Royals starters Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura are two of the pitchers on the Astros’ list of rotation targets, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. The two K.C. arms join several other previously-known names (i.e. Jose Quintana, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and other Tampa Bay’s starters) as potential trade fits for a Houston team looking to upgrade its starting pitching.
Kansas City is known to be open to dealing notable players in order to cut short-term payroll, and the Royals have already made one big move in this regard by dealing Wade Davis to the Cubs for Jorge Soler. Even with Davis gone, however, the Royals have several more possible trade chips who are only controllable over the next one or two seasons before hitting free agency.
Duffy fits into that category, as MLBTR projects the southpaw to earn $8.2MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility before hitting free agency after the 2017 season. K.C. began preliminary extension talks with Duffy earlier this winter but were also gauging interest in his services during the Winter Meetings. Duffy, who turns 28 late this month, posted a 3.51 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 4.48 K/BB rate over 179 2/3 innings for Kansas City last year, finally solidifying himself as a member of the rotation after being used as a part-time reliever in the previous two seasons and at the start of 2016.
While Duffy would be a one-year rental, Ventura is locked up through at least 2019 due to a contract extension that includes club options for both 2020 and 2021. Ventura is guaranteed $20.25MM through 2019 and, if both options are exercised, Ventura’s deal would cost $43.25MM over the five seasons. Even if Ventura merely continues to post numbers akin to his only-okay 2016 season (4.45 ERA, 50.2% grounder rate, 6.97 K/9, 1.85 K/BB rate over 186 innings), that deal is still very good value given the rising costs of starting pitching, and it could become a major bargain should Ventura take a step forward in performance.
Ventura has been the subject of controversy due to reported maturity issues and his two suspensions for throwing at batters, though the Royals denied reports that they were shopping the righty last summer. One would think that given Ventura’s age (25) and reasonable contract, the Royals would see him as a long-term building block rather than as a trade chip. Their willingness to least listen to other clubs’ offers could be due to doubts about his personality, or it could just be due diligence, as Ventura’s years of control could net K.C. a nice return in a trade.
The Astros have a deep minor league system that could satisfy the Royals or other teams looking for young talent, and Houston could also offer starting pitching of its own in the form of Collin McHugh or Mike Fiers. Since the Royals plan to contend next season, they could fit as a team that would take on a solid rotation piece like McHugh or Fiers rather than just prospects in exchange for a pitcher; the Davis trade, for instance, netted the Royals a player in Soler who they expect to contribute immediately.
Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, McHugh, Fiers and the newly-signed Charlie Morton project as Houston’s rotation. It’s an unspectacular but solid rotation, and one that could look better on paper if Keuchel returns to his Cy Young Award form of 2015.