Just 18 months ago, Dayton Moore had pulled off the improbable for anyone who started watching baseball after 1990. He had built a team in Kansas City that was raising the World Series trophy. The small market Royals went through decades of futility that included a 30-year playoff drought, 20 losing seasons and four 100-loss seasons. A team that would see superstars like Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon leave via free agency and play in big games elsewhere finally had developed a core of young stars in infancy contracts and coupled that with some undervalued veteran signings in Edison Volquez and Ryan Madson along with key trade deadline deals in Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. After losing an epic World Series to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in 2014, the Royals came back to beat the New York Mets in 2015.
But from there, the Royals that we have known since Ronald Reagan was president returned and everything went downhill. Zobrist took a large contract with the Cubs and Cueto put together a All-Star campaign in San Francisco. Mike Moustakas suffered an ACL injury after a collision with teammate Alex Gordon. Gordon suffered a wrist injury on the play and was dreadful upon his return. Salvador Perez went down. Raul Mondesi looked like he didn’t belong in the league (though his replacement Whit Merrifield was a suitable replacement for some time). The bullpen did not sustain its incredible form from the few season prior. Although Kansas City put up a valiant effort late in the year to salvage their season, it was too late, as the Cleveland Indians had wrapped up the AL Central, and there were just too many teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race.
Still, despite the loss of Volquez and break out player Jarrod Dyson this off-season there was still hope for a last stand in 2017. That is until true tragedy struck with the death of starting pitcher Yordano Ventura. A slow start to the season has the Royals at 7-13 as of today, and it may be time to start selling, as many of the these coveted players on this small market team are about to hit free agency.
Injuries can and will change teams’ needs for players as the season goes on, here are some good destinations for players the Royals are going to have to consider losing:
Eric Hosmer – Philadelphia Phillies
Eric Hosmer looks poised to make a huge payday heading into his age 27 season. The three-time Gold Glove winner has had a slow start to 2017, and didn’t take the next step in 2016, but his 2013-2015 numbers were strong, hitting in the middle of a World Series contender. An OPS that has hovered in the low .800s would only improve in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies, for their part, are hovering around .500 with a young core of players and a promising farm system. Hosmer would give this team the veteran leadership needed as they take the next step into contending with the Mets and Nationals. Tommy Joseph is not a long-term solution at first base and funds should be available now that Ryan Howard is off the books. Hosmer would make sense to lock up for a long-term deal. The Royals have Ryan O’Hearn sitting in their farm system wasting away.
Lorenzo Cain – Astros
Lorenzo Cain makes for a great summer rental. The Houston Astros are back to their 2015 form after a rough 2016. Dallas Kuechel is pitching like a former Cy Young winner and the middle of the lineup is one of the best in baseball with emerging stars Carlos Correa and George Springer, not to mention superstar Jose Altuve. It’s a stacked team, and this would be a great time to pull the trigger on a guy like Cain, a gap hitter who knows how to get on base and doesn’t strike out much. You only get so many chances at a ring, and Cain would only make this team scarier to opposing pitchers come playoff time.
Mike Moustakas – Rangers
If the Texas Rangers have one problem, it is depth. With Adrian Beltre out, Joey Gallo was moved from first base to third, Mike Napoli was moved from designated hitter to first base, and Shin Soo Choo was moved to designated hitter. Super utility player Jurickson Profar is starting in left field. In the meantime, Profar basically serves as back-up to all infielders. Mike Moustakas is currently hindering the progress of Royals top prospect Hunter Dozier, who the Royals took eighth overall in 2013. He would serve the Rangers well as a back-up to corner infielders and would probably come decently cheap.
Alcides Escobar – Royals
The Royals shouldn’t just unload everybody. It wouldn’t be fair to their fanbase, and they do still have Perez and Gordon on contract for the foreseeable future. Their closest shortstop prospect, Marten Gasparaini is years away from major league readiness. Moore should overpay Escobar for two years and try to unload him then.
Jason Vargas – Rockies
Before a clunker against the Chicago White Sox, Jason Vargas was competing for April’s Pitcher of the Month. Throwing to a 1.40 ERA in 25.2 innings of work is a sign that he may be extra motivated in a contract year. I like the Rockies here. Tyler Anderson may need a change of scenery after a really slow start in Denver. Pitching at Coors just isn’t for everyone. It should be noted that Vargas has pitched three times at Coors. He was rocked his first two appearances, but threw well the last time he pitched there in 2012.
Kelvin Herrera – Nationals
Herrera isn’t actually a free agent until after 2018, but the iron may be hot to strike this summer. The Nationals may be in complete win now mode with the impending free agency of Bryce Harper. The Nats look like a title favorite, with one gleaming weakness already showing its ugly head. The bullpen at the end of games is a disaster. Herrera would settle that. I truly think the Royals could rake over the Nationals in this trade, much like the Yankees did to the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman rental. The Nats would get a year and a half out of Herrera, which may be worth it for the large market contender.