As the MLB trade deadline draws closer, the Kansas City Royals sit with the second-worst record in baseball. While the front office looks for signs of life on the field, many fans have started to grow impatient with the lack of trade action thus far. I first outlined four potential trade candidates back in late May and as of now, all four remain with the organization. Kansas City made a minor trade earlier this week, sending pitcher Andres Núñez to the Red Sox for cash considerations.
A little over a year ago, the Royals traded Carlos Santana to the Mariners. David Lesky of Inside the Crown reported this week that he’s heard the slow movement this year — much like last year — is a result of the MLB Draft being moved to the All-Star Break.
It's not being reported as widely as it was last year, but I've heard the same as last year from multiple people about the trade market. It's that moving the draft to the break is really slowing trade movement down because there's just so much attention on the draft right now.— David Lesky (@DBLesky) June 26, 2023
I’ve heard other unconfirmed reports that the Royals are likely to deal their duo of relievers late into July. If so, it seems like a risky proposition as relievers can be volatile assets, and a string of bad outings between now and then could put a damper on potential returns. The sooner trades happen, the better — and not just because of the risk of injury or a few bad outings.
The Royals currently have four arms on a rehab assignment in Omaha: Amir Garrett, Ryan Yarbrough, Angel Zerpa, and Brad Keller. With 13 pitchers currently on the active roster and four more ready in the next couple of weeks, a lack of trades could lead a young arm like Austin Cox to be optioned back to Omaha. The Royals need to get all the looks they can at potential arms for 2024 and keeping “lame-duck” pitchers on the roster longer won’t help. Not to mention how it impacts others in the farm system such as Alec Marsh and Max Castillo. The sooner these trades happen, the better. Who else might the Royals look to trade at this year’s deadline?
Potential Fits: Dodgers, Rangers, Brewers
The most obvious name that I didn’t include in last month’s piece is Scott Barlow. The return for Barlow should be a bit under what they should expect for Aroldis Chapman. Much like Chapman, Barlow is a pending free agent with a track record of success in the major leagues. However, he turns 31 this December and has seen a drop in fastball velocity now in three consecutive seasons. He’s pitched to a 4.40 ERA this season but owns a 12.6 SO9 — both the highest of his career. The window to trade Barlow for a substantial return has long passed, but the Royals should still be able to get back some promising young talent for their reliever.
The potential suitors for a Barlow trade are, of course, pretty similar to those for Chapman. The Dodgers, Rangers, and Brewers were listed as potential suitors by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. Since I took a look at a Dodgers return for Chapman, I’ll consider a Rangers trade for Barlow. The Rangers system was ranked 20th in the league by FanGraphs entering the year but, while it’s not as deep as the Los Angeles system, there’s still a good return to be found for good relief help.
Royals trade Barlow to the Rangers for RHP Cole Winn and LHP Mitch Bratt
Potential Fits: Mariners, Brewers, Diamondbacks
Duffy is playing for his third team in three years, but he’s been pretty good this year. He’s appeared in 37 games this season and has been worth 0.4 fWAR, slashing .303/.357/.393 as a mostly part-time player. He provides a veteran presence and can play multiple positions. This season, the Royals have employed him at first base, second base, and third base. A team acquiring him wouldn’t really be trading him to start, but rather to fill a need off the bench and provide important off-days down the stretch for regulars.
Brewers' second basemen have combined for a .645 OPS this season — the fifth-worst mark in baseball. They’re neck and neck with the Reds for first place in the NL Central. Unfortunately for Kansas City, trading Matt Duffy isn’t going to fetch Jackson Chourio in return, but cashing in on Duffy’s limited value still makes sense no matter what the return is.
Royals trade Duffy to the Brewers for OF Yophery Rodriguez
Potential Fits: Rangers, Yankees
The value that Olivares offers to the Royals may actually be less than what he’d give to a contending team. While he’s clearly a liability with the glove, “Oli” has shown an ability to succeed at the plate. According to Baseball Savant, he currently ranks above the 80th percentile in xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG. He’s got a 105 wRC+ thus far and is still controllable for three more seasons in arbitration.
Looking to next year, the Royals will need his 40-man roster spot for more versatile options. He’s not a great defender in the expansive reaches of Kauffman Stadium and Kansas City would be better suited by filling the role of Designated Hitter with a mixture of Salvador Perez, Nick Pratto, and Vinnie Pasquantino (once he returns next season). The Yankees and Rangers are both in the playoff race and could use some help from both the DH position and the outfield. Both rank in the bottom five for wRC+ provided by designated hitters so far this season.
Royals trade Olivares to the Yankees for RHP Zach Messinger
Potential Fits: Marlins, Angels, Mariners
It wouldn’t be any fun to consider the Royals’ trade assets without looking at a wild card like Garcia. In order to acquire good talent, you have to trade good talent. It’s not too common that teams trade great talent for bad players (don’t you dare mention the name Ryan Buchter). In Garcia, the Royals have a promising young player. He’s a dark horse candidate for AL Rookie of the Year and has been one of the very best defenders in the league at third base this season.
If not for Bobby Witt Jr., Garcia would be the team’s shortstop of the future and a key part of the young core. As it stands now, Garcia could still be a key member of a young, contending Royals team but he offers a ton of trade value for a team in search of a long-term answer at shortstop. Kansas City could keep him as their third baseman of the future and build off one of the very best left-side infields in all of baseball. Or if not, what’s a better way to kick-start a rebuild than trading from a position of strength to fill a greater area of need? Garcia could help restock the farm system as much as any other trade asset the Royals currently have.
Royals trade Garcia to the Marlins for LHP Jake Eder and RHP Karson Milbrandt