The Royals are at least preparing for the possibility that they’ll need to take a selling posture at the trade deadline, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag and as suggested yesterday by Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. Though GM Dayton Moore recently indicated that the defending World Series champs were firmly in the buyer’s camp, a source tells Heyman that the organization is readying to head in the other direction if that becomes necessary.
With a .500 record entering play today, it’s certainly possible that a run in either direction could drastically change the club’s outlook in a short period of time. Though it’s jarring to hear of a defending champ with many core, mid-prime players considering a sell-off, it also seems that this probably isn’t K.C.’s year — particularly with the loss of Mike Moustakas and the struggles of players such as Alcides Escobar and Yordano Ventura.
According to Heyman, the club could potentially consider dealing away some rather significant assets. He lists late-inning relievers Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, starter Edinson Volquez, and even center fielder Lorenzo Cain. It’s worth noting that Cain is on the DL, though he is likely nearing a return.
It’s important to bear in mind that none of the players listed is set to hit the open market after the year — all are controlled via arbitration or option. Realistically, if the club considered dealing players like those listed above, there’s no reason they wouldn’t at least listen on additional names as well. Other shorter-term assets who aren’t pure rentals include first baseman Eric Hosmer, lefty Danny Duffy, righty Luke Hochevar, outfielder Jarrod Dyson, and the aforementioned Escobar.
What’s notable about the K.C. situation is that so many players are controlled for a short time, yet virtually none are set for the open market after the season. The club’s pending free agents — at least, those that aren’t subject to team control rights — include names like Dillon Gee, Chien-Ming Wang, and Drew Butera. Obviously, none of those players is likely to generate a major trade return. While he does come with a mutual option, DH Kendrys Morales may be the closest thing to a traditional rental asset that the Royals have, and his improved play of late could make him a useful piece.
It’s certainly possible to imagine the Royals looking into moving only a few assets, in hopes that they’d return players who could help next season while also bridging to a time when the current core is no longer together. There doesn’t appear to be much of a realistic hope of keeping players like Cain and Hosmer around beyond 2017, so perhaps now is the time to realize returns on at least a few major assets.
That being said, even at .500, the Royals have ample incentive to keep their roster together. It’s still possible to imagine some magic this year — I’ve resolved never to count this team out — and the fanbase will surely stay motivated so long as there is any glimmer of hope. And if the organization still believes in its talent, it can expect to see it all back together — hopefully, with better health — in 2017.
It also bears noting that this news on Kansas City seems to cap a mini-run on teams transitioning to possible sellers. Recent converts include, at least in theory, the Yankees and White Sox, with the Mariners and Tigers also candidates to do the same. That seems in part to be a response to a general perception that the market is friendly to sellers, which in turn may simply be motivating more teams in limbo to gauge what they can get for their more appealing short-term assets.