The hot stove is just getting warmed up, but we've already heard on several occasions that the Royals are interested in Darren O'Day and Joakim Soria. If you are like me then you read this and immediately brushed it off as the club doing their due diligence. Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I do believe that is the case. However, let's take a moment and allow ourselves to believe that the Royals are seriously considering adding Soria or O'Day to the back end of their bullpen.
O'Day has been one of the very best relievers in all of baseball over the last four seasons and in the last two seasons Soria has returned to his pre-2012 form. For the Royals, either pitcher would immediately be slotted into the back of the bullpen and join the triumvirate of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, and Luke Hochevar. It is in large part due to this that the acquisition of either feels more like overkill and a waste of resources in regards to the 2016 team.
What if the Royals intention to pursue O'Day or Soria isn't because they want to make their back of the bullpen 4 deep? What if it is because they are looking to flip one of HHD for an outfielder, second baseman, or starting pitcher. It is no secret that this year's free agent market is exceptionally shallow in the relief pitching department. If the Royals could land O'Day or Soria, not only would it lessen the blow should they move Davis, Herrera, or Hochevar, but it would also help to corner the relief market. This would allow the Royals even more negotiating power.
If the Royals were to pursue this sign a relief pitcher, trade a relief pitcher then who would be most likely to be moved? Luke Hochevar would be the least painful to part with. He is owed $5.5 million in 2016 and then has a $7 million mutual option for 2017. Unfortunately, Hochevar is the least painful for a reason. His peripherals were very strong in 2015 and he is said to have closer stuff, but the 3.73 ERA and 4.00 WHIP don't scream closer.
Kelvin Herrera will make approximately $2.5 million in 2016 and has three more years of control before he hits free agency. This and his career 2.60 ERA would make him an extremely valuable commodity on the trade market. I think most in the industry would be perfectly fine with handing the ball to Herrera to get the final three outs of the game.
Wade Davis is owed $8 million for 2016, and has a team option of $10 million for the 2017 season. For arguably the top reliever in baseball this is a bargain. If the Royals signed O'Day to a two year $16 million contract, would it make sense to then slide him into the closer role and trade Davis? Royal Revival's sources have told us that last offseason the Royals were close to moving Davis for a starting pitcher.
Personally, I think this strategy makes sense. Obviously, there is risk that by dealing from a strength you could damage it to a point where it is no longer a strength. We also know that relief pitching is one of the most fickle things in all of baseball. The shelf life for top tier relievers typically isn't long. We were reminded of that just a couple of months ago by Greg Holland. It was rumored that Dayton Moore had opportunities to move Soria for quality packages prior to his injury. It bares to reason, that the Royals likely could have netter a good haul for Holland last offseason. In both cases Dayton Moore held on to his chips too long. Maybe this go around it will be different.
As far as what the Royals could acquire. I think there is good reason to believe that for either Davis or Herrera the Royals would be looking for a piece that they could immediately slide into the back of the rotation or a corner outfield spot. In addition to that they likely could get a prospect of decent value as well. As a long time Jackie Bradley Jr. fan, I'd love to see the Royals match up with Boston to bring the former 1st round pick to Kansas City. Boston is said to be in the market for back end help and there has been rumors that they'd move Bradley Jr or Rusney Castillo plus to get Aroldis Chapman.
As I said when I started this post, I don't believe the Royals will take this route. I'm not even sure that they should take this route. However, I think it is interesting food for thought. If the Royals were to sign O'Day then trade Wade Davis to Boston for Bradley Jr. plus a prospect, they would be able to fill one of their holes without dipping into their free agent budget. Of course, if Hochevar was enough to grab Bradley Jr. from Boston, I'd jump on that deal in a heartbeat.
Edit: Approximately 1 hour after the writing of this post, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com said that Jackie Bradley has generated trade interest from the Royals and Cubs.
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