Royals to target upgrades for bench, possibly right field

Norichika Aoki
Norichika Aoki The Kansas City Star

With the Royals in playoff contention, general manager Dayton Moore told The Star earlier this month he believes owner David Glass will allow him to expand their record payroll with trade acquisitions.

The question is: What type of players will they target?

As the July 31 non-waiver deadline approaches, the Royals figure to be tied to many of the top-flight talents being shopped around this summer. To wit: Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times noted the presence of two Royals scouts, in addition to talent evaluators from at least seven other teams, on hand for David Price’s start on Wednesday afternoon.

The team also tracked two recent appearances by Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, though Moore stressed this was part of their regular coverage. The Royals’ starting rotation is one of baseball’s most reliable, and the team has little interest in parting with affordable younger starters like Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura — the sort of players targeted by clubs looking to sell off veteran assets.

The Royals’ prospect base is rich, but not as deep as in previous seasons.

Moore has said on multiple occasions that he believes the core of this Royals team has already been assembled. But based on recent conversations with multiple team officials, the Royals will be in the market for improvements to their bench and for a possible replacement in right field for the disappointing Nori Aoki. Team officials did not rule out the possibility of a blockbuster-type deal, but those are always difficult to complete.

Otherwise, much of their roster is locked in, filled with players under long-term contracts or players still under arbitration-control. So an upgrade at second base, where Omar Infante is having one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, makes little sense. Infante is still under contract through 2017. The team has yet to give up hope on third baseman Mike Moustakas. Billy Butler may be in his final season as a Royal, but he has posted an .848 OPS in June, and reestablished himself as vital to the team’s offensive success.

Aoki, though, is injured right now, and has been mediocre throughout the season. He becomes a free agent after this season. The Royals could make runs at players like Philadelphia’s Marlon Byrd (if the Phillies actually decided to sell) or San Diego’s Seth Smith (if the Padres settle their front-office confusion).

The most likely acquisitions would involve augmentation of the Royals’ bench. The team’s pitchers appreciate the skills of Brett Hayes, but he has three hits in 35 at-bats. Pedro Ciriaco is a questionable defender and his OPS is .484. These are the areas the team can improve the quickest.

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