The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching—July 30 at 4 p.m. Eastern—and the Kansas City Royals are going nowhere fast. Mired in last place in the AL Central, the Royals are staring at their fifth straight losing season, leaving Dayton Moore with a decision as to how much he wants to shake up the roster before next Friday.
Dayton Moore has a well-earned reputation for being very loyal to his players, sometimes to the detriment where he may hold on to a player too long instead of cashing out when his value is highest. Consequently, the Royals haven’t exactly embarked on a true “strip everything for parts”-type of rebuild at any point in his 15-year tenure.
Now, with a 39-55 record looming over his head, a fanbase growing impatient, and a crop of tantalizing prospects knocking on the door, now is time for Moore to decide what key pieces he thinks can be part of a 2022-23 playoff push and who should be shipped off for more farm system reinforcements.
We’re going to look at who could be on the block, due to either impending free agency, good production, or both.
So, as a wise man once said (or sung): Ya gotta let me know, should I stay or should I go?
The Lowdown: Danny Duffy, a left-hander who is affectionately known as “Duffman” is the longest-tenured Royal, having debuted in May of 2011 and sticking around despite Tommy John surgery in 2012 and inconsistency that has plagued his career. Amidst a 12-3 season in 2016 where he set career highs in wins, innings pitched (179.1), strikeouts (188), and bWAR (4.0), Duffy signed a five-year, $65 million extension that expires at the end of this season.
In 2021, he has pitched as well as ever, posting a 2.51 ERA, with career-high K/9 (9.6) and strikeout-to-walk (2.95) rates. Great! However, he’s also back on the injured list, being placed on the IL for the second time this year on July 20, both times for left flexor strain.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? A week ago, the answer would be an unhesitant “go!” Now that he’ll be on the shelf when the deadline hits, whether he can be dealt is a major question. Also a question mark: does Duffy even want to leave Kansas City?
Duffy has “10 and 5” rights, meaning that any veteran with ten or more years of big-league service time (a milestone Duffy hit earlier this season) and five years with their current team can automatically veto any trade. On his now-deleted Twitter account, he was often vocal with the mantra “bury me a Royal”, a tagline he used both when he signed his extension in 2016 and when trade rumors swirled following the 2017 season.
If healthy, Duffy is an arm that could slide into the 3/4 spot of a contender’s rotation, or be used as a multi-inning bullpen weapon. Final verdict? If teams are willing to gamble that he’ll be healthy soon (and in October, too), there will be interest and Duffy should be dealt…if he’s okay with it. GO
The Lowdown: To say Jorge Soler has been an enigma is an understatement. After a wildly disappointing 2017 and injury-plagued 2018, Soler stayed healthy enough to play all 162 in 2019 and he crushed the ball in a way never seen before in Royals history: a league-leading 48 homers, to go along with 117 RBI and 3.5 bWAR.
Since then, though, it has been a disaster. Soler appeared in 43 games, batting .228 with eight homers, a .769 OPS, and 0.2 WAR in the shortened 2020 season. 2021 has been much, much worse: .186 with just nine homers in 87 games. For some reason, he’s also earned 43 starts in right field and has -5 Outs Above Average (OAA) and -8 Defensive Runs Saved. All told, he’s posted a -1.3 defensive WAR and -1.8 bWAR, which is tied for second-worst among all MLB hitters—behind only his own teammate, Hunter Dozier.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Will anyone want him? Soler could be a sneaky pickup for a contender as a DH or bench bat. Even in a miserable season, he’s still in the top 20% of the league in average exit velocity and barrel percentage. His chase rate and strikeout rates are in the bottom 20% (which is not unusual), but he’s actually striking out less than 2020 and only slightly more than his 2019 season.
The main argument against a trade is that any return would likely be insignificant. Then again, Soler’s production the last two years has been significantly non-existent and he’s a free agent this winter. Maybe you can take a chance with a qualifying offer this winter, but that’s a steep price to pay. Besides, Soler being elsewhere means a longer look for enticing outfielder Kyle Isbel, who’s showing speed, pop, and an ability to get on base in Omaha. GO
The Lowdown: After years of being a thorn in the Royals side, Carlos Santana signed a two-year deal for $17.5 million this past winter and has everything the Royals could’ve asked for: a .242 average, 15 homers, 51 RBI, .361 OBP, 61 walks, and passable defense at first, all good for 1.5 WAR, which is a good deal at his price. He’s on pace for 105 walks, which would rank fourth on a pretty sad list of the most single-season walks in Royals history. Even at 35 years old, Santana is the same player he’s been for the past decade.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? This is a tough one. His 110 OPS+ is second-best on the squad. His combination of power, patience, consistency, contact, and ability to hit from both sides of the plate are traits that a contender that needs a first baseman/DH would love, especially for cheap. Santana also isn’t a free agent until after the 2022 season, so another year of team control could entice the right team to part with a surprisingly decent prospect.
However, Nick Pratto appears to be the heir apparent at first base, and he just reached Triple-A this week. Pratto has bounced back from a horrific 2019 by raking (15 homers, .973 OPS) across two levels this season, but he still needs time. Again, Santana still has another year on his contract. I say let him finish the season. If Pratto appears ready by Opening Day 2022, deal Slamtana this offseason. If not, there’s always next year’s deadline. STAY
Michael A. Taylor
The Lowdown: Michael A. Taylor was always going to be a stop-gap option, as he signed a one-year deal for $1.75 million. What he’s given the Royals is in line with most of his career: occasional pop, some speed on the bases, excellent defense in center field…and not a whole lot else. He’s batting .244 with eight homers and a .644 OPS while striking out a ton. However, he has 1.4 defensive WAR, which is the eight-best in the majors this season.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Similar to Soler, will anyone want him? Well, Taylor at least plays elite-level defense in center field, so someone will want him, at least as a fourth outfielder. Really, at the dirt-cheap price, the Royals paid for him, getting any sort of prospect for him is a win. Plus, I would like to see what Edward Olivares can do playing every day. GO
The Lowdown: After reviving his career with the Royals in 2017, Mike Minor was inked to a two-year, $18 million deal this past offseason, plus a 2023 team option. If nothing else, Minor has been consistent, making a league-leading 20 starts, but the results have been disappointing: a 5.45 ERA, a 0.3 WAR, and the most earned runs allowed in the American League.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? This one is tricky. Minor is 33, but he’s relatively cheap and under control for another year (potentially two with the option). Plus, Also intriguing, his FIP is only 4.22, meaning that bad luck (and maybe being left in a little too long in some starts) is affecting his overall numbers. His home run, strikeout, and walk rates are all in line with his usual steady numbers, though he’s allowing considerably more hits per nine than any year since he returned from Tommy John surgery in 2017.
Also to consider: the Royals rotation is paper-thin right now, especially with Duffy and Brady Singer currently on the shelf. Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch have already debuted, but they both struggled mightily before being shipped back to Omaha. Keeping Minor around and re-evaluating his role this offseason seems advisable, especially if his numbers recover to his normal levels. STAY
The Lowdown: Jarrod Dyson joined the 2015 World Series reunion tour alongside Wade Davis and the re-signed Greg Holland this offseason after being away since 2016. Dyson has played his usual role, but more sparingly than his first stint: occasional starts, but mostly used as a defensive replacement and a hired gun on the base paths. He’s batting .238 in 91 at-bats over 55 games (but just 20 starts) while going 7-for-8 in the stolen base department.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Dyson is 36 years old and is no longer a guy who is almost guaranteed to rip off a bag, even when the entire stadium knows he’s running. However, he can still steal bases and play solid defense. Last season, the White Sox acquired him down the stretch solely for pinch-running and defensive purposes. Someone may take a flier this year as well. If someone offers a low-level prospect? Take it. International bonus money? Sure. Just an envelope of cash? Go for it. GO
The Lowdown: A player-development dream who’s gone from a non-prospect that debuted at 27 years old to a two-time All-Star, Whit Merrifield has cemented himself as one of the most durable players in baseball. In fact, on Tuesday, he played in his 400th consecutive game, the longest streak in the majors. He is second (but not by much) to only Salvador Perez in terms of local popularity.
From an on-field standpoint, Merrifield’s overall production is down from usual, but he’s batting .273 with eight homers, plus the MLB lead in stolen bases, going 25-for-26 on the base paths. He was named to his second All-Star Game this season and his 2.0 WAR is second-most on the squad.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? This is the tricky one to say the very least. Merrifield is popular and a hallmark to Dayton Moore’s willingness to stick with players, and it has paid off handsomely. However, he is also 32 years old and is on a very team-friendly deal, with one more season (at just $2.75 million) left on his deal, plus a $10 million team option for 2023.
The list of suitors for a player as durable, productive, and versatile as Whit Merrifield will be quite long, and trade rumors have been circling him for years. In fact, just recently, it’s been reported that the Royals are listening a little more than recently. Does that mean a deal is imminent? No, but it means that if a tantalizing offer comes along, Dayton Moore may willing to pull the trigger. A deal for Merrifield would possibly involve a Top-100 prospect or multiple high-upside prospects.
I’m on the fence about whether or not trading Merrifield is the right move. If Adalberto Mondesi were healthy (allowing Nicky Lopez to play second) and right field was producing, I’d say go for it, but neither situation is true. Granted, Bobby Witt Jr. is coming soon, perhaps in September, so the offseason seems like the right time to make the difficult decision to part with Merrifield. STAY
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