Jeremy Hellickson

Potential Mid-Season Trade Targets: Starting Pitchers

Whenever anyone really gets into a discussion about the 2017 Royals, the conversation ultimately turns to whether or not they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline. That’s one of the more interesting storylines around this team as it, in all likelihood, is their last chance to win another title with this whole core together. But still, there’s no discussion of if the Royals will be buyers at the deadline. That’s why I’m here.

There are two things to consider here. First, we know the Royals have it in them to be buyers. They certainly were in 2015 when they traded five pitchers for Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto. Second, and this is the part that I think people might not agree with, they have the prospects to swing a deal. They probably don’t have what it takes to go get players the caliber of the two they acquired in 2015, but the farm system has a chance to look much better in four months than it does today. It will take some development, but there’s definitely upside, especially at the lower levels.

With that in mind, let’s take a break from asking about the Royals selling at the deadline and look at some players who could be available to them if they’re looking to add to their team. This isn’t the hardest exercise in the world because it’s pretty safe to say that if they are looking to add, it will be in the starting rotation, middle infield or bullpen. They’re not likely to need an outfielder or a third baseman or even a first baseman, even if one of their core players goes down and they are still contending. I’d say they could be on the market for a catcher, but I don’t think Drew Butera will be barrel rolling into Salvador Perez again any time soon.

I’ll start today with the starting pitching and get to relievers and middle infielders next week.

Pending Free Agents

Clay Buchholz - He posted a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts in 2013. Then he posted a 5.26 ERA in 2014. Then he put up a 3.26 ERA in 2015. And last year, that rose again to 4.78. You have no idea what you’re getting year to year in Buchholz, but at his best, he’s very, very good. Given his inconsistency and lack of control, I’d bet he’s not exactly expensive.

Jhoulys Chacin – Make no mistake, the Padres signed Chacin with the hopes they could trade him at the deadline. He doesn’t have great numbers, but his peripherals indicate he’s somewhere around average, which might be of use at the back of an uneven Royals rotation.

Tyler Chatwood - He posted a 1.69 ERA away from Coors Field last year. He threw just 24 big league innings between 2013 and 2016, but that ERA on the road is reason to be encouraged by him. He’s certainly not that good, but he could be similar to Chacin in that he could provide some quality back-end innings.

Alex Cobb – He was once one of the best in the game. Then he spent a good chunk of the next two years trying to recover and he was pretty darn bad in five starts in 2016. Still, PECOTA projects him to put up a 3.95 ERA and 4.48 DRA. If he can find his groove, he could be one of the very best again, and if the Rays are out of it, the smart money is on them dealing him.

Scott Feldman – There is nothing exciting about Feldman, but he could fit as a starter or reliever with the Royals and can really coax a ground ball. That’s valuable if the ball is flying out of the park at the same rate it was last season. He’s not an ace and he’s probably not even truly a number three starter, but he’s another who could stabilize the back of the rotation if needed.

Jeremy Hellickson - I’ve always been skeptical of Hellickson, but he’s really been a decent 3/4 starter for awhile now. He consistently strikes out about 7.5 per nine while keeping walks to three per nine or below. He’s projected to post a 4.09 ERA and 4.35 DRA for the Phillies and could be a really nice fit at Kauffman Stadium. I’d hate to be the team to give him a multi-year deal, but he could be a solid addition for two or three months.

Control Beyond 2017

Bartolo Colon – Okay, so maybe this is a wish, but the Braves will likely be a fringe contender at best. While Colon’s veteran leadership has value, if they can get something of value for him in exchange for two months away, they’ll have to. You’re not getting dominance by any stretch, but he’s a very solid arm. The American League might not be quite as kind to him as the National League, but I think he’d provide a stabilizing force anywhere for a couple months.

Patrick Corbin - I’d heard rumors about the Royals having interest in Corbin going back to last season. A new regime in Arizona could have changed that potentially, but that’s still in the back of my mind. The Diamondbacks should be better this year, but I’m not so sure they’ll be good. Oddly enough, they have a fair amount of pitching, so they could look to deal one of their arms.

Shelby Miller – And that’s where Miller comes in. He had a disastrous season, but there’s still talent. And where the new regime may have hurt the Royals pursuit of Corbin, it could help to acquire Miller. The new front office doesn’t have any ties to the disastrous trade made to get him, so they won’t feel an innate desire to get back equal value. Yes, last year was a disaster, but this is a guy who had a 3.02 ERA and 3.09 DRA just a year before. I’d take my chances with him working with Eiland.

Ricky Nolasco – Okay, I’m not in love with this idea. Nolasco was terrible with the Twins, but he was suddenly not just serviceable but pretty good with the Angels. He threw 73 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 3.83 FIP. What Nolasco does is give a fair amount of innings with good control. He’s projected to be more of a four or five than a three, but the upside is there to help a rotation.

James Shields - If Nolasco was worthy of a chuckle, this one might get a laugh. Shields was bad last year. He had a 6.77 ERA with the White Sox after being traded. His strikeout rate dropped and his walk rate rose. There’s every chance in the world he’s absolutely done, but we’ve seen weirder things than pitchers who were once good pitching well again. I’m just saying that if he has a decent first half, he might be someone to watch to get for next to nothing. I’m not expecting him to be good, but if he somehow is, he could be a fun reunion piece.

I thought about including Sonny Gray on this list, but I kind of feel like the A’s will hold on to him if he’s ineffective or hurt and if he’s good, he’ll be too expensive in prospects for the Royals to make that deal. There are some names that are intriguing at the very least and should be worth watching over the first few months of the season if it turns out the Royals are buyers at the deadline.

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