For many years at the beginning of the Dayton Moore era, the Royals made a move pretty quickly following the season, and often it was a relatively big one. In 2013, they had a major announcement and signed Jason Vargas to a four-year deal. In 2012, they traded for Ervin Santana. In 2011, they traded Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez. In 2010, they traded David DeJesus for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. In 2009, they traded Mark Teahen for Chris Getz and Josh Fields. In 2008, they traded Leo Nunez/Juan Carlos Oviedo for Mike Jacobs. Get the idea?
Now, over the last few seasons, it hasn’t been quite as crazy. Following the 2014 season, the Royals traded Aaron Crow to the Marlins for Brian Flynn and Reid Redman and after the 2015 season, they signed Chris Young and Joakim Soria in December, which really isn’t that early. Then last year, they signed Drew Butera, but that’s such a small deal that it’s not that big of a deal anyway.
With the GM meetings beginning this week and the history of Dayton Moore, I’d say there’s a good chance we see a move happen and happen soon.
Find a Center Fielder
If it’s going to happen this week, the odds are that they’ll be making a trade. You just don’t see many free agents sign this early unless they’re returning to their old team. I guess that makes Jarrod Dyson a possibility this week, but I think he’ll be looking for a big enough contract that he’s not going to sign this early in free agency, even with the Royals. Instead, they’ll look to the trade market if they look outside the organization.
I could see them going after a few options. Kevin Pillar and Michael Taylor are the two that come to mind first. With Anthony Alford returning for the Blue Jays next year and looking like he’s essentially ready and Adam Eaton’s return from injury, both teams have a center fielder ready to go if they trade the player who manned the spot in 2017. Both are excellent defensively and both have their offensive deficiencies, but both are good players. I’m not sure how likely a trade of either is, but I think a deal centered around Kelvin Herrera could get it done for either of them if either the Blue Jays or Nationals are looking to deal.
A couple other names that seem less likely, but have to be considered are Billy Hamilton and Jacoby Ellsbury. A trade for Hamilton would likely be a disaster, but would hearken back to the days of trading for Chris Getz. The only good with Hamilton is that he’s insanely fast, and that’s fun, but with his inability to get on base, does it really matter much? Also, I’m not sure the Royals have much that would interest the Reds given the lack of impact talent in the upper levels of the minors. As for Ellsbury, the Yankees would obviously have to pay down a huge chunk of the deal, but with Aaron Hicks emerging in 2017 and Clint Frazier hanging around, the Yankees can afford to deal him. I just don’t think they’d pay enough to deal him, but the Royals do some weird things when they make trades early in the offseason.
Bolster the Bullpen
Even this early in free agency, some relievers might sign, so that’s a possibility. And, if Herrera is dealt early, the Royals might use some of the money budgeted for him to bring Mike Minor. If I had to bet on some deal being struck early, that’s what I’d bet on. Otherwise, a deal for one of the third or fourth tier relievers could be struck. The Royals did have interest in Francisco Liriano at the deadline. I’m not sure they need another lefty arm, but you never know. Maybe they jump on Yusmeiro Petit to be a swingman that they really could use given their rotation questions. Or maybe they try to find some additional experience and jump on a short deal for Luke Gregerson.
The trade market for a reliever is way too difficult to gauge, but this is where guys like Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler, Jorge Bonifacio and Cheslor Cuthbert likely come into play. These guys aren’t going to bring back a reliever that’s done anything yet, but maybe they could fetch a bit of a wild card who could maybe break out. While I think Minor is the leader in the clubhouse for the early deal, picking up a reliever in some way is the easy bet here.
The Royals could really use some starting pitching depth, and the trade market would likely be the place to find it this early. J.A. Happ is someone who could be moved, though I’m not sure the Royals would want to take on his contract. Mike Fiers is coming off a rough year for the world champs, but maybe the Royals would have interest in his strikeouts. Maybe the Giants want to get away from Matt Moore after the acquisition of him has been largely a bust. The issue with all these trades is that the Royals trade chips aren’t exactly plentiful. A guy like Dozier could be attractive for the Giants if they don’t mind going young at third.
All the reports about the Royals having interest in bringing back both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas make me wonder if the trend of actually waiting out the market will continue. But then I think about the history and I’m just waiting anxiously for the first deal of the offseason to come out of the Royals front office. Given all the questions surrounding this team, waiting is probably the smart move here, but sometimes GMDM just has to scratch that transaction itch. If it’s more Santana/Vargas than Jacobs/Sanchez, all will be forgiven in the end. If it’s another Getz deal, well, we might all wish he had taken that Braves job after all.