I am following a few parameters. In general, I am looking for starting pitchers, third base or shortstop, outfield, and possibly catcher. All the targets are for building the major league team, not looking to add depth to the farm system, so they need to be in the majors or very close. Also, I am trying to be realistic about how aggressive the team should be, meaning no Sandy Alcantara or something else that would be ludicrously expensive to get done. There are other types of trades that the actual Royals should be thinking about and possibly pursuing, but I am not interested in the bullpen building or deepening the farm system in this exercise.
I have been avoiding the NL West as there is only one team that has any players I really like from a cost/benefit perspective. The Dodgers have a lot of talent throughout their farm system, so it is easy to find potential things to trade for. There are three in particular that I would be interested in for a couple of different reasons.
James Outman and Miguel Vargas came into 2022 and sort of switched places. Vargas was the 10th-ranked prospect in the farm system according to Fangraphs, while Outman was 23rd. We’re talking about the Dodger’s farm system though, so there is a lot of depth. Both then made their first appearance in the big leagues, Outman for four games at the beginning of August and Vargas played in 18 games, mostly September into October. Vargas did not hit well at all in his stint and underperformed Outman in AAA, so in some ways you would expect them to be viewed a bit differently going into the coming season. Outman is 25 and Vargas is only 23 though, so I would ask about both and feel out what the cost difference is. Vargas is still the better prospect, but that gap has closed some. Either could be a nice addition to the Royals as they try to find a solid outfield mix this season. You need enough young outfielders that a few can fail this year and still be okay.
Another player that I would love to see the Royals acquire from the Dodgers is Dustin May. His short stints at the MLB level have been a mixed bag, but the underlying ability is something I am pretty sure is there, and the hair alone might be worth acquiring him for. The 25-year-old righty will have a shot at the fifth starter role for the Dodgers, but with Ryan Pepiot and Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller all knocking on the door as higher-regarded prospects, May should be movable for the Dodgers and still has three years of team control.
The rest of the NL West is mostly weak farm systems, except for Arizona. Arizona has some players that would be fun to get, but they are probably not going to part with them for a reasonable price. Brandon Pfaadt is the only one that jumped out at me that might be attainable, but his statistics in the minors have been up and down. His control is pretty solid though, so I would want to know what kind of ask they would have on him.
Colorado traded for Nolan Jones recently, which probably means they are not looking to flip him. I would like him as a possible third base option for the Royals. The bat might not ever quite be enough for third though. The other player I would really like from them is Antonio Senzatela, but they extended him before last year, so it seems unlikely that they would part with him easily now. On the other hand, the Rockies are possibly the worst-run organization in baseball and have done very strange things. Maybe it is worth a shot. I would be intrigued to see a pitcher who has mostly survived in Colorado, who got a bit unlucky last year, and then you move him to Kauffman and see what happens.
The Giants just don’t match up well with the Royals in my opinion because I can’t tell if they are going to continue to try and compete or rip it down and start over. The Carlos Correa stuff only adds to the confusion. I would stay away from them unless you think someone like Austin Slater is good enough to go for. I’m not convinced he would be better than what the Royals already have in the outfield just because his stats last year look a little fluky to me.
Finally, you have the Padres. One of the most oddly constructed teams I’ve ever seen. They are very top-heavy with stars, but there is a real lack of depth at the major league level and in their farm system. That is going to make it hard for them to trade anything valuable.