James Shields will be a free agent, Billy Butler will be expensive as will Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer and Greg Holland and especially Wade Davis. Kansas City is getting a career year out of Jason Vargas and a rookie of the year campaign out of Yordano Ventura. Danny Duffy is, at least part of the time, getting people out and Lorenzo Cain is hitting and healthy (for now, knock wood!). The Royals are not really a young team anymore.
So, go for it.
Kansas City won 86 games last season, but dug themselves such a hole in May that it did not really matter. They danced with the idea of contention, but never really contended. Playing catch-up is for suckers – or really good veteran teams that have won before. This is not a sit back and see what happens year: this is the year that Dayton Moore has been telling us to be patient for since the five year plan became a seven year plan and then an eight to ten year process.
So, go for it and do so immediately.
There is a reason most trades happen closer to the July 31st deadline. Sellers often don’t know they are sellers until late July and, even if they do realize it sooner, want to wait for the best and final offer before pulling the trigger. Buyers may or may not know they need help (or be willing to admit they need help, because Eric Hosmer is surely going to hit 12 home runs in July right?). It takes two willing partners to execute a trade, not just one guy in boxers sitting in his Mom’s basement.
That said, if you want to make a trade to improve your team, doesn’t it make sense to do so in June and get four months of production from said player than to wait until July 31st and get just two months? In a race where the margin for the post-season might be one game would it not be worth a bit of an overpay to get the trade done now?
Ahh, what trade? What magic bullet have you discovered within the tortured thoughts of your twisted mind, Mr. Fosler? Well…nothing great.
Listen, unless Eric Hosmer hits, Gordon continues to hit, Infante gets better and Escobar and Cain continue to play well, no trade is going to put this team over the top. If Vargas regresses substantially, Duffy loses whatever it is he has found and Ventura starts looking more rookie than rookie of the year, nothing will get the Royals to the playoffs. I can make up all sorts of trades for Giancarlo Stanton or Matt Kemp, but they are not going to happen. Trade speculation is mostly fantasy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to add in some measure of realism.
So, with that in mind, my first move is a very, very, very, very modest one.
Nick Evans was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday. If you don’t know who Nick Evans is, you are like most everyone else. He is 28 years old, hits right-handed, plays all the corner spots (or has been reported to have stood in all four corner positions at various times in his career) and has 11 major league plate appearances since 2011. Oh yeah, he was DFA’d by a team that is already out of it.
Evans, however, has always hit for power in the minors, generally gets on-base at a good clip and would certainly seem to be the kind of guy that a team with a third baseman that can’t hit, a rightfielder that falls down a lot, a 28 year old DH who suddenly looks old and a first baseman with three home runs might want to stash at AAA just in case. He’s pretty much Matt Fields, but I’d rather have two of them than one of them.
My second move is partially stolen from Jeff Zimmerman from back when both of us were over at Royals Review. This spring, Jeff proposed a Johnny Giavotella for Scott Van Slyke trade. I liked it at the time, even though Van Slyke and Justin Maxwell seemed redundant. Since then, Dee Gordon has played well for the Dodgers, so their zest for a AAAA second baseman is probably gone (if it even existed). However, Jamey Wright is in their bullpen and the shell of what used to be Chris Perez. The Royals have a bunch of relievers, the fourth best of which is Aaron Crow.
Aaron Crow for Scott Van Slyke. Maybe an overpay, maybe not. Van Slyke is already 27 and, while decent in a part-time role this year, did not light the world on fire during his previous two stints in the majors. He has, however, torched minor league pitching for the past three seasons. Of course, it is important to note that the bulk of the Dodgers’ minor league affiliates play in hitter friendly environments and you need to keep that in mind when you note Van Slyke’s career AAA of line of .330/.425/.584. All things considered, Van Slyke is better than Justin Maxwell and likely better (at least right now) than Nori Aoki. I might try him every day in rightfield, but would be equally as happy platooning him with Jarrod Dyson.
Finally, I look to our old trading partners in Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays. Ben Zobrist is making $7 million this season for what is currently the worst team in the league. The Rays hold a team option on the 33 year old for $7.5 million in 2015. While Zobrist is not a high average guy, he gets on-base and has shown power. Once a full-time shortstop, Zobrist has spent much more time at second and in rightfield (although he has even played a few innings at short this season).
There are warning signs associated with Zobrist. He slugged just .402 last season and is scuffling along with a .246/.325/.367 triple slash this year. Over his career, Zobrist has established a .262/.352/.431 line and, in his five previous seasons, has posted an fWAR of 8.5, 3.7, 6.3, 5.8, 5.4. Even this year, with a low line drive percentage pushing down his BABIP, Zobrist is likely to be at least three wins above replacement.
To me, it seems that Zobrist is a reasonable gamble to be better the rest of 2014 than he has been thus far. He’s not getting younger and likely never going to be as good as he was even a couple of years ago, but how would a .350 on-base percentage with at least some power look in this Royals’ lineup.
Where you ask, does Ben fit? Everywhere, my friends, everywhere.
You can play him in right – especially if you don’t acquire Scott Van Slyke – and at second. Sure, the Royals are paying Omar Infante a tidy sum of money, but not so much that you absolutely have to play him every day (and he has not been the picture of health as it is). You can give Zobrist time at DH if Billy Butler (who has been swinging better as of late) scuffles. If you want to be bold, you can put Zobrist and his 13 career games at third (minors and majors combined). While it would be a defensive downgrade from Moustakas, I like the chances of a player with Zobrist’s skill set to not embarrass himself at third. I mean, Ben Zobrist at third seems more plausible than Danny Valencia at second.
Essentially, the Royals are hoping a lot of guys in their lineup start to hit and stay healthy, but it is impossible to truly determine which of the current group will actually do so. The acquisition of Zobrist would give Ned Yost the flexibility (which is something of a scary thought) to plug a number of spots, depending on who’s hot and who’s not.
To acquire Zobrist, we have to start with the assumption that the Rays have reconciled themselves to being out of the race this season. We also have to assume/hope that Tampa does not want to pay a 34 year old who may be in decline $7.5 million in 2015. It’s a gamble: Zobrist could be on his way to done. Of course, he could be Raul Ibanez, too.
What would it take?
Bill Hall was once traded from Casey Kotchman, Scott Brosius was dealt for Kenny Rogers and Dave Hollins for Tomas Perez. In their current situation, I doubt the Rays are looking for any veteran talent and, if the Royals are in ‘go for it’ mode, they won’t be dealing any, either.
I bet you Kyle Zimmer gets it done, but even me and my ever growing distaste for coveting prospects cannot make that leap. Would you go so far to trade John Lamb, Miquel Almonte and Jorge Bonafacio? Would the Rays hang up the phone on that offer? Here is where trade scenarios get hard, because we really don’t know. Keeping in mind that the Royals would have to overpay some to make a trade happen now instead of a month from now, it seems to me that the deal mentioned above would be enough and quite possibly too much.
Would this make the Royals better? Yes. Would it make them good enough? Maybe. Is it worth the risk of trying? I think so.