers available in Miami. The Marlins could certainly use some of Kansas City’s hitting reclamation successes, and the Royals need controllable MLB-ready pitching help. A trade would be a win for both teams.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Names to watch: Phil Bickford, Caleb Ferguson, and Tony Gonsolin
If there is one trade partner to dream about, it would be the Los Angeles Dodgers. That organization seems to constantly churn out serviceable or elite pitchers, no matter their draft position. While the Royals cannot trade for the coaches and pitching development staff, they can acquire some of the Dodgers’ arms.
Los Angeles does have needs in center field and the middle infield. While the Royals do not have high-tier trade assets at those positions, Michael A. Taylor and the litany of Royals’ infield prospects could be a deal’s starting point.