The off-season is in full swing, by the first week of December we’ll have baseball executives meeting in Nashville for the Winter Meetings to make a number of trades to impact their clubs. Owner John Sherman has suggested the team have more roster churn, and general manager J.J. Picollo indicated at the end of the season that the team could seek more trades.
But to acquire players in trades, you have to sometimes give up players. Coming off a 106-loss season, the Royals aren’t exactly flush with assets. But there could be a few players they can offer up in deals to other teams. Here are the most likely players to be traded this off-season.
10. Jordan Lyles
I think the Royals would really, really, really like to trade Jordan Lyles. But it takes two to tango and it is hard to see anyone really valuing his ability to “eat innings” as the Royals seem to have done. He did lead the league in complete games this year and he was a 1 WAR pitcher in 2022 with a smart Orioles organization, but he had an ugly 6.28 ERA this year with a single-season club record of 39 home runs allowed. Lyles is owed $8.5 million next year, a salary the Royals would certainly have to eat if they were to have any hope of trading the 33-year-old right-hander.
9. Maikel Garcia
I don’t think it is likely that Garcia is dealt, but he is a young, cost-controlled infielder who is capable of playing the shortstop position, and is only playing third base because the Royals already employ Bobby Witt Jr. Having two young, slick-fielding players on the left side of the infield is a good thing, and Garcia also showed he can be average with the stick with a patient eye and some potential for offensive growth. But if the Royals are looking to improve other areas of the team, they could offer Garcia up in exchange for say, a young pitcher, then turn around and find a more power-hitting third baseman to replace him. It’s not a likely scenario, but it could be a creative way to upgrade the team if Garcia has suitors.
8. Dylan Coleman
Coleman had an opportunity this year to become a late inning option for the Royals with his blazing fastball and his sweeping slider. But he struggled out of the gate and found himself in the minors by May. Even in Omaha, he could not find the strike zone, walking 32 hitters in 30 2⁄3 innings - 21.7 percent of the batters he faced. He did strike out a ton of hitters too (48 in Omaha and 21 in 18 1⁄3 innings with the Royals), so perhaps another team could see him as a project to fix.
7. MJ Melendez
His stock has fallen after he pretty much replicated an underwhelming rookie year performance, so it seems more likely the Royals would try to hang onto him in the hopes he breaks through. So far, Melendez has been a low-average, high-walk hitter who has underachieved in the power department and isn’t a good enough defender to justify his below-average bat. There is still some breakout potential there - he hit 41 minor league home runs in 2021. But he doesn’t seem to have a position in Kansas City, which could make him expendable.
6. Nick Pratto
Pratto has also seen his stock fall after an underwhelming performance in 144 big league games with a line of .216/.295/.364 with a strikeout rate of 38.7 percent. Teams don’t often trade for young first basemen, but Pratto does have a patient eye and the physical skills to become a good defender (although his defensive metrics at first aren’t great) so there could be a team that sees a fixable player that can reach his first-round draft potential. With Vinnie Pasquantino expected back next year, there may not be room for Pratto at first base anymore.
5. Daniel Lynch IV
In his post-season press conference, Picollo said the team would no longer wait for certain pitchers, with Lynch a likely target for his words. The lefty has had inconsistent progress marred by injuries, and will likely have to compete for a rotation spot if he is on the team next spring. The 27-year-old has showed flashes of brilliance, but overall has a 5.18 ERA and 4.79 FIP in 51 MLB starts. He still features a plus change up that grades well, so perhaps he would fare better in another organization that can unleash his talent.
4. Brady Singer
Singer looked like he was a potential rotation anchor after a breakout season in 2022, but he stumbled out of the gate this year and never really recovered, posting a career-worst 5.52 ERA. His FIP was a much more respectable 4.29, suggesting some bad luck, but he did suffer a significant decline in strikeout rate. The Royals have already squandered three years of service time with Singer, so it may be time to consider trading him to get maximum value. There was some reported interest in him from the Dodgers this summer, but it may take a solid start in 2024 for him to re-establish his trade value.
3. Salvador Perez
Salvy is the face of the franchise, the last remaining link to the 2015 championship club, and a future Royals Hall of Fame. He also has two more years and $44 million left on his contract, and will be 35 in the final year of that deal. His OPS has declined in each of the last three seasons, with his OPS+ falling to 94 this year. His ability to catch basestealers was his strong point defensively, and although steals were easier league-wide this year, he fell well below league-average in caught-stealing rate this year.
Salvy has 10/5 rights and can veto any deal, but there were reports he was open to a trade to the right contender this summer. The Royals would likely have to eat money on his contract, and Salvy’s low on-base percentage and poor framing metrics make him less attractive more analytically-minded clubs. But I do think there is some smoke to the trade rumors, particularly reports that the White Sox may be interested. If the Royals can eat enough money to get back a worthwhile return and open up a spot behind the plate for Melendez and Freddy Fermin, it might be better for the long-term, even if it hurts.
2. Edward Olivares
Olivares has some skills and came on strong at the end of the year, hitting .329/.390/.657 in 22 games in September. But he is one of the worst players on the roster in terms of fundamentals, playing poor defense and making baffling baserunning decisions. His overall numbers in 230 big league games are slightly over Major League-average with a line of .261/.310/.426, so he should have some value to clubs as a fourth outfielder. The outfielder received some trade interest this summer, so perhaps another team can coach him up.
1. Carlos Hernández
Hernández has a 6.21 ERA over the last two seasons combined, so his trade value may not be that high. But the 26-year-old right-hander was having a pretty good season this year until he crashed and burned in August. His ERA was a 3.60 until August 4 when he gave up 19 runs in his final 15 innings. He is young and cost-controlled and throws 100 mph, but getting him to keep up his focus for a full season will be a challenge. Relievers who can throw hard certainly have currency on the market, so it may be time for a change of scenery for the flamethrowing Venezuelan.