It’s not much of a secret the Royals are looking to trim payroll in order to resign Eric Hosmer while simultaneously trying to add to the farm system. To do this the Royals already have taken less in a return for Scott Alexander by trading Joakim Soria with him, and Monday night flipped Brandon Moss and a more valuable Ryan Buchter to clear $5 million of Moss’s contract off the books. With Hosmer still available, the Royals are likely to continue looking to trade some of that payroll to get near the Glass family payroll limit, this time packaging Whit Merrifield with one of Jason Hammel or Kelvin Herrera. One team that we’ve heard to be checking in on a package from the Royals is their former World Series combatant, the New York Mets.
When looking for a comp for Whit Merrifield there aren’t many times you will find a team giving up a quality middle infielder with a little over a year of service time. Just looking at middle infielders with some service time available gives you the following trade moves:
-Logan Forsythe traded from Tampa Bay to LA Dodgers for Jose DeLeon BP Rank 39th overall prospect
-Jan. ’16 Jean Segura traded from Milwaukee to Arizona for Aaron Hill, Chase Anderson, and Isan Diaz
-Yunel Escobar traded from Atlanta Braves to Toronto for Tim Collins, Alex Gonzalez and Tyler Pastornicky
There are others further down the development chart like Segura’s second trade and Didi Gregorius after a down offensive season in Arizona, but finding comparables isn’t easy as it just doesn’t make sense to move a quality middle infielder early in their career. Merrifield’s age and late development at 29 likely lower his value some, but the work that he’s done the past two seasons and club control could take precedent. The Mets, like the Royals, have a below average farm system that was recently ranked 27th among all teams with one player on the recently released Baseball America Top 100. Still that player, Andres Gimenez, is years away as a 19-year-old who just completed Low-A ball, but he would fit the bill for a rebuilding farm team.
A deal of Whit Merrifield and Kelvin Herrera for Andres Gimenez and a lower piece or two would make sense for Kansas City with their designs on rebuilding the farm system. The Royals this offseason have added quite a few arms at the Double-A and Triple-A levels who are on the verge of knocking on the major league door as fringe options. One pitcher who might fit that mold would be Corey Oswalt, a 24-year-old right-hander with average stuff across the board who uses sinking action to get outs. That profile reads very similarly to the pitchers the Royals have acquired in Trevor Oaks and Brad Keller already this offseason. Should they not want to give up Gimenez, then Mark Vientos would be a logical fit as a key piece if the Mets are willing to give up a higher end pitcher with scars on the resume, something they have plenty of.
Another route the Royals might want to go could be to flip Whit while trading both Herrera and Hammel in exchange for Juan Lagares and another prospect. The salary relief wouldn’t be as great as Lagares comes back with $6m of his own, but it would fill the center field vacancy the Royals have currently. Lagares doesn’t offer much in terms of offensive upside over what the Royals have in-house but he does offer gold glove caliber defense, and if given the job over a full season likely has a better shot at giving value over Paulo Orlando, Billy Burns or Bubba Starling while also helping what could be a young developing pitching staff. This plan and return are much like the Alexander and Buchter return, limited in exchange for salary relief while focusing too much on stabilizing what would be a poor major league team.
Hold Glass Accountable
The Royals and Glass have been the beneficiary of good fortune from the Royals World Series runs in ’14 and ’15, but we can’t forget how cheap this ownership ran this team from 2000 to 2007. Passing on spending in the draft, supplementing the major league squad with forced trades of certain positions and limiting resources to scouts and personnel. In addition to that, Glass as chairman of the board let some of the Royals best lineups pass by without supplementing them with any kind of pitching while letting talented players leave over the most minute of contract negotiations. This was after he tried to break the player’s union in the early part of the ‘90s. It’s easy to give him credit for the good things that he allowed Dayton Moore to do from ’07-17, but let’s not forget that the reason the Royals were in such bad shape was due to things he did and the way he ran the team prior.
If it hadn’t been the city allowing him to refurbish the stadium and the incredible turnout of fans during the 2012 All-Star game there is good chance that he may have never seen the light. While Royals fans seem eager to tear things down as they ready for a rebuild, don’t give ownership so much credit that we know he’ll supplement it later when it’s needed; be ready to hold them accountable. After all, for everything said about how the Cubs and Astros won through the farm, it must be remembered that they started their World Series seasons with payrolls of $171m and $124m while finishing the season at over $200m and $140m and that’s with Houston carrying a more team friendly deal on the league’s MVP than even the former Sal Perez contract.
If the Royals are to compete again for the playoffs and World Series there is a reason to believe they won’t be able to do it with payrolls under $100m or $128m next time. A better TV contract is likely coming soon meaning the payroll limits of the organization can’t go back to what they were previously. The Royals have to become a franchise that operates both with spending heavily in the draft, internationally and on the free market. To date, Glass hasn’t had to do that as they have been penalized in spending internationally the last two seasons, limited in the draft in ’16 and didn’t spend on the free market when they were spending huge in drafts prior. It’s time for ownership to act like the Cardinals instead of the Rays. The fanbase is there to support regular winning and the city has opened their wallet to support the team in the past so it’s time that Glass and family are there to support the franchise all the way through.
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