Earlier tonight, the Royals added a potential DH candidate when they acquired defensively-challenged slugger Peter O’Brien from the Diamondbacks, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that they also have had some “preliminary” talks with the Cardinals about first baseman Matt Adams (Twitter link).
The 28-year-old Adams has long seemed like a potential trade candidate. The Cardinals told Matt Carpenter back in November that he was going to open the season as the everyday first baseman, and Adams has never lined up anywhere else on the diamond in either the Majors or the minors. Because both Carpenter and Adams swing from the left side of the dish, there’s no potential for any kind of platoon scenario, and with a 6’3″, 260-pound listing, Adams isn’t likely to find much success in an already-full Cardinals’ outfield.
In Kansas City, though, Adams would be able to find much more consistent at-bats, presumably as a designated hitter. Currently, the Royals figure to give Jorge Soler plenty of looks there and also rotate players like Mike Moustakas and Cheslor Cuthbert into the mix from time to time. That outlook could change if the Royals deal an outfielder, thereby pushing Soler into the field with more regularity. (Jarrod Dyson has been an oft-rumored trade candidate this winter.) The Royals are actually trying to pare down the payroll a bit, but Adams is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn an affordable $2.8MM salary in 2017, so the Royals could find a way to squeeze him into the payroll (especially if any additional veterans are moved following last month’s trade of Wade Davis). As a bonus, Adams is controllable through 2018 via the arbitration process.
Adams has long been a force against right-handed pitching when he’s been healthy enough to take the field, amassing a lifetime .284/.331/.480 battling line when holding the platoon advantage. However, durability hasn’t been a strong point for Adams, who had brief DL stints for oblique and calf injuries in 2013 and 2014, respectively, before missing about half of the 2015 campaign with a torn right quadriceps muscle. He also missed about three weeks this past season due to inflammation in his left shoulder. Adams’ playing time has also been suppressed by dreadful performance against left-handed pitching; St. Louis has limited him to 280 career PAs against lefties, and the resulting .212/.243/.352 batting line and 29.3 percent strikeout rate aren’t encouraging.
The other question to address when considering an Adams trade is that the market is currently rife with sluggers bearing similar skill sets. Brandon Moss, Pedro Alvarez, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison, Justin Morneau and Ryan Howard are all free agents, as are left-handed-hitting outfielders like Michael Saunders and Colby Rasmus. While most of those players figure to sign for more than Adams’ projected salary, it’s doubtful that many of the bunch will earn significantly more. And, those free agents would obviously be available to the Royals without requiring the team to surrender any minor league talent. If the Royals are simply looking for DH candidates with power that can be had on one-year deals, then a right-handed bat like Chris Carter, Mark Reynolds or even old friend Billy Butler are free-agent options as well.
Put another way, it seems unlikely that the Royals or any other team would have a strong sense of urgency to swing a deal for Adams unless the cost of acquisition was truly palatable. That’s not intended to be a knock on Adams, but the supply of this type of player greatly outweighs the demand in the current market.