Brett Eibner

Royals Have Options – and Some Time – Before Turning to Trade Targets

It’s been a tough week in Kansas City. On Monday, we learned Alex Gordon was headed to the disabled list for a few weeks with a broken bone in his wrist. On Wednesday, the Royals lost to the Twins. And yesterday, Mike Moustakas went to the disabled list with a torn ACL stemming from his collision with Gordon on Sunday. The Royals’ third baseman will be out for the rest of the season. Oh, and Kendrys Morales is dealing with a finger injury, and he’s day-to-day. Aren’t we all.

To replace Moose on the roster, the team recalled Brett Eibner. The 27-year old outfielder has been crushing Pacific Coast League pitching for the second consecutive season, to the tune of a .948 OPS and 10 dingers. He has enough range to play center field capably, the arm to handle right field, and has a handful of games’ worth of experience in left field, so he’ll be able to help out all over, while also providing a bit of insurance at designated hitter, if Morales’ injury and/or struggles continue to linger. At least, the Royals hope he’ll help out and provide that insurance. The nice thing is, they don’t need to rely solely on Eibner.

Obviously the injury to Moustakas is bad. There is nothing good about losing an All-Star third baseman for the last four months of the regular season, along with any potential playoff games. The Royals’ offense was scuffling enough with Moose in the lineup, and now they need to find some production from someone else.

But if there is anything that may eventually lead to something positive here, it’s the timing. The trade deadline is still two months away, which gives the organization plenty of time to evaluate their situation. I doubt they become sellers at the deadline, because they could just as easily hold tight and reload for 2017 with the idea that everyone will be back and healthy.

These next two months will determine if a big move will be needed, and how big that move will need to be. The Royals have several internal options that they can give at-bats to before they feel like they have pursue someone like Jay Bruce or Josh Reddick.

For the time being, Cheslor Cuthbert will hold down the fort at the hot corner, with Whit Merrifield also getting a little bit of time. Eibner will work in with Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson at the corner outfield spots, along with Merrifield.

Let’s say Cuthbert’s hitting isn’t improving like the team expects, and Merrifield’s bat isn’t enough either. Christian Colon isn’t a Gold Glover at third base, but he’s had a bit of success in the big leagues, so maybe he gets a crack at that spot in Kansas City. If he doesn’t work out, Hunter Dozier has had a terrific 2016 season thus far, and while he’s not yet on the 40-man roster, he’ll need to be added after the season anyway, so the organization shouldn’t have any qualms about adding him sooner.

Orlando is hitting better than Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista at the moment, so when he cools down, the Royals may want to give more reps to Eibner. He’s not really a prospect at this point, but he’s on the 40-man, so it would be nice to know what they have in him. If Eibner can’t cut it, they could turn to Jorge Bonifacio, who has 21 extra-base hits in Omaha this year. Reymond Fuentes is also on the 40-man roster, and the Royals felt good enough about him to give him an Opening Day start.

The point isn’t that the Royals’¬†options¬†to replace Moose and Gordon are all great. The point is that the Royals have a lot of potentially acceptable options, and because this injury occurred in May instead of July, they have the time to evaluate those options before looking to thin out what is an already thin farm system, to acquire another bat.

I really have no clue if any of the players mentioned above will perform well enough in Kansas City. I like what I’ve seen from most of them in a limited sample here in Omaha, but they clearly have some deficiencies.

Cuthbert hasn’t proven he can hit major-league pitching consistently. Merrifield doesn’t have much power, and may not hit enough. Eibner’s improved his strikeout rate against minor-league pitching, but that’s not guaranteed to continue now. Bonifacio was pretty bad the last two years before bouncing back this year. Ditto for Dozier. Fuentes hasn’t been able to stick on a big-league roster yet.

There are obvious questions about each candidate, and it’s possible that not a single one of them does enough to earn regular playing time in the next two months. If that’s the case, and if the Royals are still close enough to contention to explore trade possibilities, then they might pursue some of those players available. I’m a big Martin Prado fan, personally, and as David Lesky mentioned back in March, he could be available, and would be a terrific fit with the club. There are other names out there, of course, but he’s one that makes all kinds of sense.

But for now, those names may not have to be heavily considered. The Royals could simply stick with their current roster, and give players in the organization a chance to take advantage of the playing time that is now available to them, because the organization has some time to give those players a chance.

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