Opinion

Royals mailbag: Trading for Jeff Samaradzija or Ben Zobrist? Royals in the World Cup?

Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija
Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija AP

Even after a defeat on Thursday afternoon, the Royals return to Kauffman Stadium in triumphant fashion. They won six of seven on their last road trip, trounced the Tigers for three games and usurped control of the American League Central.

So welcome to an optimistic version of the weekly edition of the mailbag. Let’s get to it.

This was sent before Thursday’s game.

This was sent after Thursday’s game.

Ah, yes. It’s that time of the year.

As we wrote earlier this week, general manager Dayton Moore downplayed the likelihood of his team making a game-changing trade. He stressed he felt his current club contained the pieces necessary to win their division.

“As I’ve said many times, the success of this team is going to be predicated on who we currently have on this roster,” he said. “The talent is there. They’re very capable of continuing to produce at a high level. So that’s what we’ll expect to happen.”

But, like the 29 other teams, they will be in the market. They will send scouts to attend games. They will engage in discussions with other clubs.

Most likely, nothing major will happen. This is how the trading season works. Anyway, to your question:

Zobrist would probably be easier to acquire, in part because he looks to be pretty clearly in a decline phase right now. Heading into Thursday, his .701 OPS was his lowest since 2010, and 82 points below his career average. He is 33. His isolated power plummeted in 2013 and hasn’t bounced back this year.

Zobrist was one of baseball’s most valuable players — a few years ago. He would still be an upgrade at third base over Moustakas, and he could also play some right field.

Depending on whether the Rays put David Price on the block, Samardzija likely becomes the most sought-after player in the market. The Cubs are said to be seeking pitching, and Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi speculated the Royals might have to part ways with a pitcher like Danny Duffy (plus prospects) to make a deal. That, of course is a lot, giving up 3 1/2 years of Duffy (plus) for 1 1/2 years of Samardzija. Duffy struck out five during seven innings of two-run ball on Sunday; he struck out nine in his previous start. He has a chance to be very, very good.

And what would you be getting in return?

Samardzija is 29. He has thrown 200 innings precisely once in his career. He posted a 4.34 ERA in the National League Central last year. His arbitration number will jump from a $5.35 million price in 2014 for next season.

He is not, in other words, even close to James Shields. But the Cubs will set the price high, considering they don’t need to trade him until next summer, anyway.

Frankly, to channel the spirit of Mike Ehrmantraut, either player is a half-measure. If you’re going to make a move that inspires pain on the player-development side, if you’re going to give up real assets, go get Adrian Beltre.

Based on a few preliminary conversations with Royals officials, the potential pursuit of a pitcher was framed like this: They won’t rule out trying to make an upgrade, even at a position of strength.

Of course, this is the stance of every team in baseball for every single position. You couldn’t find more boiler in that plate. But, that’s what I have for you. If the team deals makes sense, they’re willing to consider it.

That said, the word is the Royals will be in the market for upgrades in right field. This isn’t a surprise. Nori Aoki has been something of a disappointment, he does not cost much, and there is little long-term investment in him. They could also use some bullpen upgrades, as Louis Coleman hasn’t recaptured his form, and Chris Dwyer still hasn’t hit his stride in relief for Omaha.

Would? Yes. Will? Only in the sort of mega-deal which rarely happens in this game.

The only asset in this organization who can, almost definitively, be considered “untouchable” is Salvador Perez. But Mondesi has to be only a few spots below Perez on that list. His slash line in Class A is not that impressive — .243/.292/.323 — but he’s only 18 years old and the Carolina League can be uncharitable to hitters.

There is only one Frenchtober.

The phenomenon is a combination of Sveum’s influence and positive regression for players like Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Sveum altered the delivery system of the message to the hitters, by keying on different things. Pedro Grifol focused on the lower half; Sveum veers more toward the head and the hands. Sveum preaches also the importance of pulling the ball.

Plus, the players indicated they felt put on notice by Grifol’s demotion. That, combined with the veterans moving back toward their career norms, helps explain the resurgence.

James Shields is The Macho Man. This isn’t up for debate.

Man, I hate to say this, but if Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas don’t turn it around, a comp to Marcus Alexander Bagwell and Scotty Riggs might not be too far-fetched.

A few players spring to mind: Alex Gordon probably would have been an excellent goalie. Alcides Escobar has the stamina. Jeremy Guthrie looks like a soccer player.

But the choice, of course, is obvious. Lorenzo Cain. He’s the team’s best athlete. He can run, he can move in space, and his reactions after flopping would be top-notch.

Wasn’t this the entire premise of David Foster Wallace’s essay about lobsters?

My favorite album is “Darkness On The Edge of Town.”

My five favorite songs:

1. “Backstreets.”

2. “Racing In The Street (’78).” [and I don’t even care if this it’s sacrilege, because I like this version is better]

3. “Secret Garden.” [You know what, deal with it, this is my list]

4. “New York City Serenade.”

5. The version of “Atlantic City” from MTV Unplugged.

I am aware this is the most hipster-ish list imaginable, but I will also tell you that “Thunder Road,” “Rosalita” and “No Surrender” still rip.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar.

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