July 31 is rapidly approaching and it's obvious that the Royals are going to be in sell mode. The MLB trade deadline is when all armchair GM'ing spikes and everyone likes to pretend that they're Billy Beane (the Brad Pitt version of Billy Beane), making the big trade that can put your franchise over the top. But here's the truth for teams like the Royals, when you're in sell mode, these trades are usually just salary dump. So don't expect the Royals to make a blockbuster trade this July. I'll break it down for you right meow...
The guys everyone is talking about
Joakim Soria- Biggest name likely to be made available by the Royals, but with the trade market about to be saturated by relief pitchers, the Royals are going to be asking a lot for Soria, which they should. What the front office can't do, is accept any deal for Soria that is below their perceived value of Soria. Jack hasn't had the best season of his career, but has locked down the ninth inning with authority in the past few weeks and seems to be on the right track. But once again, the market will be watered down, which could work to the Royals advantage, considering Soria will be in the top tier of those relievers. I think Soria's trade value has started to go down, but a strong second half could put his trade value back at it's 2010 offseason value, where the Yankees allegedly offered uber-hitting prospect Jesus Montero for Soria. Any package that doesn't include high end starting pitching for Soria should be avoided. The Royals have the bats in the minors, it's time to stock the arms. Keep your eye on the Phillies, Tigers and Braves (of course) as possible destinations for Soria. Those three all have stockades of readily available young arms that would catch the Royals' eye.
My bet: 10% chance Soria is traded.
Demands: B+ RHP starter prospect, C+ RHP, athletic 2B in high minors
Melky Cabrera- Start the argument for best free agent acquisition by Dayton Moore because Melky has done nothing more than exceed all expectation this season. But he has to go, Lorenzo Cain and David Lough have proven that they are ready to make the jump to the big leagues and Melky is a guy with postseason experience that seems to be moved every single July no matter what kind of year he's having. Shouldn't bring back much, but the Royals can get decent value for him. He is under contract for next season and is still just 26-years-old.
My bet: 60% chance Melky is traded.
Demands: C+ starting pitching prospect/fireballer with command issues in low minors, straight up.
Jeff Francouer- Here's the guy I guarantee that the Royals will be overvaluing at the deadline. Anything more than cash or players to be named later for Francouer will be a steal. Yes, Frenchy has had a good year, but teams know all about Jeff Francouer. The selling points are pretty hollow, but the intangibles that some GMs overvalue might be enough to increase Frenchy's value.
My bet: 75% chance Frenchy is traded.
Demands: Cash or PTBNL.
Wilson Betemit- Stop fooling yourself, he isn't going to bring back diddly. Betemit had an amazing comeback year last year. If you follow the Royals closely, you know the story about Betemit. Former Braves super prospect who somehow got labeled as a bench player. Betemit's value isn't high because he's not an everyday player. There might be a team out there who thinks they can steal Betemit, and if they want to, go ahead and let them. Moustakas is up and Betemit plays once every six days.
My bet: 90% chance Betemit is traded.
Demands: AA pitcher
Jeff Francis- He'll be in pretty high demand by National League teams. The market for starting pitchers is pretty awful and Francis will be one of the better pitchers available in that market. He's the ideal 4-5 starter that teams are looking for this time of year. Might be able to get something better than expected for him, especially if a desperate team comes calling.
My bet: 95% chance Francis is traded.
Demands: AA pitcher
Billy Butler- Let me address this once and for all. Billy Butler should not be traded. Billy Butler is a good, maybe great player. Billy Butler is 25 years old. Billy Butler is a Hall of Fame talent.
My bet: 2% Butler is traded.
Demands: No less than four of the organization's top 10 prospects.
The guys who people aren't really talking about
Alex Gordon- His breakout season has started the trade rumor mill for Gordo. In my mind, the Royals can't afford to trade Alex Gordon. The potential has finally come through AND he's one of the best defensive left fielders in all of baseball. In fact, next to Ryan Braun, Alex Gordon is the best left fielder in all of baseball. I don't want him traded and the Royals would be taking several steps back in the development process. Gordon is a prime example of why you can't be impatient with a rebuild. The project is far from over, but the horizon looks very promising for #4.
My bet: 2% chance Gordon is traded.
Demands: Package Gordon with Giavotella or Dwyer for a PREMIUM starting pitching package that includes 2-3 B level starting prospects and the organization's best OF prospect.
Bruce Chen- For a guy who is quietly having one of the best seasons by a Royals lefty in a long time, Chen's name isn't being thrown around as much as I would expect. I'll be honest, I think Chen was a dynamite pickup by Dayton Moore. He's been our most consistent pitcher and has revived his career here. It isn't uncommon to see lefty pitchers put things together later on in their careers and go on to extend their playing days by a few years. I don't think the Royals will part ways with Chen unless they are offered a very good package for Chen.
My bet: 25% chance Chen is traded.
Demands: A pitcher from the organization's top 20.
Stay tuned, I'll be writing more about the trade deadline as we get closer to July 31.