Yes, folks, the Royals are 44-43 and right in the thick of the playoff race. Instead of digging through other team’s farm systems, it looks like we’ll be digging through other team’s big league rosters to see where the Royals can improve. By my count, I see three places the Royals are targeting to upgrade. One is starting pitching, one is relief pitching, and one is DH any way they can. So today is the first in a three-part series looking at starting pitching, position players (I’ve got a bonus non-DH just to make everyone happy) and relievers.
The Royals could very well surprise when looking for a starting pitcher, but I think they’ll focus on middle of the rotation arms to help lengthen the crew rather than go for the big name at the top. Part of the reason for that is they don’t have the prospect capital to go get one of those pitchers. I do think the system is better than many believe, but when competing with teams with great, deep systems, the Royals will get left in the dark.
Here are the starting pitchers I think they will be targeting in the next few weeks, listed alphabetically:
Trevor Cahill – The starter turned reliever turned starter again has had his injury issues and has only made nine starts this year, but he’s been very good with a 3.38 ERA and a 2.46 DRA. With a base salary of $1.75 million (and an assignment bonus of $250k with a trade), he’s probably the right price for the Royals. What I like about Cahill is that he can give you some starts and then likely slide into the bullpen as a solid piece there if they do make a playoff run. I don’t think he’d cost too much in terms of prospects either.
Andrew Cashner – He’s having a deceiving season. He’s been healthy, but he’s made 14 starts and averaged almost six innings per. The problem is that he’s struck out just 4.4 per nine and walked four per nine. That’s not a good combination. His 3.54 ERA comes with a 4.51 FIP and 5.73 DRA. I would stay as far away from Cashner as possible, but I like to be thorough here. I imagine the Rangers wouldn’t require much of a return on him, so if they’re looking for a guy just to take the ball every fifth day and avoid the young pitchers and/or Travis Wood, I guess he’d fit the bill.
Jhoulys Chacin – He’ s made 18 starts and averaged 5.2 innings per start with a 4.32 ERA and a 4.67 DRA. He’s a back of the rotation starter if there ever was one, but he gets a decent amount of strikeouts, limits home runs reasonably well and can be reliable. Like Cahill, he’s super cheap with a salary of $1.75 million and no assignment or other bonus. A move for Chacin wouldn’t make the Royals the favorites or anything but it wouldn’t be bad.
Jesse Chavez – I promise there are guys on this list who aren’t just placeholders in a rotation, but the alphabet is what the alphabet is. Chavez is just another guy, but he’s someone else who has been successful in a relief role in the past, so he could be put there in the postseason in the Chris Young/Kris Medlen role if the Royals get there and be impactful. He’s not nearly as cheap as some of the others on this list with a base salary of $5.75 million and $3 million in incentives, so I see him as unlikely, but the Royals could offer a package that doesn’t part with much to get him.
Marco Estrada – As the Blue Jays inch closer to selling with every loss, I imagine Estrada will be a popular name. He’s having a terrible season with a 5.17 ERA and a 7.41 DRA, but he’d been so good the last two years that you trade for him hoping it’s just a weird blip. He’s struck out a ton of batters and has exhibited his typically fantastic control, but he’s gone from allowing less than seven hits per nine to allowing more than nine. His opponent’s TAv is consistent with the past three seasons (all .261 before this year’s .265), so it does seem that he’s dealing with some bad luck. You might get a really nice middle of the rotation piece with him.
Scott Feldman – Of all the mediocre pitchers on this list, Feldman might be my least favorite for the Royals to acquire, but at a base salary of $2.3 million and maybe another $600k or so in bonuses, he’s inexpensive and has been solid before. It’s probably not fair that I dislike him so much as a target because he has a 3.94 ERA and a 4.36 DRA after posting a 3.97 DRA and a 4.84 DRA mostly in relief last year. He wouldn’t cost much in terms of prospects, you wouldn’t think, so this is a real possibility.
Jaime Garcia – Garcia hasn’t exactly been the picture of health throughout his career, but he’s made 16 starts this year and hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been good. He has a 4.55 ERA and a 5.05 DRA with not enough strikeouts and too many walks. He’s also not especially cheap. I’d pass here, but Jon Heyman listed him, so I will too, I guess.
Jesse Hahn – I’m not sure what it is about Hahn I like, but the A’s don’t share that with me, and with good reason. He’s posted a 5.30 ERA and 5.77 DRA this year after a 6.02 ERA and 6.82 DRA last season. I remember being a fan prior to the 2016 season and not really knowing where things went wrong. I’d take a shot on the potential that he could get back to where he was before with Eiland working with him. He’s limited home runs well for the most part in his career, so maybe they can fix him. Hahn would likely require a return that the Royals might not love to part with, but I think what he could be as a middle of the rotation starter would be worth the shot.
J.A. Happ – This is potentially a waste of space, but I can’t get it out of my head that the Blue Jays would be a good match for Jorge Soler, and I can’t stop thinking about Soler for Happ. After being fixed in Pittsburgh, he had a good showing in the 2016 AL Cy Young race, winning 20 games with a 3.18 ERA. He’s followed it up this season with a 3.54 ERA and 4.09 DRA. He’s not great, but he’s definitely a solid arm who could make a rotation better. I don’t even know if the Blue Jays would trade him, but if they can get some right-handed power for a few seasons in return, maybe.
Derek Holland – I lied about Feldman. Holland is my least favorite player on this list, but Heyman mentioned him too, so here he is. Dayton, if you’re reading this, don’t do it.
Tom Koehler – A quick glance at Koehler’s numbers and you might vomit, but this is kind of out of nowhere for him, and the Royals would have him for another season. Maybe it’s not worth it, but for a guy with an ERA of 8.00 and a DRA of 7.25, you might be able to get him for a song and see if you can get him back to his back of the rotation stuff.
Ivan Nova – I’m not sure Nova would even be available, especially not for a price the Royals should pay, but his insanely good control is appealing. He doesn’t strike many out, so I’d hesitate a bit with him, but he’s averaging 20 outs per start, and there’s a ton of value there even if it just gets you through the regular season. Of course, if you’re giving up what you’d likely give up, you’d hate to just get through the regular season with it.
Edinson Volquez – A reunion with Ed could be in the offing given what the Royals need. He’s had an okay season for Miami with a high point of a no-hitter earlier this year. The issue is he’s walked far too many batters this season, but he has a 4.19 ERA and a 3.65 DRA. The bigger issue is that he’s owed $13 million next season. The Marlins would have to eat some money on this deal, but at that point, the prospect haul might be too much for him. I don’t think it’s likely, but I imagine the Royals will at least call to find out if they can make it happen.
I should note that in the original version of this article, I had Dan Straily of the Marlins listed. He’s cost-controlled and team-controlled and good. If he were to become available, he’d be my top choice, but it seems as if the Marlins aren’t interested in dealing him, so he was removed from this list.
Stay tuned for position players and relievers the Royals could target over the next couple days.