Which Royals offer the most trade value this offseason?December 7, 2017 9:46am

Dec. 06-- As the Royals' brain trust prepares to descend on the Winter Meetings next week in Orlando, Fla., the offseason remains largely in flux.

The club is still monitoring the market-and waiting-on first baseman Eric Hosmer. His future could offer clarity as the team positions itself for 2018 and beyond. Yet, the Royals are already offering signals as they prepare for what could be a long rebuilding process.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore told The Star that he would listen to trade offers on more or less every player on the roster. In a separate story in The Athletic, reporter Ken Rosenthal said the Royals could seek to move second baseman Whit Merrifield and reliever Scott Alexander, two breakout performers in 2017.

Both Merrifield and Alexander are under club control through 2022 and, as a result, could command sizable returns. But they are not the Royals with the most trade value heading into the 2018 season.

Those players, of course, would be catcher Salvador Perez and left-hander Danny Duffy, both under contract through 2021. The Royals, for now, have not expressed a willingness to move either player, though they have spoken of a willingness to listen. So take any potential rumor regarding Perez and Duffy with a grain of salt.

But if the Royals are seeking to replenish their farm system and gain assets for the future, here is a look at their most valuable trade chips, with help from a survey of rival evaluators and industry observers, heading into the Winter Meetings.


-1. Salvador Perez

Contract status: Four years, $48.3 million Free agent: 2022

The value: One of the most durable catchers in baseball, Perez will club a lot of homers, struggle to get on base and offer premium defense behind the plate. It's an interesting discussion of whether Perez has more trade value than Duffy, a pitcher who would be coveted by just about any contender. Yet one rival talent evaluator noted a "positional shortage" at the catcher position. Others preferred Perez as well, citing the premium every-day position. Simply: There aren't many elite catchers. It's another discussion, of course, whether the Royals would ever have the stomach to deal Perez, one of the most popular players in franchise history and, yes, one of the Royals' two World Series Most Valuable Players. The hunch would be no. He will certainly be in the team's Hall of Fame some day and perhaps has a remote chance at Cooperstown, if he stays healthy and behind the plate. Those sorts of things have value. On the other hand, he's under contract for four more years, the bulk of which could be rebuilding years, and he would bring back a strong return.

-2. Danny Duffy

Contract status: Four years, $60 million Free agent: 2022

The value: Across the last two seasons, Duffy ranks ninth in the American League in ERA (3.64) and 11th in WAR (6.1) while battling some injury issues. His durability could be in question, and teams might be concerned about off-field issues. But at his best, he is one of the most talented left-handers in baseball. He is also under contract for four seasons at a reasonable price. If the Royals are willing to move Duffy-and there is no indication that is the case-they could be best served to hope he pitches well in the first half and check in on his value at the trade deadline. His contract is not as club-friendly as Jose Quintana's was last season. But the White Sox sent Quintana to the Cubs for a package that included consensus top-10 prospect Eloy Jimenez, an outfielder, and Dylan Cease, a talented young pitcher with a big arm.

-3. Whit Merrifield

Contract status: Arbitration eligible in 2020 Free agent: 2023

The value: Merrifield slashed .288/.324/.460 in 2017 while leading the American League with 34 stolen bases. He also compiled 3.1 wins above replacement, according to the FanGraphs version of the stat. He will also turn 29 years old in January, which means he may not quite fit into the Royals' long-term plans. Is his value at a peak right now? He will not be a free agent until after the 2022 season, so there is no rush. But if the club control increases his value this winter, maybe it's the time to move him.

-4. Scott Alexander

Contract status: Arbitration eligible in 2020 Free agent: 2023

The value: Alexander is sort of the relief version of Merrifield. An unexpected standout, he posted a 2.48 ERA with 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a league-high 73.8 ground-ball rate in 69 innings last season. At times, he looked like Zach Britton with slightly less velocity on his sinker. He offers long-term value and control. Like Merrifield, the Royals must ask the question: Is his value at its highest right now? Perhaps he could be packaged with another reliever and moved at the deadline for a decent prospect or two.

-5. Kelvin Herrera

Contract status: One year, $8.3 million (arbitration projection)

Free agent: 2019

The value: This is where the rankings start to require some disclaimers and caveats. Herrera is in his final season of arbitration after posting a 4.25 ERA and allowing 1.4 homers per nine innings, his highest rate since 2013. By the end of the season, his confidence had eroded and he was moved from the closer's role. After logging a 1.41 ERA in 2014 and earning All-Star appearances in 2015 and 2016, Herrera's value is likely lower it than it has been in years. Yet if the Royals are confident in a rebound performance, they could seek to open the season with him in the bullpen and look to move him before the trade deadline. He will be a free agent at the end of the season. But the relief market often heats up once teams sort themselves into buyers and sellers.

-6. Ian Kennedy

Contract: Three years, $49 million Free agent: 2021

The value: Kennedy declined an opt-out in his five-year, $70 million contract and technically opted in to the final three years and $49 million on the deal. His value would be limited by the dollars remaining on the contract and his 5.38 ERA during an injury-plagued 2017. But if Kennedy bounces back toward his 2016 form-3.68 ERA in 1952/3 innings-the Royals could monitor his value before the trade deadline. They would likely need to eat some money in a trade to maximize the return, but in the most generous reading, the club could dangle 2{ seasons of a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. That could net an intriguing piece or two.

-7. Ryan Buchter

Contract status: Arbitration eligible in 2019 Free agent: 2022

Buchter, 30, did not become a full-time major league reliever until 2016. In 1291/3 innings, he's posted a 2.85 ERA and 144 strikeouts. He also offers four years of club control. He could be attractive this offseason or next summer.

-8. Jason Hammel

Contract status: One year, $9 million ($2 million buyout in 2019)

Free agent: 2019

The value: There's not much right now. The Royals would likely need to eat some salary to move his contract this offseason. He has been a durable No. 5 starter. Perhaps he performs well over the season's first half.

-9. Joakim Soria

Contract status: One year, $9 million ($1 million buyout in 2019)

Free agent: 2019

The value: Similar to Hammel, Soria is a free agent at the end of the year. His value could be minimal, given his recent performance. But throw in enough money, and the Royals might be able to dump some of his contract and take a flier on a younger arm.

-10 (tie). Nathan Karns

Contract status: One year, $1.4 million (arbitration projection)

Free agent: 2021

The value: Karns must prove he's healthy after season-ending surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. But he's under club control for three more seasons after being acquired for Jarrod Dyson before 2017. He was 2-2 with a 3.43 ERA in eight starts last season before being sidelined by arm issues. If he replicates those numbers during the first half in 2018, he would shoot up this list.

-10 (tie). Brandon Maurer

Contract status: One year, $3.8 million (arbitration projection)

Free agent: 2020

The value: Perhaps some team would be intrigued by Mauer's pure stuff. The Royals certainly were. But after he posted a 6.52 ERA in 591/3 innings last year, his value is close to nil. That could change with a strong first half.


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