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Trading the Stopgaps

Yesterday I talked about how the Royals are going to have to trade some of their currency in pitching at some point in order to fill holes on their roster. Today, I’d like to talk about trading current pieces of their roster to supplement their future as well. First, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about the other important reason why the Royals might have to be more active on the trade market than a lot of other teams. To put it simply, if the Royals are going to have an elite level bat or arm on their roster, it’s going to be because they either developed that player in their minor league system or they went out and traded for him. They simply do not have the funds to go out and sign a big name free agent. Yes, people conjecture about signing Albert Pujols because there’s hardly any money on the books (I’m guilty of it), but the truth of the matter is that the Royals will almost never be able to sign a top end talent. That doesn’t mean they can’t employ one, but they have to use other means to acquire them.

Now that I have that off my chest, I wanted to talk today about the possibility of trading some of the current roster. As spring training wears on, we get to the point where players are suffering from injuries or teams are starting to realize that the injuries players came into camp with aren’t healing up and getting better. Since we’re now three weeks away from Opening Day, panic is on the verge of setting in for these teams. Luckily for the Royals, there are some players on the roster who can provide an excellent stopgap for teams with those injury problems. For the prime example of this, look to Philadelphia where Chase Utley’s knee is still bothering him. He’s elected not to have surgery for now, but may very well change his mind on that decision and be facing a much longer recovery timetable. They also have an outfielder in Dominic Brown who will be undergoing hand surgery and might have to face some minor league time upon his return.

The Royals just happen to have some players who could conceivably fill the void for the Phillies in their current situations of need. The first player I’d offer to solve the Phillies second base problem is Chris Getz. Of course by now you probably know that I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Getz, so I would have absolutely no problem giving him up and getting a low-level prospect for him. The Phillies may not want him, and there is a much better solution on the Royals roster for them in Mike Aviles. In a lineup that is so left-handed hitter heavy, the Phillies could really use a right-handed bat to help balance out the lineup. If Utley is going to be out for any sort of significant time, Aviles would be a great option for the Phillies and wouldn’t cost nearly as much as their other option, Michael Young.

In the outfield, the Royals have too many pieces for too few spots. Mitch Maier and Gregor Blanco are the two likeliest candidates to be available in a trade this spring, and the way Maier is hitting, I think almost any team wouldn’t mind taking a flyer on him and hoping his bat can stay hot as the season begins. I wouldn’t expect to get a whole lot in return for any of them, but the principle of the matter is that there are very few players on the current Royals roster who should be deemed untouchable. I’ve never before seen a roster that is so stopgap in nature. I’ve seen worse rosters, and I’ve seen more stopgap players, but there are very few players on this roster who the Royals would miss in two years when they expect to be good. It’s sort of an interesting phenomenon.

Some reports have surfaced that teams have asked about Alex Gordon and that the Royals asking price is extremely high because they are so heavily invested in his success. I agree with that entirely, especially after he finally had a strong offensive showing in yesterday’s game against the Cubs. He had three hits, two runs batted in and a double. His three hits went to all three fields, so that is also an encouraging sign. I don’t put much stock, if any, in spring training statistics, but struggling for too long can lead to some mental struggles that carry over in the regular season and could destroy the most important season of Gordon’s career. So it’s nice to see him have some success finally with his re-tooled swing. I’m pretty excited to see it on Opening Day. 

Gordon is actually one of the few players I wouldn’t be fine with the Royals trading. A lot of people may question that statement because of how disappointing he has been, but I still see almost all of the potential he had in him during his minor league season and when he was the second pick of the draft. Okay, maybe I don’t think he can become a .320/.425/.550 juggernaut offensively anymore, but I think he can settle into a guy who puts up .850+ OPS seasons and that is extremely valuable. I think for the Royals to trade Gordon at this point would be irresponsible. It would be akin to folding a flush draw in poker when the bet to you was only a quarter to see if you could hit your flush. They’ve put so much time, money and energy into Gordon that to trade him now would be a huge mistake. They’re not going to get nearly as much in return for him as they have put in. Normally, I wouldn’t care so much, but corner outfield is the one spot in the organization that is somewhat thin on prospects, so why not see what Gordon can do just one more time?

The only other players I wouldn’t want to trade right now are Butler and Soria. Even my stance on Butler could change if we see Ka’aihue tear it up this season. Though I do like the idea of having a right-handed bat in the middle of the order who is established when all the left-handed kids come up (and Wil Myers who could conceivably be that right-handed bat at some point). Alcides Escobar probably makes the list, too, as would Lorenzo Cain, but I just don’t think he’ll start the season on the big league roster. Other than that, I could see a strong reason for trading just about anybody else. If the Royals want to get better, they have to wheel and deal all the time in the hopes of getting better. In just three weeks, we’ll be getting our first look at just how much better they need to get.

  1. ElChup
    March 10, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Much like Gordon, I think trading Aviles now would be a poor decision. Most teams (even the Royals) likely view him as a stopgap/bench type player, and I think his 2011 performance will change that. I suspect we will see a guy play much closer to his 2008 numbers, both offensively and defensively, now that his injuries are behind him, and is still under team control through 2014.

    He’s an older guy and may start to decline over those last couple years, but I suspect his projected value (IMO, an .800 OPS, versatile defender with avg. defense all over the infield) to be significantly higher than his current perceived value. I wouldn’t trade that for anything less than an elite prospect, and I don’t see a team like the Phillies giving that up for an Utley stopgap.

  2. Joe
    March 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I too believe trading Aviles would be a mistake. He is just a late bloomer as was evidenced in his play before his injury. Now that he is hopefully fully recovered, he could very well become a valuable staple in someone’s infield, preferrably the Royals. Let’s hope his switch to number 13 is a lucky coincidence.

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