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.
The Cardinals have a rather crowded outfield, that will likely become more crowded as the 2023 season plays out. Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Lars Nootbaar have all established themselves to varying degrees, but none of them has consistently shown that they are more than an average player. There are also some young players on the cusp in Alec Burleson and Jordan Walker. Walker is the big prospect, likely to start in AAA for 2023, but his normal position of third base is blocked by Nolan Arenado until 2028 so the outfield seems like his destination. If I were trading for any of these players, I would start with Tyler O’Neill who is coming off a down year. After posting a 5.6 fWAR season in 2021, his bat dropped from a 144 wRC+ all the way to 101 last season. I would like to try and buy low on a guy like that, but he is only under team control for two more years and may not fit the Royals time frame.
The odd man out that would be easiest to pry away would be Burleson. If the Royals like something about him in particular, it might be worth it, but I am not sure he is a better option than what they already have. With all of that said, maybe Brendan Donovan is the one to try and get. They are going to want the prospect Nolan Gorman to take over 2B and that would leave Donavan as a super utility guy. He would a nice corner outfielder or 3B option for the Royals. Wish he hit right-handed. I do think Donovan is still better than Gorman for the coming year, and both are under team control for a long time, so they have a bit of a playing time conundrum.
Just for fun I would probably ask about Ivan Herrera while talking to the Cardinals too. The Wilson Contreras deal seems to be making him much less a part of the future plan. A 22-year-old catcher with some hitting tools that have not yet come together seems interesting.
On to Milwaukee where there is one player who feels a little bit misused. Mike Brosseau has been a part-time player for four years there without ever getting to even 200 plate appearances. He hit pretty well last season and seems to have figured out his problems against right-handed pitching, which had been holding him back. There is a chance he would make a nice third base option for the Royals if the Brewers aren’t going to use him, which they seem to be intent on. He has played all over the diamond, but with the limited sample sizes I don’t know what to make of him defensively. He looks like he could handle an everyday role without being a huge liability like other third base options that put up negative WAR in back-to-back years for the Royals.
Cincinnati is in an odd spot as a team. They do have some good young starting pitching, but other than that the team has a lot of holes. Because of that setup, I think they would be willing to part with someone like Connor Overton reasonably cheaply. He is old for as little time as he has had in the majors going into his age-29 season, but over the last few years in a bunch of short stints of AAA and pitching in the majors has shown pretty good control and his peripherals tend to be solid regardless of the actual outcomes. He has not been used as a full-time starter, but the profile seems like he could be.
The Cubs and Pirates have players that would be interesting for sure, but nothing lines up in way that is obvious for the Royals. Bryan Reynolds wanting out of Pittsburgh is great, but he is probably way too expensive to be realistic. I do find a player like Ji Hwan Bae interesting, but I am not sure he fits with the Royals unless he can convert to outfield successfully. I guess as insurance if Massey goes backward this year he makes sense too. He looks like an Andrew Benintendi starter kit on offense with a lot more defensive flexibility and speed.