Major League Baseball’s trade deadline – July 31 – comes with a bloom of ideas, dreams and perfect trades that never happen. So with the Royals sitting at 37-64 – only a handful of games better than at this point last season – we can look toward the future.
Big blockbuster deals are unlikely because the Royals will have a hard time getting what they want for their players. Here are some of the Royals’ promising trade pieces and some they will not look to move until after the season.
Whit Merrifield: An ultra-utility player, Merrifield is by far the most valuable player the Royals have in both the skill and financial departments. Merrifield is leading the league in hits again this season and is on pace to hit in 135 games. In his four MLB seasons, he has never hit below .280.
Besides being the best player on the Royals, Merrifield’s contract makes him one of the best deals in baseball. The Royals signed him in 2018 to a very team-friendly deal of $16.25 million over four years with a 2023 team option. Since trade partners would get three years of control for that price, the Royals have reportedly asked for three big league-ready players in return.
Billy Hamilton: With Bubba Starling up and Brett Phillips biding his time in Omaha, it is just a matter of time until Hamilton is hooking up with a playoff team to come off the bench. Hamilton is respected around the league as a speedy baserunner and seasoned centerfielder. He has experience and teams preparing to make an October run dig that.
The bad news is he won’t garner much in return. Thankfully, the point of moving Hamilton is to bring Phillips up, continue getting him and Starling games and prepare them for bigger roles in the future.
Jake Diekman: Relievers are the hottest commodity of the deadline and just about every decent bullpen arm on a bad team will catch some trade rumors. Diekman isn’t having a freak year, but in a pen of disarray, he has put together good strings of appearances.
Despite a high ERA of 4.76, Diekman is drawing a lot of interest from teams in the hunt like the Dodgers, Nationals and Braves. Expect the Royals to swing a mid-level prospect out of a deal for Diekman.
Cheslor Cuthbert: Things have not gone according to plan for the Royals’ corner infielder who appeared in 128 games and batted .274 with 12 home runs in 2016. It looked as if Cuthbert had broken out and was ready to accept a bigger role with the team. Slow starts in 2017 and 2018 forced the Royals to look elsewhere for infield support.
Cuthbert returned in 2019 despite being dropped from the 40-man roster in 2018 to compete for the infield utility role. In 43 games this season, Cuthbert has hit .291 with six home runs playing first base. Cuthbert isn’t a commodity among buyers, but an injury to any infielder on a playoff team could force hands in acquiring him.
Lucas Duda: There isn’t a lot to say here but playoff teams love leadership and experience – even if the player possessing those qualities is hitting below the Mendoza Line – and Lucas Duda has those characteristics locked down. Duda returned to the Royals this season after being dealt to Atlanta at the deadline for a bucket of baseballs and is hitting a painful .158 with 31 strikeouts.
Jorge Soler: He will likely not be traded until the winter meetings, but his time as a Royal is coming to a close. Sure, Soler might whack 40 home runs this season and surpass Mike Moustakas’ young franchise record, but what else is he other than a power hitter?
Soler plays poor defense and is lacking a truly powerful arm in right field – arguably the toughest outfield position – as well as struggling with plate discipline where he is often swinging for the fences. He is better suited for a smaller ballpark and potentially slotting into a permanent designated hitter role.
Alex Gordon: There is virtually no chance a Gordon trade will occur at the trade deadline. Gordon is playing well this season for the Royals and teams would pay well for his bat, glove and experience. Gordon is having his most success since signing the four-year, $72 million deal in 2016. Part of the contract gives Gordon 10-and-5 rights to deny any trade the Royals agree to. For now, the Royals will ride Gordon out and see if he retires at the conclusion of the season.
This year’s deadline isn’t about the return the Royals get from the players they trade. It’s about opening spots up in the lineup and the 40-man roster for September so we can get a look at what is happening in the farm system. We’ve already seen Starling and Nicky Lopez come up and get familiar with the big league game. Expect to see O’Hearn get another shot at first base as well as Phillips and potential appearances from the recent draft classes.