It’s been a long time since the Royals were sellers at the trade deadline. You have to turn the dial in your way back machine all the way to 2012 when the Royals traded Jonathan Broxton to the Reds for Donnie Joseph and J.C. Sulbaran. In a way, that trade sort of helped pave the way for the great Royals run of 2013-2015 because it elevated Greg Holland to the closer’s role, which was the first building block in the great bullpens the Royals ran out there that helped them to be one of the biggest winners over that stretch. But now here we are, and the Royals were once again sellers.
It was an interesting position they’re in. They weren’t selling for the long-term future because their long-term future is far less important on this date than their short-term future. That’s because they feel confident they’ll be blessed with better health in 2017 and will be able to make a run similar to the ones they made in the two years prior to what’s quickly becoming a lost season. With that in mind, anybody under contract for next season would have required quite a return for the Royals to even consider dealing them off this club. The return would have had to help both in 2017 and far beyond that. And if they didn’t get the deal, they’d just stand pat and hope for better times next year in the last year of the contracts for so many of the players fans have grown to love.
There were four players who the Royals seemed likely to entertain trading this year. The pending free agents (well, all have mutual options, but you know how that goes) were Luke Hochevar, Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez. All are still members of the Kansas City Royals today. The one other player who they would look to trade was Wade Davis who has a team option for next year at an affordable $10 million. They’d trade him, of course, because the reliever market was bonkers and why not look to deal when you have a ready made replacement already ready already in Kelvin Herrera?
As you know by now, they traded none of them. It wasn’t all their fault. Hochevar is out for the year and Davis is on the disabled list with a forearm issue that they say isn’t an elbow issue, but forearm issues are so often a precursor to elbow issues that you don’t believe it. With Morales, he was on fire for about a month, but he’s cooled down to basically what he was doing prior to his finger injury. And as a designated hitter, the options were limited where to trade him. I don’t fault the Royals for that. I suppose the Astros could have had interest, but if I was them, I wouldn’t give much up for him when they have some potential options internally.
Where I do think the Royals may have made a mistake is in not dealing a healthy and mostly effective Volquez. I’m not privy to the negotiations, so if the offers just weren’t there, then I am 100 percent wrong about this. But I have a hard time believing the offers weren’t there. I would be shocked if there wasn’t reasonable value available for Volquez from one of the many teams in need of pitching to help strengthen their staff for their stretch run.
The reason I say they may have made a mistake is because I do believe Volquez likes it in Kansas City and would like to stick around. The Royals also have very little in the pipeline as far as pitchers go and might struggle to field a respectable starting rotation for the second year in a row. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Royals now turn and sign Volquez to a short extension – think something like two years and $26 million – to help be a veteran presence on the 2017 team that looks to regain the title it appears they’ll be losing this season. That would leave the rotation as something like Volquez, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas with Kyle Zimmer potentially maybe back from surgery (though I’ll never count on him) along with Alec Mills, Matt Strahm, Jake Junis and maybe a lower-level free agent signing as depth. I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen better.
It’s just too bad for the Royals that they were struck with the injuries they had at the time they had. when you see what kind of a haul closers were going for, it was easy to dream about a massive return for Wade Davis. Instead, the Royals still don’t have him for the time being, but haven’t received anything in return for him either. And as an additional kick to the nether regions, his absence will give Herrera some save opportunities that could potentially raise his cost in arbitration if the Royals ever actually have a lead for him to protect.
At this time, I’d likely send Morales packing, either through a waiver deal or just DFAing him. He’s been a drag on the offense for nearly a month now, and the last two months are a prime time to find out what the Royals have for next year and what they’ll need. By moving Morales, it would give them the opportunity to call up Hunter Dozier and use both he and Cheslor Cuthbert at third and DH. Not all young players can handle the DH role, so this would give them the chance to find out.
If the Royals don’t reach an extension with Edinson Volquez, I think extending him a qualifying offer would be pretty tricky. The expected price of that is $16.7 million. I think you can make an argument that Volquez could be worth that on the free agent market, but the Royals budget is already stretched as is for 2017. Including options to Davis and Alcides Escobar, they already have more than $100 million guaranteed to 12 players, one of whom is Omar Infante. Their four big arbitration eligible players – Danny Duffy, Herrera, Eric Hosmer and Jarrod Dyson – could command around $30 million.
That puts them at a touch over $130 million for just 15 players. Is there room to add another $17 million? I guess if there’s room to add $13 million or whatever the AAV on an extension would be, there would be, but I just don’t know that I see it happening.
However they handle the roster from this point forward, I feel comfortable saying that this deadline turned into a disaster for the Royals. For the most part, they couldn’t control much of that, but I just think the worst possible scenario for the 2017 and beyond Royals is for this version to have stood pat, no matter why they couldn’t deal off the assets that could have helped in future pennant chases. But now, all we can do is move on and look to the rest of this season for development and to next year to get back to the championship caliber club we’ve grown accustomed to watching.