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Five Royals trade ideas heading into the Winter Meetings

Let’s make a deal!

Miami Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

The Winter Meetings get underway this week in Nashville, typically the most active time for trades. The Royals have been quiet on the trade front thus far, but general manager J.J. Picollo has hinted he would like the team to be more active.

The Royals are in a tough spot in that they need to improve, but have few assets any other team would want. However they do have some positional redundancies and opportunities to make some moves to improve this team in the short and long term. Here are some trade ideas they may want to consider.

Maikel Garcia to the Marlins for Edward Cabrera

Why the Royals do it: Garcia had a terrific rookie year, and while he’s an outstanding defender at third, his lack of power has him a bit miscast. Cabrera gives them a young starting pitcher they desperately need who has already gotten a taste of big league action, with a 4.01 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 197 23 innings over the last three seasons. He has a big arm with a 96 mph fastball and an outstanding changeup opponents hit just .186 against with a 36 percent whiff rate this year. The right-hander is just 25 years old and is under club control through 2028, giving them someone to pair with Cole Ragans for the next few seasons.

Why the Marlins do it: Miami continues to churn out pitching but continues to be light in infielders. They are reportedly listening to offers on Cabrera and Trevor Rogers, hoping to get a young infielder in return. Garcia would give them a long-term answer at shortstop, allowing Jon Berti to take more of a utility role.

Why the trade doesn’t happen: Cabrera has a big arm but major control issues. He has the second-highest walk rate among starters the last two seasons and has a career 4.78 FIP. The Royals are looking to add hitters who can get on base, and Garcia is one of the few hitters they have developed who can actually do that.

MJ Melendez and Brady Singer to the Reds for Spencer Steer and Connor Phillips

Why the Royals do it: Melendez seems miscast in the outfield, and his power hasn’t quite developed as they would like. Singer regressed after a terrific 2022 season, and the Royals haven’t seemed to be able to unlock his full potential. Steer would give them a corner infield power bat after smacking 23 home runs in 2023 with a line of .271/.356/.464 in his rookie season. Phillips is MLB-ready, having made his debut this year with five starts, and he has put up terrific strikeout rates in the minors.

Why the Reds do it: Cincinnati has a glut of talented young infielders, and Steer could be the odd man out. Melendez has some good underlying power metrics and could take advantage of cozy Great American Ballpark. The Reds can transition to a win-now mode, while still keeping an eye on the future by acquiring two young players like Melendez and Singer, without costing them much in payroll.

Why the trade doesn’t happen: Melendez has been a poor defender in the outfield, but he also rates poorly behind the plate, so the Reds may not be interested in him. Singer is also coming off a poor season, so his trade value may not be as high as we think. The Reds may be more willing to deal Jonathan India, who has more service time and is closer to free agency than Steer.

Daniel Lynch IV to the Cardinals for Dylan Carlson

Why the Royals do it: Lynch has showed a lot of promise, but has battled injuries and inconsistency. The Royals say they will not wait around for pitchers to develop, and it may be time for a change of scenery for the former first round pick. Carlson finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2021 as a 3 WAR outfielder, but has hit just .230/.316/.364 in 204 games since then. Carlson is still just 25 - two years younger than Lynch - can draw walks without many strikeouts, and plays solid defense with a great arm in right.

Why the Cardinals do it: St. Louis has a glut of outfielders and a great need for pitching. They’ve signed a couple of veterans on one-year deals, but adding Lynch could give them someone to stash away in the hopes they can develop him into a rotation piece by 2025. This may be the perfect opportunity for a challenge trade where two players get a fresh start with a new organization.

Why the trade doesn’t happen: The Royals badly need starting pitching, and even if they can’t rely on Lynch, they may need him on standby with the hopes he can figure things out. Carlson has really struggled against righties, and his loss of power is pretty concerning.

Edward Olivares and Anthony Veneziano to the Nationals for Lane Thomas

Why the Royals do it: Thomas is coming off his best offensive season, smacking 28 home runs with a 114 OPS+. He would give the Royals a solid middle-of-the-order bat from the right-side to hit behind Vinnie Pasquantino. The Royals would have him for the next two seasons, and he’s only projected to earn $7 million next year through arbitration. Olivares came on strong in September, but is prone to mental mistakes and could benefit from a change of scenery.

Why the Nationals do it: Olivares gives them an outfielder to replace Thomas with potentially little drop off in offense and an extra year of control, plus another arm for their staff. It might be time for them to trade Thomas now while his value is high.

Why the trade doesn’t happen: Thomas is already 28, and this year may have been an aberration for him. He did benefit from a high BABIP, and he strikes out a ton with hardly any walks. The Royals aren’t likely to be competitive the next two seasons, so acquiring an older player like Thomas doesn’t make that much sense for a rebuilding team. The Nationals could be looking for more of a return to “sell high” on Thomas.

Salvador Perez, Michael Massey and cash to the White Sox for Michael Kopech, Jonathan Cannon and Luis Rodriguez

Why the Royals do it: The Royals owe Salvador Perez $44 million over the next two seasons, and trading him can both save them a bit of money and open up the catcher position for younger players like Melendez and Freddy Fermin. Massey showed some good power but lacked offensive consistency and the Royals could replace him at second with Nick Loftin. Kopech has a big fastball, but has really struggled to throw strikes with the White Sox and could use a change of scenery. Jonathan Cannon is a strike-thrower with mid-rotation stuff and Luis Rodriguez is a lottery ticket 19-year-old in the Dominican League.

Why the White Sox do it: The White Sox could use a steady veteran behind the plate and in the clubhouse, and Perez can still give them a 20-home-runs-per-year hitter in the middle of their lineup. Salvy is familiar with White Sox personnel, from manager Pedro Grifol, who once coached with the Royals, to GM Chris Getz, who was once Salvy’s teammate. Massey gives the a young second baseman, a local kid who has raked at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Why the trade doesn’t happen: I’ll be honest, I don’t have a really good gauge of Salvy’s trade value, and it would largely depend on how much money the Royals are willing to eat. I’m guessing they would have to pay at least half of his deal to get anything worthwhile in return. It is not clear what direction the White Sox are going - if they are pressing reset on a rebuild, or trying to win now while they still have their young core. It would also likely take a lot to get the Royals to move Salvy, if they trade their franchise players in return for a bunch of question marks, they’ll further alienate a fanbase that is already in a pretty bad place.