The trade deadline provides intrigue for baseball fans and followers across the country because of the possibility of bolstering a team either for an immediate playoff push or in order to stock up for its future.
The Royals dove into the trade waters on back-to-back days, with trades sending veteran players, both of whom were set to become free agents at the end of the season, to teams in the middle of playoff races.
In exchange, Royals general manager Dayton Moore his front office and scouting staff have acquired players with the potential to be part of their organization for several years.
For the players, it’s of course a time of uncertainty while they try to maintain focus on the tasks at hand.
“It’s not for me to control,” Royals outfielder Billy Hamilton said of being a potential trade chip. “My job is to come here every single day and do what I can to make myself a better player.
“As of right now, I’m a Royal. I’m dedicated to this team. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team out. It’s baseball. I know in the back of my head it’s a business. It’s not for me to decide. It’s more for Dayton and whoever else. It’s their team. They make the decisions. Whatever decision is best for them is best for me.”
The trade deadline isn’t until July 31, so the dealing may not be done. As that day approaches, teams figure to become more motivated to acquire what they think may be the missing piece in a postseason run.
“The last couple days you seen your teammates get trade, so it’s in the back of your head a little bit, but it’s something that you don’t worry about,” Hamilton said. “You keep come here every single day. As long as I’m a Royal, I’m going to be dedicated to this team. … If it happens, it happens. I’m not really focused on that. I’m focused on coming out here and keeping these guys up and see if we can keep winning.”
Here’s a rundown on what’s happened, seems poised to happen and what’s likely sizzle without the steak on the trade front.
Sunday, the Royals acquired a former compensation round draft pick (33rd overall selection) in shortstop Kevin Merrell from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for right-handed pitcher Homer Bailey. Merrell will play for the Royals’ Double-A affiliate.
On Monday, the Royals re-acquired left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Martin Maldonado. Montgomery played in the Royals farm system from 2008-2012, and he was part of the trade that Wil Myers and pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitchers Wade Davis and James Shields.
Montgomery is expected to start for the Royals on Friday.
Moore stated last weekend that the players he’d be most willing to possibly trade are players that are in the final year of their contracts, as opposed to those under club control for multiple years.
Hamilton, 28, signed with the Royals this offseason after six years in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds. The Royals signed Hamilton during the winter meetings to a one-year, $4.25 million contract with a mutual option for 2020. The $1 million buyout guarantees him $5.25 million.
The speedy center fielder and base-stealer extraordinaire — since his first full season in the majors in 2014, nobody has stolen more bases than Hamilton’s 280 — has become the odd man out in an outfield group that includes veteran multi-time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon, All-Star Whit Merrifield, team home run leader Jorge Soler and recently-promoted former first-round draft pick Bubba Starling.
Left-handed relief pitcher Jake Diekman signed a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2020 worth a guaranteed $2.75 million (including $500,000 buyout) this winter.
With left-handed reliever Richard Lovelady in the minors with a 1.74 ERA, the Royals could simultaneously clear room for Lovelady and add prospects to bolster their farm system.
It seems unlikely the Royals would trade any of their big-salary players such as Alex Gordon ($20 million), Ian Kennedy ($16.5 million) or Danny Duffy ($15.25 million).
As a player with 10 years of service time in the majors and at least five consecutive years with the same club, Gordon would have to approve a deal. The 35-year-old native of Nebraska has said that he doesn’t want to play for any other franchise.
Kennedy, who moved to the bullpen this spring, carries a hefty price tag for a reliever and still has a year remaining on his contract.
Duffy, who has spent his entire career in the Royals’ organization, has fought through injury issues in recent years and still has two year remaining on his deal beyond this season.
Versatile all-star Whit Merrifield would have value to numerous teams in either league, but he’s one of the faces of the franchise on a conservatively-priced contract through 2022 with a fifth-year club option that could make him a Royal through 2023.
Moore has already said the ask would be enormous for any team bidding to pry him from the Royals.