As the Royals enter the offseason, they are faced with dueling challenges: They will seek to upgrade a roster that finished 81-81 in 2016 and let a homegrown core chase a second World Series championship in three years. They will also attempt to keep the payroll at — or slightly below — its record high from this past season.
As a result, the club could be motivated to peel off a member of its core and execute a major trade in the offseason. For now, the team has shown little inclination to trade one of its central players. But as the club prepares for an important offseason, The Star looked at the possible trade candidates.
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Position: First base
2017 salary: Arbitration eligible (he made $8.25 million in 2016)
Why you think about trading him: Hosmer is entering his final season before free agency, and the Royals could find themselves priced out of a bidding war next offseason. He is also coming off a down season in which his offensive production was essentially league average.
Why you don’t: The glue and conscience of the Royals’ clubhouse, Hosmer is an unquestioned team leader, a proven playoff performer and just one year removed from his best overall offensive season. His departure would leave a hole in the middle of the lineup, and his possible replacement should he eventually leave — prospect Ryan O’Hearn — is a ways away from being major-league ready.
Position: Third base
2017 salary: $8.7 million
Why you think about trading him: The Royals have Cheslor Cuthbert as an understudy at third base and, even after a season-ending knee injury for Moustakas, the Royals could perhaps net some return value for him.
Why you don’t: As Cuthbert faded down the stretch, the Royals could see how valuable Moustakas is both in the lineup and on defense. The club’s best chance to win big in 2017 probably comes with Moustakas at third base.
Position: Center field
2017 salary: $11 million
Why you think about trading him: Unlike Hosmer and Moustakas, Cain will turn 31 next season and the Royals may shy away from offering big money to another outfielder in his early 30s. If the Royals could land a big return for one year of Cain, well …
Why you don’t: Cain is an awesome baseball player. According to the wins above replacement statistic, he was by far the club’s best player in 2015 and the Royals’ fortunes nose-dived when he was out of the lineup in 2016.
2017 salary: $6.5 million
Why you think about trading him: Escobar is under contract for just one more season, and the Royals have Raul Mondesi, who could be the club’s shortstop of the future.
Why you don’t: All things considered, $6.5 million is still reasonable for a starting shortstop. And Mondesi, 21, showed few signs of being ready to hit at the big-league level in 2016. He may need another year of seasoning.
2017 salary: $10 million
Why you think about trading him: It would free up $10 million, possibly net some younger pieces, and reliever Kelvin Herrera could slide into the closer role.
Why you don’t: The Royals’ two American League championship teams were built on dominant bullpens. When healthy, Davis remains among the best arms in baseball. To win big, his presence seems crucial.
Position: Left field
2017 salary: $16 million
Why you think about trading him: Coming off his worst offensive season in years, Gordon is set to be paid $60 million over the next three seasons.
Why you don’t: Sentimental reasons aside, Gordon’s stock is down a bit after his performance in 2016. To dump that much guaranteed money, the Royals, perhaps, wouldn’t get too much in return. In addition, Gordon remains a clubhouse leader and an insatiable worker who could bounce back in a big way in 2017.
2017 salary: $13.5 million
Why you think about trading him: By the numbers, Kennedy had his best season in years in 2016 and could be owed $62.5 million over the next four seasons — if he doesn’t opt out after 2017. His stock is high after posting a 3.68 ERA in more than 195 innings.
Why you don’t: Armed with Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and the return of Jason Vargas, the 2017 Royals will need Kennedy to soak up innings in the middle of the rotation. For now, the alternatives are not great.