Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America

Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore has the hardest job in baseball right now. With a bunch of key players bound for free agency after the season, does he trade them before the trade deadline on July 31 and replenish one of the weakest farm systems in baseball? Or does he hold on to these key players in Kansas City baseball history and let them chase a miracle one more time?

As hard as it is for me to punt the final chance to win with these guys, it’s undoubtedly the right thing to do. All of these guys that will follow (except for Herrera) will not be with the Royals come Opening Day 2018 anyway, so it makes too much sense to trade them all over the next month rather than let them walk in free agency, and maybe get a draft pick in return for Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain.

I took some time to study teams who are likely to be buyers at the deadline that have needs and strong farm systems to see what some potential trades could look like. I recently updated my top prospects after the MLB Draft like I always do, and I wanted to see how different that list could be if Moore decided to sell.

So, let’s take a look.

Royals trade 1B Eric Hosmer to the Yankees for RHP Chance Adams, OF Dustin Fowler and SS/2B Jorge Mateo

The last thing I want to see is any Royals player – especially Hosmer – wearing Yankee pinstripes. But they actually have a good enough farm system and a need at first base where a trade would make sense. Gleyber Torres is understandably going nowhere, but I have liked Mateo for a long time. He may not be a shortstop long term, but the Royals could put him at second base or in center field and watch his 80 speed take off. This team was really good when they stole bases, by the way. A change of scenery could also perhaps help Mateo. I like Adams a lot as a potential mid-rotation starter who could break camp with the team in 2018, and Fowler is a nice player (he actually just got injured in his major league debut as I am writing this – a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee). That injury aside, he is a safer bet to me than Clint Frazier to be a solid everyday outfielder, and that’s all I’m asking for here. The Yankees keep their top tier guys and get their first baseman for probably the next 10 years, because that’s how it always happens. But I’d rather get some players from them then have them buy Hosmer as a free agent.

Royals trade 3B Mike Moustakas to the Red Sox for 1B Sam Travis, SS C.J. Chatham and OF Lorenzo Cedrola

Those damn Yankees and Red Sox. When one team makes a move, the other has to counter. Pablo Sandoval has not done one thing to justify wearing a major league uniform since he belly flopped the final out of the 2014 World Series (I am not a fan, in case you couldn’t tell. Leave it to the Red Sox to give that clown $95 million). Either way, the Red Sox have a need at third base and also have the prospects necessary to make something happen. Moustakas is in the midst of the best year of his career. But his track record is not as lengthy as some of these other guys, and he is also strictly a rental, though Boston certainly has the financial resources to keep him should they decide to go that route.

Travis brings back an immediate answer at first base. He has a nice bat, but is limited defensively to first base, where he is an average defender. Chatham is a nice player who should at worst be a utility infielder, but he definitely has the chance to start up the middle, and perhaps stay at shortstop. Cedrola is the big ticket for me here. The 19-year-old Venezuela native shows an advanced feel for the game and the potential for four plus tools. He can hit for average, run well in the outfield, has a strong arm as he worked out for clubs as a shortstop, and play all three outfield positions. His speed is his best present tool, but he is still learning the nuances as a base stealer. It will take some time, but the payoff here could be very big. And I don’t think Royals fans would be down about having a toolsy outfielder named Lorenzo, either.

Royals trade CF Lorenzo Cain to the Dodgers for RHP Walker Buehler, OF Yusniel Diaz and RHP Jordan Sheffield

As one Lorenzo comes in, one has to go. Cain has been one of the more valuable players in the American League when healthy and finished third in the AL MVP balloting in 2015. The Dodgers are all in, but they could use some help in the outfield and also have the resources to make a deal.

Buehler and Sheffield are two former Vanderbilt pitchers that could be mid-rotation starters. This may seem like a high price for a rental like Cain, but these two come with a combined three Tommy John surgeries already, so there is very high risk for the Royals. Buehler had his after signing with the Dodgers after the 2015 Draft, but he has been excellent since returning to the mound. Sheffield has already had the operation twice; once in high school in 2013 and again as a redshirt sophomore at Vanderbilt in 2016. He is currently starting in the Midwest League, but it is rare for a pitcher that has Tommy John surgery twice to hold up and have a long career as a starting pitcher. But even if Sheffield ends up in the bullpen, he should be excellent there. Diaz is another outfielder who shows the potential for four plus tools and is only 20 years old.

Royals trade SP Jason Vargas to the Astros for RHP Forrest Whitley and RHP Franklin Perez

This is the one trade I would really pounce on. Coming into the season, nobody saw Vargas having this type of season. Dayton Moore absolutely needs to cash in and maximize his value while he still can. Vargas is a 34 year old southpaw who throws in the mid-80s, so there is no chance he gets a qualifying offer (he would certainly accept) and no team would give him a $50 million contract anyway. If Vargas leaves in free agency, the Royals will get literally nothing for him.

Whitley and Perez are both teenagers with high upsides. The Astros are very much in a win now mode, and their farm system would still be deep if they parted with a player or two that would not be ready to contribute for another three years or so, anyway. The Royals could be rewarded with two frontline starters down the road in this scenario.

Royals trade CP Kelvin Herrera and RP Mike Minor to the Nationals for OF Juan Soto and OF Andrew Stevenson

It is not a secret the Nationals are in need of bullpen help, and the Royals happen to have two pieces that could fit nicely. Unlike these other guys, Herrera is not a free agent after the season as he is under club control through 2018. But that means he could bring more back in a trade, even if he hasn’t been great this year. Minor has been excellent in his first year recovering from elbow surgery and is also in his walk year.

Soto and Stevenson are both toolsy outfielders that would fit nicely with the Royals’ long-term plans. Soto is only 18 and is years away from being a factor, so this is an upside play. He led the Gulf Coast League last season in average (.361) and slugging (.550) and ranked second in on base percentage (.410) en route to winning the league’s MVP. Stevenson is an excellent defensive center fielder who hits for a solid average and can fly. Sounds like a Royals player to me.

Let’s compare the Royals top 20 prospects with these proposed trades, and without them:

With Proposed Trades

1. Forrest Whitley – RHP*

2. Walker Buehler – RHP*

3. Franklin Perez – RHP*

4. Yusniel Diaz – OF*

5. Juan Soto – OF*

6. Chance Adams – RHP*

7. Dustin Fowler – OF*

8. Jorge Mateo – SS/2B*

9. Nick Pratto – 1B

10. Jordan Sheffield – RHP

11. Sam Travis – 1B

12. Josh Staumont – RHP

13. Khalil Lee – OF

14. Andrew Stevenson – OF

15. Nicky Lopez – SS

16. Scott Blewett – RHP

17. C.J. Chatham – SS

18. Lorenzo Cedrola – OF

19. Hunter Dozier – 3B/1B

20. Daniel Tillo – LHP

Without Proposed Trades

1. Nick Pratto – 1B

2. Josh Staumont – RHP

3. Khalil Lee – OF

4. Nicky Lopez – SS

5. Scott Blewett – RHP

6. Hunter Dozier – 3B/1B

7. Daniel Tillo – LHP

8. Evan Steele – LHP

9. Samir Duenez – 1B

10. Eric Skoglund – LHP

11. Jake Junis – RHP

12. Chase Vallot – C

13. Ryan O’Hearn – 1B

14. Kyle Zimmer – RHP

15. A.J. Puckett – RHP

16. Seuly Matias – OF

17. Donnie Dewees – OF

18. MJ Melendez – C

19. Meibrys Viloria – C

20. Sebastian Rivero – C

*MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospect

Not currently in Royals system

(These rankings are strictly based on how I view each player would be ranked in this system)

Yes, this team is 3.5 games out of first place and two games out of a wild card spot. Yes, the 2014 American League Champion Royals did not really get going until the final two months of the season. Yes, this team has done crazy shit once they played baseball in October.

But I do not think this team is good enough to do that all again. It was a blast while it lasted. But the reason for tearing this thing down is because it is inevitability going to happen anyway, so get all that you can before you get nothing. Instead of saying “see you in 10 years” to October baseball, maybe it will be three or four years, instead. That’s what I would prefer.

This is a no brainer, Dayton. The team is going to be bad one way or another in 2018 and beyond. But the prospects on the left bring a lot more hope than the group on the right. Letting these guys go as free agents and missing the playoffs would be a nightmare scenario. Restocking the farm system over the next month is the way to go.


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