One of the most compelling trade partners for Arizona that Jeff and I turned up in the last few weeks is Kansas City. They were struggling to fill out their rotation, and their black hole at second base seemed like a pretty good fit for Chris Owings. Add the fact that they could easily trade a lefty reliever or prospects, and there could be the basis for a match.
Word hit the trade rumor circuit on Monday that Kansas City were making arbitration-eligible relievers Aaron Crow and Tim Collins “very available.” Add to this the Royals’ decision to designate George Kottaras for assignment. Add the further news that instead of getting a player back, the Royals literally sold control over Kottaras to the Cubs. Put all that together, and it looks like the Royals have spent the money they’re going to spend this offseason. Unfortunately, that makes KC only a payroll-neutral trade partner, in all likelihood. But the needs are there.
Second base: Although Emilio Bonifacio seemed to settle in at second for the Royals after he was purchased from Toronto, the team had four players get more than 150 PAs at second base this year. Four. Chris Getz has been getting chances at Kauffman Stadium for four years now, bouncing from lineup to bench to AAA. Despite a 67 career wRC+ (that’s really bad — last year the only D-backs who were worse were Jason Kubel and Cliff Pennington), as well as merely decent defense, Getz got the lion’s share of the playing time with 237 PAs. Elliot Johnson and Miguel Tejada also got time at second, but neither is a 2014 solution. The Royals do not have a well-regarded prospect in the pipeline for second base, and although last year’s first rounder Hunter Dozier could undoubtedly learn the position, his arrival time could match well with shortstop Alcides Escobar anyway. The versatile Bonifacio could easily hold down the job next season, but it seems like Kansas City could be easily motivated to pull in a cheap option who could be an above-average hitter.
Right field: The Royals are set with Alex Gordon in left and are committed to Lorenzo Cain in center, but it seems that the current plan is to continue with a David Lough/Justin Maxwell platoon in right. Call it the “Wil Myers hole.” I doubt the Royals could afford Gerardo Parra, but Adam Eaton could probably learn the position (and has the throwing arm for it), while A.J. Pollock would also represent an upgrade. As we discussed this week, the difficulty in upgrading the crew of D-backs position players is that there’s already someone at each position who deserves playing time. Like second base, right field is the different kind of situation for Kansas City: even an average player would represent a helpful upgrade.
Rotation: The need in the rotation is not as glaring as it was a week ago, because of the Royals’ $32M/4 year deal with perennial fifth starter Jason Vargas. Rounding out the rotation is James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy and Wade Davis. After putting up a couple of decent seasons as a starter with Tampa Bay, Davis was excellent in the Rays bullpen in 2012, but he was not very good in his 2013 return to the rotation with the Royals. His 4.15 xFIP leads one to believe that his 5.32 ERA is unlikely to be repeated, but if he struggles for very long in 2014, there’s a good chance he gets returned to the bullpen. Top young gun Yordano Ventura may be a good match for the Davis rotation spot. Ventura is poised for a tryout with the major league team, after looking good in a brief cameo last season. Danny Duffy is something of a wild card, pitching 24.1 strong innings after returning from Tommy John.
Before Kansas City signed Vargas, I thought they were a great fit for Cahill. It’s kind of a shame, too; Cahill will almost certainly outperform Vargas next year, and he’s a lot younger. Cahill will make about $4M more in 2015, but their salaries will be about equal in 2014. If the D-backs sent money, maybe Cahill can still work for them — although I doubt Kansas City would part with Kyle Zimmer just because of financial constraints. Kansas City is still a fit for Owings, although the Royals won’t be trying to knock down Towers’s door. Eaton or Pollock also seem like fits.
In terms of what Kansas City has to trade, we’ve heard that Billy Butler is not-so-quietly being shopped. Arizona’s first base position is capably filled at the moment, however, and its DH position is non-existent. I think it’s really only pitching that they have to offer — and that pitching comes in the form of prospects or relievers.
Set to make $4.8M in 2014, Wade Davis is not likely to be the basis of a match for Arizona. The rotation just doesn’t need another back-end guy, and the bullpen doesn’t need another guy with that kind of salary. The previously mentioned Aaron Crow and Tim Collins are much more attractive; both are still controlled for three years, and Collins throws from the left side.
Much more attractive to Arizona, however, would be Will Smith. We don’t necessarily want the lefty that Kansas City wants to sell; we want the lefty they don’t want to sell. Although Smith broke camp in the rotation after a competition for the fifth slot in spring training, he was shellacked in his first start with the team (4 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 6 R) and promptly optioned to AAA. There, he eventually transitioned to a bullpen role. On his return to Kansas City, he was used mostly in long relief, with varying levels of success. After August 17, however, he only had one appearance longer than 2 innings. Smith seemed to shine in that role, and with a .157 opponents’ batting average against lefties over the course of the season, he seems primed for a role as a short reliever. Hence, I assume, Kansas City’s willingness to part with Collins.
On the prospect side, I think we can safely assume that a team would have to overpay in order to get Yordano Ventura at this point. He’s just so close to the majors. I positively love potential ace Kyle Zimmer as a lottery ticket similar to what Tyler Skaggs is right now, but after getting panned across the industry for the Wil Myers trade, GM Dayton Moore would require teams to overpay for Zimmer, too. Miguel Almonte doesn’t have Zimmer’s ceiling, but he’s another guy with a ceiling of being a #3 starter — and a floor of being a helpful reliever. Lastly, former top prospect Bubba Starling is still hanging around. He’s really just a shot in the dark at this point — all of the plus tools are still there, but his star is burning out after years of failing to put it all together.
Possible D-backs targets for Kansas City: Randall Delgado, Trevor Cahill, Chris Owings, A.J. Pollock, Adam Eaton, Andrew Chafin
Possible Royals targets for Arizona: Will Smith, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kyle Zimmer, Miguel Almonte, Bubba Starling
RHP Trevor Cahill for LHP Will Smith and OF Bubba Starling
This is the salary dump version. If Arizona is motivated to simply remove Cahill from the books, and if Kansas City finds the money to match, Arizona could receive a helpful lefty pitcher with promise, but with very little track record of success. Starling is a face-saving piece at this point. It’s not quite time to pull the plug on him, and the tools are still there. Still, the Royals would not be giving up much by including him, and the D-backs should not be falling over themselves with joy to bring him aboard. I’m guessing that if the Royals found the money to make this trade, the salary discrepancy between Will Smith and Tim Collins would not be a sticking point. Nonetheless, this trade might also work with Smith switched out for Collins.
RHP Randall Delgado for LHP Tim Collins and RHP Miguel Almonte
If Kansas City simply can’t afford Cahill, and Arizona can afford to keep him, then the D-backs could make room in their rotation by dealing Delgado. Almonte has a ceiling that’s maybe a tiny bit higher than Delgado’s, but Delgado’s floor is obviously quite a bit higher, and he’s clearly ready to contribute now. Collins might not be enough on his own to make up that difference.
RHP Randall Delgado and 2B/SS Chris Owings for RHP Kyle Zimmer and LHP Will Smith
Delgado is a cost-controlled major league starter who still has a bit of upside. He’s not nearly enough to land Kyle Zimmer, but he’s not nothing. Packaging Owings with Delgado puts Arizona’s side ahead, but I do think the inclusion of Smith here makes the value even out. Towers should do backflips if he could pull this off, as players like Zimmer (who have a chance to be great) offer the only real way to upgrade Arizona’s win expectancy. I’m just not sure that Kansas City is motivated enough to sacrifice the promise of tomorrow for a higher probability in 2014. By the way: I think this is also a pretty solid framework if Eaton is substituted for Owings.
RHP Trevor Cahill, OF A.J. Pollock and $8M for RHP Kyle Zimmer and LHP Tim Collins
This might be what it looks like for Cahill to be involved in the swap, without Kansas City getting more payroll space. For 2014 and 2015 combined, Cahill makes about $20M, and Collins will probably make about $3M. $8M is about half of the difference, and probably as much as Arizona could justify (Cahill is not getting overpaid this year or next, after all). As we pointed out in the Offseason Plan, trading Cahill means either clearing the money and getting a decent prospect, or paying some money and getting a very good one. Kyle Zimmer is better than “very good” as a prospect, but Pollock is at least a full tick more valuable than Collins.
RHP David Holmberg for LHP Tim Collins
A one-for-one like this might be the most likely scenario in which Arizona obtains one of the KC lefties. Collins is “very available” precisely because he’s about to start making some real money. Arizona doesn’t have a whole lot of use for Holmberg, who will top out as a #5 starter in all likelihood. The D-backs have guys like Zeke Spruill and Delgado coming out of their ears, and is there a genuine risk that without Holmberg, Arizona would end up playing a replacement-level fifth starter? I don’t think so. Since Holmberg’s game is mostly about repertoire and command, I also don’t see how his stuff would play up in the bullpen, making his usefulness to Arizona about nothing. As a player with a high likelihood of pitching in the majors, Holmberg is a legitimate prospect; Collins still solves a problem for Arizona, and could be a candidate to get flipped if Matt Reynolds returns by the trade deadline (and if Joe Thatcher has been effective enough to hold down a job). It could be that Kansas City insists on getting a second player, but that second player would probably come from the low minors (like SS Joe Munoz). RHP Kevin Munson would also be a good fit, although he cannot be traded before the end of the winter meetings, and he could get plucked by another team in the Rule V Draft. 3B Brandon Drury would be a really good fit for KC, perhaps reaching the majors around the time that 3B Mike Moustakas leaves via free agency — but a return of Drury and Holmberg for Collins is probably too high, necessitating the addition of a second Kansas City player.
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