The Kansas City Royals have pieced together one of their busiest off-seasons in recent memory. The action started early in the offseason with all the starting pitcher signings and other trades you already know about. Then, the holidays brought a lull that was disrupted early on Saturday. News broke Saturday morning that the Royals had agreed to a contract with second baseman Adam Frazier. In a sense, this offseason for Kansas City could be compared to a blackjack game. Now, I’m not an expert at the card game by any means, so bear with me here.
Early on, the Royals had a low hand. Let’s say they had a pair of twos. With such a poor hand, they had no choice but to hit. And they did, a few times. Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha got them closer to 21. The team added Hunter Renfroe, Chris Stratton, Garrett Hampson, and Will Smith. For the sake of our exercise, let’s pool all four arms together and call that card a nine. Then, let’s pool both bats together and call that card a four. If you’re having a hard time following here, the Royals have hit enough times this offseason to hold a 17 in their hands. They added Frazier on Saturday, and let's call that card a three.
We’re not calling the magical ‘21’ a World Series winner for this exercise. We’re simply looking for a competitive baseball team — and the Royals are holding 20 in their hands. Even I, a blackjack amateur with little to no experience, know that you don’t hit when you’re sitting at 20. So what the hell does all this have to do with the Royals signing Adam Frazier?
The signing of Adam Frazier doesn’t have to signal a trade on the horizon
Immediately after the news broke on Saturday morning, the theme among those following the team turned to a presumptive trade on the horizon. Admittedly, that’s exactly where my mind went first as well. Adam Frazier is a left-handed second baseman. He’s also spent more than ample time playing all over the outfield. With such a crowded infield and outfield already, there’s no room for Frazier and everyone else.
Michael Massey and MJ Melendez are lefties already penciled into the lineup. A coming trade makes all the sense in the world, especially considering that Frazier was guaranteed $4.5 million. The Royals didn’t pay him to compete for a spot in spring training. They paid him to have one. A platoon with Massey at second base doesn’t make sense, since both are left-handed hitters. Whispers of a potential MJ Melendez trade have persisted throughout the offseason thus far. Then, just to add fuel to the fire, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic released a report earlier this week that mentioned the Royals were looking to trade for a closer.
There’s been so much smoke around a trade and so many angles that make it make sense, that at this point it’s bound to happen, right? That was my initial reaction as well, but what if that’s not the case? Frazier was a ‘3’ and raised the Royals' hand to 20. Is trading away controllable years from upside bats like Massey and Melendez worth one season of Frazier and a reliever? Instead, the Royals are better off staying. Both Massey and Melendez have options remaining. Trading either away now is selling them low. Doing so for a reliever is a classic case of selling low to buy high.
If Michael Massey can’t claim a spot in spring training, a trip to Omaha might be good for his long-term development. Let him reset, and rediscover the patience at the plate that made him more dangerous throughout his minor league career. The same can be said for Melendez, although he looked to seriously turn a corner over the second half of 2023. Short-term thinking might make the Royals better right now, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best move the team can make.
Perhaps the coming trade is the ace that the Royals desperately need to hit 21. None of us really know until the final picture comes into focus. Devin Williams would be a serious addition to the already improved MLB bullpen. More good players aren’t going to be a bad thing for 2024, no matter how you frame it. However, it’s worth considering whether the depth that Kansas City now has in their system is the true ace up their sleeve.
Good teams have sound bullpens — something I believe the Royals have already put together. Great teams have sound bullpens and great depth. That great depth is something the Royals now have, with the flexibility to develop Massey or Melendez further in Omaha if the need arises.