In light of the personnel moves of the past year, the trade deadline that is approaching is doing so ominously.
Since the end of the 2008 season, Dayton Moore has dealt the keys to what had been a solid bullpen and previously highly touted prospects and has Mike Jacobs, Yuniesky Betancourt, and an out-for-the-year Coco Crisp to show for it.
To exacerbate the trade inequities (all of whom were making entirely too much money to boot), the Royals also went out and signed Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz to fairly sizable contracts in the hopes of replacing the arms they shipped off. Of course, both of these players have struggled mightily when it mattered.
If you want to cast the net of blame further into the past, the Royals are paying the worst everyday player in baseball according to FanGraphs WAR formula $12 million this season and next. According to FanGraphs, he is worth negative $7.3 million, making for a nearly $20 million net loss. This is, of course, Jose Guillen, who is doing the Royals more good on the DL than he was on the field.
So, if the trade deadline is approaching, the astute Royals fan is looking at the Royals prospects with a generous helping of trepidation.
In addition to the trust issues that fans are having with the Kansas City front office, there is also the issue of there being few desirable pieces currently donning the Royals uniform.
Obviously, there are two stars on this team who any team in baseball would love to have, but the Royals' future hinges upon the success of Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria. Moreover, they are under club-favorable contracts.
To trade either player given the current state of the Royals would be short-sighted and detrimental to the franchise barring a complete and utter fleecing on Dayton Moore's part.
Given the Cy Young season that Greinke is having or Soria's 1.98 career ERA in two-plus seasons, there may not be a return in either case that could qualify as such.
So, assuming that Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria are untouchable, that leaves very little in the way of desirable Royals to be had from this sub-.400 team.
On offense, the most desirable trade-bait would probably have to be the following three players: Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, and Mark Teahen.
The only one of those players who the Royals should be even remotely hesitant to deal is the 23-year-old Butler. His ability to hit and occasional flashes of power should serve as encouragement enough for the Royals to hold onto him unless an interested party is willing to overpay for what his current value is. Seeing as though he is finally starting come into his own, it would seem that the returns probably will not be able to exceed what the Royals could get from Butler if he stayed in house.
As far as Callaspo is concerned, he has proven this season that he is more than capable with the lumber. His 116 OPS+ leads the team. So does his .356 OBP.
His major shortcoming is that he is the worst defensive second baseman in the American League. On a team as defensively inept as the Royals, a change is almost necessary. While the issue could certainly be addressed by a position change, he could also be dealt and is one of the very few Royals who could actually net a decent return.
The other offensive player who may net something of worth is Mark Teahen. Often included in trade rumors swirling around the Royals, the return of Alex Gordon from hip surgery makes Teahen's ability to play third base is of less value to the Royals. With a handful of contenders having issues at third and Teahen's respectable OPS+ of 112, the interest in Teahen could actually be there come Friday.
As for issues concerning Gordon's current playing time limitations, the acquisition of Ryan Freel gives the Royals three active players capable of filling in at third not counting Brayan Peña. This should effectively enable the Royals to move Mark Teahen if the price is right.
In addition to these three offensive players that are actually worth something to the Royals and may garner interest this week, the Royals also have a redundancy in starting catchers. Regardless of their shortcomings, there almost always seems to be a demand for catchers, and the standards for serviceability hovers just above mediocrity.
Both John Buck and Miguel Olivo fit that description. As far as most Royals fans are concerned, both can be shipped off to whoever will have them.
Then there is David DeJesus. If we are being honest, he should have been shipped off before the 2008 season began. His value in the eyes of other clubs was never higher than it was at that point.
Of course, he wasn't dealt.
The past few months have seen him raise him correct some of the early season issues he had, but the fact remains that his abysmal April and May have lowered his value enough that it would probably not be advantageous for the Royals to move him at this point.
On the pitching front, Gil Meche and his $11 million contract are likely going to be in Kansas City through 2011, especially since he is currently on the DL.
Luke Hochevar finally looks to showing signs of life and an ability to dominate legitimate lineups. It is far too early to ship him off considering the fact that they invested their first pick overall in 2006 to get him.
Brian Bannister could be conceivably be dealt, as he has rebounded nicely from an awful 2008 campaign and could yield decent returns from teams in need of a back-of-the-rotation starter at a reasonable price tag.
The problem with dealing Bannister, however, is that any hope they have for 2010 almost has to be tied to their starting rotation. With Bannister as the Royals fourth starter, they could be all right.
If the Royals are unable to get another quality starter who isn't at least doing well in Triple-A via one trade or another, they may not be able to afford to lose Bannister for next year. With all of the money they have tied up in dead weight like Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Guillen and then the players who are arbitration eligible, Dayton Moore is going to be unable to free up much payroll.
Since almost all of the help in the minors is going to be in the minors until at least 2011, an issue such as the back end of the rotation likely cannot be addressed amenably via free agency.
This leaves the bullpen.
Who would want any part of these guys?
Well, apparently the Braves may want Ron Mahay (thanks MLB Trade Rumors). They can have him. For a player to be named later. They can have the entire bullpen short of Joakim Soria.
The obvious problem with all of the trade bait mentioned above is that they will yield very little in terms of returns.
Obviously, it would be great if the Royals could cut ties with players like Mike Jacobs, Yuniesky Betancourt (and it's been two weeks), Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Guillen, etc., but what team would be dumb enough to take any of them on? Bill Bavasi is no longer running the show in Seattle. Jim Bowden isn't in Washington.
The Royals have too many problems to mention succinctly in one column, and all of the help that is in the minors is years away. They have very little in terms of players of worth and need to get players in Triple-A or higher to have any hope at being competitive as early as next year since they are dealing with a roster full of holes.
Teams simply aren't going to be throwing strong defensive players who get on base and quality pitching at the Royals for what they have available.
If Moore can get something for the players listed above, then the criticism that has been growing louder and louder over the past few months will start to subside ever so slightly.Most Royals fans would be shocked if such a thing were to happen.