Here's a name to keep in mind if, as expected, escalating costs in the free-agent market force the Royals to take a harder look at trade possibilities to improve their rotation.
Mariners left-hander James Paxton.
Geoff Baker of theSeattle Times
writes the Royals are tracking Paxton, 23, in the Arizona Fall League. And why not? Paxton as generally viewed as the most advanced of the Mariners' much heralded "big three" pitching prospects. The others are Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners are also a logical trading partner because they need offensive punch as much as the Royals need pitching. Baker throws out Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon and All-Star DH Billy Butler as desirable pieces.
A disclaimer: None of this is meant to suggest a trade is close or that it would involve Gordon or Butler. In fact, the Royals are unlikely to surrender a proven major-league player for an unproven minor-leaguer in a straight deal.
But...the teams have needs and, seemingly, available parts that match up.
A little about Paxton: He is 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds. He missed time this season because of a sore knee but went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts at Class AA Jackson. He struck out 110 but walked 54 and had 13 wild pitches in 106 1/3 innings.
Baker cites a mid-90s fastball, a "out-pitch" curve and a developing changeup. Some scouts believe Paxton could be ready to break camp next spring in the majors -- particularly if his command sharpens and his changeup develops.
The Mariners selected Paxton in the fourth round of the 2010 draft after Toronto failed to sign him a year earlier as the 37th overall pick.
Paxton opened the Fall League with two strong performances -- one run in six innings -- but has allowed seven runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in his last two starts.