There’s a general thought around the game that this season is going to be different than last in terms of action during the offseason. With so many free agents lingering into even spring training, it seems that players will be quicker to jump at contract offers rather than holding on to them and waiting to see if they can get something better from another team because that offer may never come. With that being the case, the general manager meetings this week take on some added importance because if the free agent market is going to go fast, the trade market might as well, and that’s a lot of what comes out of this week.
The Royals are in a position where they have a hard time fitting on the trade market. They’re not on the brink of a teardown. That’s already happened. They’re not on the brink of winning. That’s yet to come. They’re kind of figuring out what they have in their young players right now and are a year away at a minimum from supplementing that young group of players they have. Even so, that doesn’t mean they can’t play a key role this week. Plus, with all the GMs in one place, it’s easy to find rumors out there because they and the agents tend to be so easily accessible.
Who You’ll Hear About
There aren’t many players the Royals are going to shop this winter, but you never know when the right offer might come along. And aside from the idea that everyone is available for the right price, these are the players (in alphabetical order) who you’re most likely to see a rumor about this week.
Jorge Bonifacio - The Royals can’t be thrilled with Bonifacio after his 2018 season. He was decent offensively as a rookie, and I still think he got a raw deal with the Melky Cabrera acquisition. He came to camp in great shape and was the second best player on the field, but then got popped for PEDs. Maybe he was in such great shape because of them and that’s why he was playing so well too, but it was a big blow. Now the Royals have a bit of a logjam after they acquired both Brian Goodwin and Brett Phillips. Between Bonifacio and Soler, the Royals might very well just have too many players and they might be interested in jettisoning the one who they’re disappointed in. It’d be selling low if you believe there’s more to Boni, but a team like the Braves might be interested in him as they look to fill their RF spot via trade this winter. They’re not getting much back for him, but the roster space might be worth it. Personally, I’d hold on to him to see if he can rebound, but I think I like Boni more than most.
Danny Duffy - Speaking of selling low, the ship has likely sailed on the Royals trading Duffy, if that ship was ever even at the dock. A lot of people were clamoring for the Royals to move him last year, and I get why they didn’t. Even though he had a decent season, it had ended with another elbow injury and a legal issue, which probably negated his value. Given his standing with the team and in the community, I believe the Royals were right to not sell for pennies on the dollar. If he rebuilt his value with a good and healthy season, sure, explore trade possibilities this winter. With three years left on his deal, he’s still valuable. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really good or healthy this season, so they’re not moving him, but his name will likely be mentioned at least a few times.
Ian Kennedy - If the Royals could get out from under some of his deal, I’m sure they’d be ecstatic. It’s not happening, but he’s getting closer to not being completely impossible to move due to salary. He has $33 million left over the next two years, so the Royals would have to pay down probably two-thirds of that at this point, but if he pitches as he did after coming off the DL (25 IP, 18 K, 6 BB, 2.88 ERA, 2 HR allowed), maybe a team will get desperate in June or July and the Royals will only have to pay like 40 percent of what’s left. There will almost certainly be no deal this week or this offseason for Kennedy, but I bet his name gets out there, mostly by the Royals doing.
Whit Merrifield - Whit is the best trade chip the Royals have and the guy they honestly probably should move. But unless some team gets really stupid (and they might), it’s not happening either. With four years of team control left and a continuously improving bat and overall game, Merrifield is very valuable. He’s also about to 30 and the aging curve isn’t what it was during the steroid era. I’m personally torn here because I love Merrifield and would love to see him with the Royals for as long as possible. His two best positions, second base and center field, both have young solutions in the organization who are both at least close to ready. The Royals are likely going to want a top 30 prospect, top 75 prospect and two more for Whit. They’d likely get offered a top 50-60 prospect and two more, with one maybe being in the back of the top 100. I don’t think they’d jump at that, but you’ll probably hear about it starting this week.
Salvador Perez - They’re not moving Perez. That won’t stop him from being in rumors. Salvy is a free agent after the 2021 season, though I don’t see him going anywhere unless something happens in the next three seasons. Catchers across baseball hit .233/.304/.374, so even though Salvy is OBP-challenged, his bat is a breath of fresh air. His contract isn’t nearly as friendly as people make it out to be, but he’d have some really good value in a deal.
Jorge Soler - I’ve long thought the Royals should move Soler at the first chance they get, and it’s not because I don’t like him. I think he has the best chance to be a middle of the order masher of anyone in the organization right now. He smokes the ball, works walk and his prodigious power. We saw glimpses of it this year before the broken foot ended his season. But that’s just it. It’s always something. Either he’s hurt or he’s in a massive slump or it’s both. The times it’s all clicked for him have been few and far between, but the talent is so clearly there that he has value, especially considering he’s under a very reasonable contract and has three more years of team control. If I had to bet on a move being made from one of these six players, I’d bet on one of Soler or Bonifacio being traded. Soler might bring back a reliever the team actually covets, so he might be the better bet to go if teams are convinced he’ll be healthy.
If they make a trade from the big league level, the odds are that they’ll be targeting either a prospect who is about a million years away or a reliever. It’s so hard to say who they might look to get on that market, but the fact is that they are going to be looking for relief help this offseason and want to pay as little as possible. Of course, the good relievers who aren’t expensive and have team control are going to cost quite a bit in terms of trade equity, so I’m not sure anything will get it done, but it’s who they’ll look toward.
My guess is it’ll be all quiet for the Royals for most of the offseason. It’s easy to predict that. But you never know. The GM meetings are a great opportunity to lay the groundwork for something down the road, so we may not end up seeing the fruits of this week until July or even later. And hey, I love rumor season, so the GMs all in one place with agents not too far behind definitely works for me.