Assessing the market for untraded Royals players
The trade deadline has passed and the Royals were actually quite transactional. Over the past two months, they’ve completed six significant transactions, adding 12 new players to the organization:
But there were still trade candidates that the Royals ultimately clung to. We don’t know what type of discussions, if any, the Royals had with other teams, but we can look back and see what the feedback looked like for comparable players.
The Royals have one of the best relievers in baseball in Scott Barlow, who has proven to be effective again this year despite a bad weekend in New York and a slight drop in velocity. Josh Staumont has also been mostly effective although his step numbers have increased. And Taylor Clarke was a solid hitter who gave up just three runs in 20 2⁄3 innings over the past six weeks. Adding to their value is the fact that all three relievers still have several years of control of the club.
The bullpen market seems to have dwindled in recent seasons, but it’s come back strong this year, perhaps due to the expanded playoffs and more contenders looking to bolster bullpen pens. Teams were aggressively acquiring relievers with several years of control remaining. Two trades stand out as comparable to the kind of relievers the Royals had to offer. First, the Blue Jays acquired pitchers Zach Pop, Anthony Bass and a player later named from the Marlins for infielder Jordan Groshans. Bass has a career year at 34 with a 1.41 ERA and has a club option for 2023. Pop is a bit of a journeyman who has been stuck in the Marlins bullpen this year with a 4.12 ERA . Groshans’ stock has fallen a lot this year after a tough season in which he hit 0.250/0.348/0.296 in 67 games at Triple-A. But the 22-year-old shortstop was a consensus top 100 pre-season prospect with a good hitting tool and solid walk rate. Would pairing Barlow with Merrifield and maybe another arm (Taylor Clarke or Jose Cuas?) cause the Jays to part ways with Groshans and Samad Taylor and/or Max Castillo?
The second trade was when the Orioles took on Jorge López, – remember him? — and traded him at peak value to the Twins for four minor leaguers. None of the prospects – pitchers Cade Povich, Yennier Cano, Juan Nunez and Juan Rojas – are ranked in the top 20 by MLB Pipeline, Baseball America or Fangraphs, so if the Orioles see something, the others don’t seem to see it. . . Maybe that’s an indication that the reliever market is more about quantity than quality, or maybe teams don’t trust López with his track record as much as they do someone like Barlow, who has been good for several seasons now. In any case, there were 16 relievers traded in the last 48 hours (including Trevor Rosenthal, who hasn’t pitched a pitch since 2020!), so there was a robust market that the Royals didn’t have. participated.
Usually teams look to fill their rotations to add depth, but it wasn’t a good trade deadline for mid-rotation starting pitchers this year. After big names like Frankie Montas and Noah Syndergard were traded, there were only four mid-level starting pitchers traded at the deadline – Montgomery, Tyler Mahle, Jose Quintana and Jake Odorizzi.
Keller has regressed the past two seasons and hasn’t pitched as well as any of those pitchers. He would have aroused the interest of clubs, but with a 5.03 ERA and low strikeout rate over the past two seasons, the offers probably weren’t too high. If he can bounce back, maybe the Royals will buy him this winter or next summer.
Zack Greinke has a much better record and has been a strong starter this year with a 4.41 ERA and tiny walk rate. But the Royals decided they weren’t going to trade it. The Pirates were able to get the 10th-ranked prospect in the Cardinals organization plus a young reliever in exchange for Quintana, likely a similar return Greinke could have scored and perhaps a better-case scenario for a Keller comeback if he’s able to bounce back next year.
Michael A. Taylor
There were really only three center players traded at the deadline – Harrison Bader, Brandon Marsh, Jose Siri and Brett Phillips. Phillips was traded for cash counterparts, so it’s not really comparable. Marsh and Siri are both young players at the start of their careers, not at all similar to Taylor.
Bader looks the most like Taylor, but he’s three years younger with a much better offensive record. Still, Taylor has been better this year (a 112 OPS+ against Bader’s disappointing 93 with the Cardinals). Both players are under the control of the club until 2023 on roughly the same base salary, although Bader has salary indexations which will certainly earn him several million more. Bader went to the Yankees for 29-year-old pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who has a 3.69 ERA in 21 starts for New York.
It’s a stretch to think Taylor would have warranted this comeback, but you have to wonder if the Yanks discussed including Taylor in the Benintendi deal to give them a big defender in the middle. Instead of having to deal with starting pitch depth, they could have offered more prospects for the Royals. The Braves and Red Sox also signed disappointing outfielders – Robbie Grossman from Atlanta and Tommy Pham from Boston – Taylor might have represented a better alternative if they were willing to pay the price.