You may be looking at your calendar wondering why exactly I’m talking about who the Royals might go after midseason. Spring training isn’t over, and now this guy is talking about the trade deadline (which is August 1 this year, by the way since July 31 is a Sunday and games will be going on during the trading). Yeah, I am. Because it’s important to be prepared. Or something.
If you’ll recall, the Royals didn’t need the trade deadline last season to make their team into division winners, but few would argue that they didn’t benefit greatly in their march to a title from their acquisitions. Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto were both such vital pieces to a championship team that it’s hard to imagine the 2015 Royals without them. The question is if the Royals will need that boost in 2016. I think they probably will, simply because most teams could benefit from something.
Looking at the roster, the holes are pretty glaring. It’s second base and right field. Everywhere else has established regulars who can be reasonably expected to be good enough to play for a championship baseball team. At second base, the Royals have Omar Infante and Christian Colon (with Raul Mondesi nipping at their heels). In right field, the Royals have Reymond Fuentes, Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando (with Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez, Jorge Bonifacio and Bubba Starling on the horizon). While the young players who are close elicit confidence, the current starters seem like players who could stand to be upgraded from.
Because of all the young talent on the way, I imagine the Royals will be looking for a short-term fix rather than a long-term fix. That said, even if Mondesi is the second baseman next year, there’s a decent chance he’s the shortstop in 2018, so they’ll still need a second baseman. The same is true in the outfield. Bubba Starling may be ready to play right field in 2017, but he seems likely to be the center fielder in 2018 when Cain leaves. There are some non-pending free agents who could probably be had, but with all the young players on the way, let’s just look at those who can hit free agency after the season.
Second Base Possibilities
Aaron Hill – Somehow, it’s been seven years since Hill had his 36-home run season with Toronto. Since then, he’s been pretty up and down throughout his career and has been pretty bad the last two seasons. Now he’s 34 and will play third base for the Brewers. So no, I’m not terribly optimistic that he’ll be a great target, but a rebuilding team like the Brewers would likely be more than willing to trade off a high priced veteran and this one likely wouldn’t cost a ton.
Martin Prado - There were rumors that the Royals were on the verge of acquiring him last season, even after they picked up Zobrist. Prado goes back a long way with Dayton Moore, all the way to his time with the Braves as he was signed as a minor league free agent in 2001. Prado also will play a lot of third base, but has played a relatively high level second base in recent years. He really fits the Royals mold of making a lot of contact. It would be pretty fun to slot him into the 8th spot of a lineup to make it deeper.
Luis Valbuena – Another guy who figures to play third base in 2016. He is not a Royals type player. He works a fair amount of walks, strikes out a lot and hits for some decent power (though Kauffman Stadium might sap that a bit). It’s not that I think the Astros will be out of contention, but that they have even more good young talent on the way and Valbuena might be on the block. I don’t love his defense, but for a couple months, it’d be nice to add his bat.
A couple other guys could be out there. Yunel Escobar from the Angels could play second for a bit, though he hasn’t done much of that. Ruben Tejada could be available once Jhonny Peralta returns. And Neil Walker could be on the block if the Mets don’t repeat their success. I think they will, though, so I doubt he’s available.
Right Field Possibilities
Alejandro De Aza - The odds are that De Aza will be traded long before the Royals start looking, but you never know. He figures to be the fifth outfielder for the Mets this season, and has been a pretty solid player throughout his career. He strikes out a bit more than you’d want, but I’d bet he could be had relatively cheaply.
Carlos Beltran - I don’t think it’s crazy likely that Beltran will be available, but there’s a lot that can go wrong with the Yankees this season. If they find themselves out of the race in July, Beltran could be a fun target to maybe end his career where it began. The guy can still hit, that’s for sure. He could use a ring.
Jay Bruce - Bruce is on every one of these lists every single season. Like De Aza, he could potentially be dealt prior to the time the Royals go looking, but the way the Reds operate, it’s hard to say. What I like about Bruce is that he doesn’t make weak contact too often, but he’s been on a pretty steady decline. He’s not great defensively anymore either, so moving to a more spacious ballpark could be a disaster for him. Still, he’s on the block.
Chris Coghlan - When the Royals were without Alex Gordon, I thought Coghlan would be a good target for them to replace him. Right field may be a different story, but he’s going to be a jack-of-all-trades for the A’s this season. The last time the Royals made a deal with the A’s for one of those, it went pretty well. He works a walk pretty well, makes good contact and would seem to fit in well on this Royals ballclub. I’ve been a fan of Coghlan for a long time. You could probably pencil him into the second base list too, though I’m not sure how much the Royals would like his defense there.
Austin Jackson - What makes Jackson unlikely is that the Royals probably could have had him at any time throughout the winter, but chose not to. Also, he did sign with a division rival, so that makes things a bit more difficult. If he has a good start to the year and the White Sox don’t, though, he might become more attractive and the Royals might be willing to take him on for three months.
Daniel Nava - Nava is another guy who the Royals could have probably had pretty easily. He’s with the Angels now and having a monster spring. He’s not a great player, but he could certainly hold down the fort for a little while and wouldn’t be much to acquire, I wouldn’t think.
Josh Reddick - Both parties between the A’s and Reddick seem to want to get a deal done, but the A’s are unpredictable and will trade anyone at any time if they can improve by the deal. There’s a question of if Reddick would fit in the clubhouse, but his style of play would be a great fit. He plays very good defense, doesn’t strike out a ton and has some pop that the Royals could use.
Shane Victorino - The Cubs will obviously be in contention, but something about Victorino just screams Royals to me if he’s healthy and playing well. The Cubs certainly have the depth to trade him, even if he does have a nice season. He’s just a name to keep an eye on for me.
The Royals don’t have the prospect collateral that they did last year at this time, but that could change as guys step up throughout the season. I do think it would be wise to search for an upgrade, even if it’s just temporary, and the above list is a good start to keep an eye on as the 2016 season gets underway.