As baseball grinds through the Hot Stove at a snail’s pace, one of the things slowing free agent signings is the fact that the big market teams in Boston and Los Angeles are concerned about the luxury tax threshold and the penalties that come with it. As it stands currently according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts the Red Sox are $3M over the penalty marker of $197 million while the Dodgers are roughly $14 million over this mark. With both teams at the 50% threshold, each team would be smart to shed any payroll possible to save money. With this in mind, those two teams have a pair of players each who fit the Royals needs, while also meeting their abilities to trade for them despite a shallow farm system.
1. Yasmani Grandal – After playing 129 regular season games, Grandal earned just 11 postseason at-bats during the Dodgers playoff run. Obviously, the Royals have little need for another catcher with Salvy eating up an average of 139 games the past five seasons, but with the likely departure of Eric Hosmer this offseason, Kansas City could use a first baseman, a spot Grandal has filled in during 48 games in his career. Could he play first base every day? That’s for the Royals to decide, but he’s obviously got the power to carry the position, can fill in at catcher for Perez off days and could use some steady offensive ABs without the strain of the catching position on his way to his eventual free agency. It also offers the Royals the ability to trade Salvador to deepen a farm system that should already be getting deeper with the additions from the 2018 draft. With a $7.7M arbitration estimate, the Dodgers could use the tax savings that this move would offer while likely asking little in return other the Royals taking the money off of their hands.
2. Rusney Castillo – The Red Sox are still on the hook for 3 years and $37 million of Castillo’s contract. All for a player that they have given all of 99 games in three seasons. For a team with a full outfield already, it’s not likely that Castillo is going to break through in Boston given Bradley, Betts, and Benintendi ahead of him. Despite this, the Cuban born outfielder is coming off a strong season in which he hit .314/.350/.500 with 15 home runs in 87 games for the Triple-A Pawtucket squad.
The Royals aren’t likely to compete over the next three seasons, but they have a need in centerfield and not much depth at the upper levels with ready players at that position. Heading into the season Paulo Orlando, Bubba Starling and Donnie Dewees are the three best in-house candidates above Double-A. Those three players aren’t likely to block anyone whom the Royals deem necessary to give at-bats to anytime soon.
Is Castillo a star? No, but it’s obvious KC is thin at that position, the Red Sox could use some salary relief and the Royals don’t have many prospects that can move the needle in trades. With this move, GMDM shouldn’t take on a large part of the deal but a $3-5m total package for a bucket of balls could offer KC a playable player in center for three seasons could be worth the risk while offering nothing in terms of players that they would need to trade.
3. Joc Pederson – The Dodgers are heading into the season with a pair of players not likely to gain as much playing time as their arbitration estimates might suggest with Grandal and Pederson at $2M. While most fans would like to trade for the next player on the list, the move for Pederson would also fill a need for Kansas City. Best case scenario for a deal like this would center around a Herrera/Soria flip for Joc but that doesn’t quite give the Dodgers the salary relief needed, though it does make their bullpen stronger during the regular season. Also, a healthy Herrera in the playoffs would’ve obviously helped them during this last playoff run. If the Royals would catch the ’15/’16 vintage of Pederson, then a .500 or better record would not be out of line while his salary wouldn’t preclude them from re-signing Eric Hosmer, which would be a dream scenario for GMDM.
4. Jackie Bradley Jr. – This one is obvious and the Royals have been linked to Bradley multiple times the past couple of seasons in rumors. While GMDM and staff would be smart to add a player who has averaged 2.5 WARP over the past three seasons, they would likely need to outbid the Cubs, Rangers, and Giants for his services which seems a tall order when you think of prospects alone. The $5.9M arbitration estimate isn’t huge this season, but he’s got two more seasons of arbitration coming behind it with a down year offensively on the books. His defense in center is more valuable to the Royals and their huge outfield than Boston, while freeing up ’18-’20 money to play in the big free agent bidding pools. A difficult trade of an inexpensive bullpen piece like Scott Alexander would probably need to be moved to win this bidding over the teams mentioned above.
Each of these trades makes sense either for a rebuilding team or one that wants to play on the fringes of competing while waiting for TV money and a farm system rebuild to supplement the major league team.