1:55pm: Starter Brad Keller is also garnering interest, per Feinsand. The 27-year-old righty has a 4.18 ERA on the year, with a tepid 16% strikeout rate but above-average 51.5% ground ball rate. He’s making $4.825MM this year and can be controlled via arbitration for another season.
10:41am: With just under seven hours until the deadline, the Royals could be an important factor. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the markets for outfielder Michael A. Taylor, as well as relievers Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow are “heating up.”
The fact that the Royals are discussing trading away pieces of their major league roster is not surprising, given their place in the standings. They are 41-62 on the year and well out of contention. The question now is how much selling they’re willing to do. They’ve already traded Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees, though he was a pure rental, heading into free agency at the end of the year. The three players mentioned by Feinsand all come with extra control and don’t strictly need to be traded, though there would be reasons to consider offers on all three.
In the case of Taylor, he was headed into free agency this time last year but signed a two-year extensions to stay in KC. That means the Royals could keep him around for the 2023 campaign, but he’s having the best season of his career at the plate. His .280/.352/.395 slash line amounts to a 114 wRC+, or 14% above league average. In each of the previous four seasons, he was between 71 and 77 in that department. He’s also dropped his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate relative to previous seasons, suggesting that his better production is a result of an improved approach at the plate as opposed to mere luck.
He’s also making a modest $4.5MM salary this year, though with some incentives that could increase that number. Still, with only about one third of the season remaining, any acquiring team would be adding less than $2MM to their ledger. That’s a small price to pay for a guy hitting at an above-average level. Of course, Taylor’s primary calling card is his defense and the center field market has been notoriously thin. Teams have been trying to acquire guys like Bryan Reynolds, Cedric Mullins and Ramon Laureano for quite some time, without success so far. Perhaps that will allow the Royals to get an offer good enough that they take and allow Kyle Isbel to take over in center field.
As for Barlow and Staumont, they both come with multiple years of control, with Barlow set to reach free agency after the 2024 season and Staumont one year later. However, relief pitching is always in high demand this time of year, with just about every contender looking to bolster their bullpen with an intriguing arm or two. The Royals can certainly opt for hanging onto them for future seasons, but relievers are also notoriously subject to fluctuations from season to season. If the offers are good enough, the Royals could give some thought to taking what’s in front of them before either pitcher suffers an injury or a dip in performance.
For now, though, both are having good seasons and would find plenty of interest from rival teams. Barlow is having his fourth straight solid season but has changed his results this year, getting fewer strikeouts and more ground balls. From 2019 through 2021, Barlow threw 174 2/3 innings with a 3.45 ERA, 30% strikeout rate, 10% walk rate and 40.8% ground ball rate. This year, he has a 2.36 ERA while getting strikeouts just 24% of the time but grounders at a 50.4% clip while also cutting his walk rate to 6.5%. All that’s come while pitching in high-leverage situations, as Barlow racked up 16 saves last year and 17 already this year. He’s making $2.4MM on the year and has two more passes through arbitration to go. Considering all of that, it’s unsurprising he’s in high demand around the league.
Staumont isn’t quite at Barlow’s level but is still interesting nonetheless. Since debuting in 2019, he’s thrown 141 1/3 MLB innings with a 3.18 ERA and 26.5% strikeout rate. His 12.5% walk rate and 33.6% grounder rate are both worse than league average, but he’s still plenty effective. He won’t reach arbitration until this winter, meaning he could fit into the budget of any team and would still have three years of control remaining.
All three of these players have reasons for other teams to be interested, the question will be how much the Royals are willing to part with them. The club has had aspirations for competing in recent years but hasn’t yet succeeded. Trading any of these three could hurt the roster in the immediate future but would also likely add prospects that could help a few years down the line.