Jul 1, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Jorge Soler (12) hits a home run in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Trade Is the Thing

Oh boy, you probably recently found yourself saying about the Royals prospects for an impending firesale and the bountiful harvest of prospects sure to be heading their way. I can’t wait to see how the future is impacted by these necessary if unfortunate trades we’ll see soon, and hopefully what a wonderful impact they’ll have on the 2019, 2020 and 2021 clubs, on into the future at the expense of what’s already a lost 2018.

Or something like that.

My concern here is that, since winning back-to-back pennants, the top brass at 1 Royal Way has had some noticeable whiffs—in fact, if not for the Jon Jay hijacking, which mostly amounted to trading an asset (Jay) at the height of its value for two lottery tickets (Elvis Luciano and Gabe Speier), the best they can claim to have done trade-wise is either moving around deck chairs on the Titanic (Brett Eibner for Billy Burns) or swapping players of similar stature and value (Alec Mills for Donnie Dewees). Or they’ve just taken a straight-out L.

The history is bleak. But we’re gonna get through this, just you and me and Johnnie Walker. Think about these deals in terms of what we know about the Royals and how Dayton Moore, Lonnie Goldberg and Co. operate. They’d rather have the guaranteed asset over perhaps holding out for asset appreciation (when their own asset could get hurt or become devalued) and they don’t mind paying 120 cents on the dollar to get their man (overslotting Brady Singer, although in the long run that might look like chump change if he pans out). It may not make sense, but you will start to see the pattern.

Jose Martinez for Cash – May 2016

Look, a fringe prospect on the wrong side of 25 years old and only able to give you corner outfield/first base/DH time does not have enormous value, and even I’m willing to grant that.

I also recall myriad holes real and imagined around surrounding the lineup at this time, with Paulo Orlando getting extended run in right field, Eric Hosmer’s impending free agency beckoning in two seasons, Kendrys Morales being old and just tons of opportunities forthcoming to take a flier on a guy who had just hit .357 with 13 homers and 97 RBI in the minors… and they just cut bait on Martinez. Since then, Martinez is a .304 hitter across parts of three big-league seasons in St. Louis. He’d probably hit fifth in Kansas City this season, and then nobody ever would’ve said, “Hey, I think we should go get Lucas Duda.”

Wade Davis for Jorge Soler – December 2016

I’m Team Jorge. Was at the time, remain so now. Using good arms to acquire quality bats, particularly when those quality bats are under team control for an extended period of time, is a good move.

I like Jorge and I’d rather have him over Davis. One might be on the next good Royals team, the other stood no chance of that and only the most pie-in-the-sky optimists regarding 2017 ever thought otherwise. Don’t trust them. Trust me. Trust Jorge.

Then envision a scenario where the Cubs call in December inquiring about Wade Davis’ services. Names and numbers are exchanged. Ultimately, Dayton says thanks but we’re going to sit on him for now, we’ll pick this up if/when we’re out of the race.

Fast-forward to mid-July. The Cubs, boasting a back end of the ‘pen featuring Carl Edwards, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, are desperate to keep the chance of a repeat alive. The Royals are the Royals. Soler is still on the table; but now, so is Victor Caratini. Or Duane Underwood Jr. Heck, maybe Justin Steele. Or maybe another contender has a Godfather offer on the table because they NEED a closer and have better offerings than the Cubs. My point is that you don’t have to do that in December.

But, you cry, what if Davis gets hurt?

Then Herrera is your big chip and you start a bidding war for him. This isn’t hard, gang.

Jarrod Dyson for Nate Karns – January 2017

The logic is sound. Karns is younger, he has a relatively high ceiling and his best is better than Dyson’s, a speedster with a glove who can do those things and not much else.

Karns also can’t stop getting hurt and probably won’t be seen again until 2019 at the earliest, when he’ll be in his age-31 season. Here’s been his starts by season since 2013 across all levels:

  • 2013: 26
  • 2014: 29
  • 2015: 26
  • 2016: 15
  • 2017: 8
  • 2018: 0

This is a bad trend. On the flip side, Dyson has obviously regressed, as speedsters tend to do as they enter their mid-30s, but he remains a solid defensive presence and can steal you a base at any point.

Let’s put it another way: if everyone were healthy, the Royals would trot out Bonifacio, Gordon, Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Sal Perez and Hunter Dozier as a semiregular lineup in some combination. There’s an alternate universe where that is Bonifacio, Gordon, Whit, Mondesi, Moose, Soler, Sal, Jose Martinez and Dyson (giving the #NeverEsky camp a real win); a swap of Dyson and Martinez for Dozier and Escobar* makes a bad lineup suddenly semi-intriguing, with speed and hitting and even some defense!

(*–to make this work, it’s Sal, Whit, ‘BERTO and Dyson up the middle, Martinez and Moose on the infield corners, Gordon in left and the Jorge’s alternating between DH and right field.)

Again… the logic here was sound. Get younger, get team control, acquire proven pitching because you never know with pitchers. But what Dyson meant—as the bombastic hype man, the clubhouse presence and veteran swagger—couldn’t be replaced. He might not have made this team a contender, but if there was one guy to stand a deliver a Blutarsky (“What’s all this lying around s***!?”), it would’ve been Dyson.

Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Trevor Cahill for Esteury Ruiz and Matt Strahm – July 2017

Ruiz is the 11th-ranked prospect in the Padres system and Strahm had carved out a role for himself before his patellar tendon exploded last season and is in the process of doing so again in 2018 in San Diego.

Cahill was a bust in Kansas City, Buchter went to Oakland as Brandon Moss Tax and Maurer is unplayable. Other than that, good trade. I’m still mad about this and unlikely to get over it for some time. Never, ever, evereverever, EVER give up on a toolsy 18-year old to rent three pitchers unless one of them is in-his-prime Bob Gibson or comparable.

Melky Cabrera for AJ Puckett and Andre Davis – July 2017

I’d put it at probable-to-likely that neither Puckett nor Davis ever turn into anything of significance at the big-league level, but the Royals elected to send both to a division rival in order to… block one of their only promising young players from regular playing time.

This was stupid at the time, even if you did think the Royals might snag a Wild Card spot in 2017 (if you do think that, for real I would like to sell you some waterfront property I own in Idaho. Gorgeous stuff, real steal); Cabrera hit 14 points better than Bonifacio and had no power. A year later, one’s languishing in Triple-A and the other just returned after a PED suspension. You’ll never guess who!

Scott Alexander and Joakim Soria in three-teamer that netted Erick Mejia and Trevor Oaks – January 2018

Another example of panic-trading when it wasn’t necessary. Soria (relatively) struggled in 2017, but he also has a long history of success at the big-league level and could be a trade chip in July. Alexander is a left-handed pitcher who can throw hard, so those guys will always hold some value.

Oaks has exhibited nothing to this point to make me think he’ll ever be much more than a Quad-A player. Mejia is 23 years old, has five career at-bats above Double-A and is on his third organization. I think they could’ve done better than that six months later unless Alexander robbed a liquor store.

Miguel Almonte for cash – April 2018

INT. A hospital room, many years from now. DAVID LESKY lays in a hospital bed, surrounded by family, including his 11 grandchildren. He beckons the youngest to come closer, hoping to impart a last bit of wisdom.

LESKY: [hoarse whisper] Th… the Royals kept Blaine Boyer and DFA’d Miguel Almonte.

FIN.

Kelvin Herrera for Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel – June 2018

“Meh,” is not the reaction you hope baseball has when you cash in your one sure-fire trade chip 45 days early, but that seems to be what the baseball world has decided.

Gutierrez and Perkins were mid-tier prospects before the draft; Clint Scoles, Royals Prospect Guru™, when reached via Slack, said he’d put Gutierrez around 15th and Perkins outside the top-30, post-draft, and Clint knows more about this than anybody, so I trust his judgement.

Morel could be something; he really could! He’s also 17 years old and has thrown 15 professional innings. But nobody knows; it would be cool if the Royals got one guy for a valuable closer that seemed likely to contribute before 2021, if at all.

The upshot here is that things could’ve been better for the Royals had they elected to eat some of Herrera’s money as the cost of doing business. Instead, they give plate appearance bonuses to Escobar for hitting .195. I’ll never understand baseball.

tl; dr: The Royals would rather make the safe move with a B- ceiling over the risky move with a D- floor and an A+ ceiling.

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8 comments on “The Trade Is the Thing”

Jeremy

Thanks for this super depressing article. Great start to the weekend!!

Colby Wilson

If you thought this was depressing, I assume you’re not watching the product day-to-day?

jim fetterolf

You left out Manaea for Zobrist.

Colby Wilson

I did not. That was pre/during the pennant runs. Only talking about what’s happened since.

Bjorn

What is wrong with that trade? The goal was win now and that is what this trade provided. I thought it was a good trade at the time, and I still think it was a good trade. In hindsight, of course, it would have been better to trade Miguel Almote at that time (I remember that everybody was glad, that he was not included in both trades for Zobrist and Cueto) but hey with Eiland and now Eldred as pitching coaches, do you really think Manea would have a under 6 era? Think not.

nikadimuz

Hindsight is a glorious thing. If only Moore knew then what you think you know now.

Including Jose Martinez in this article is a joke. He is a flash in the pan. He is essentially the same player, only with no-defensive value, that you blast the Royals for playing semi-regularly in Paulo Orlando.

Wade Davis was coming off a down year where he was injured. His H/9 and W/9 were up and his K/9 was down. This was not Wade Davis at his peak being traded. In fact, his ERA+ was a little over half what it was the year before. Getting a big bat for 1-year of an injury risk pitcher was a good trade. Sure, they could have risked it and waited until the deadline and maybe they get more. Maybe he is the difference for that team and they don’t have to make the failed trade with San Diego. Maybe, maybe, maybe. All hindsight revisionist history sand bagging.

Jarrod Dyson for Nate Karns was a win. Dyson was a pending free agent that the team had no interest in resigning — as evidenced by the fact that they did not sign him. Karns was a potential back end of the rotation starter or next Wade Davis. A potential rotation piece for a 1-year, 1-dementional player (who as you correctly stated was on the wrong side of the age curve) is a win. There is no way you or anyone in this world could have forseen Karns injuries. If you have that on Karns side, you have to look at it from Dyson’s side as well. Dyson has been injured this year and is currently on the 10-day DL. He would be doing this current team as much good as Karns is.

Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Trevor Cahill for Esteury Ruiz and Matt Strahm. I agree with you that this was not the best trade, especially when you throw in the salary eaten by the Royals.

Scott Alexander and Joakim Soria in three-teamer that netted Erick Mejia and Trevor Oaks. I guess you do not take into consideration in your hindsight vision the very real need for salary relief. I guess that is easy to discount when you sit behind a computer and don’t make real decisions about real people’s money and lives. It may be your opinion that Oaks is nothing but a AAAA pitcher, but there are others out there who have the same internet blogger credentials as you who see it different. Of course, having any other opinion wouldn’t fit into your Royals bashing post would it?

Melky Cabrera for AJ Puckett and Andre Davis. Not the best trade, but at the time it was made the Royals were very real in contention. It is easy to look back on how the team fell off to say you knew that was going to happen.

Miguel Almonte for cash. Please. The pitching-STARVED Angels are not even throwing this guy out there.

Kelvin Herrera for Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel . No one knows what will happen with these guys. To even comment on the value of this trade makes your post even less credible.

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