It has been reported that the Kansas City Royals are headed for a rebuild. After back-to-back World Series appearances and nearly five years atop the AL Central, the Royals run is over. The Milwaukee Brewers have a great opportunity to add to their roster.
The Milwaukee Brewers helped build that World Series core for the Royals, sending Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, among others for Zack Greinke. Both of those players are now free agents along with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. The Royals are unlikely to sign any of their free agents. They will focus on a three-year rebuilding plan.
Since the Milwaukee Brewers helped Kansas City out of a rebuild in 2010 to push them to a World Series title, perhaps they will return the favor. The Royals have a few pieces that should be of interest to GM David Stearns.
Who could be available?
We made up a potential trade with Kansas City awhile back, sending Keon Broxton and Jonathan Villar in exchange for Whit Merrifield. At the time, the Royals had plans to contend in 2018. But with the news now that they will head towards a rebuild, the return package should change.
Second baseman Whit Merrifield makes sense as a trade target for Stearns. He batted an impressive .288/.324/.460 with 19 homers and 34 stolen bases last season. Merrifield is a late bloomer that just had his first full season as a starter in his age-28 season. As such, the Royals would be wise to move him.
Also potentially on the market is staff ace Danny Duffy. Duffy, 28, pitched to a 3.81 ERA in 24 starts in 2017. He is under contract for next four years and owed $60 million in that time. At $15 million a year, Duffy represents a younger, alternative option to more expensive free agents in Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish. Plus, Duffy is left-handed, making him an ideal fit atop the Crew’s rotation.
Another southpaw, Scott Alexander could be on the market. The 28-year old ground ball specialist pitched to a 2.48 ERA last year. He was used mostly in the 6th inning. He is controllable through 2022 and posted an amazing 73.8% ground ball rate last year.
The Brewers have traded for a Kansas City ace once before and it turned out well for the Royals. The Crew also got great pitching from Greinke in his time here. And now the time has come for these two teams to meet up again and move a frontline starting pitcher. The good news for the Brewers this time is that Duffy will cost much less in terms of prospects than Greinke did.
What could these deals look like?
Given the change in the state of thinking in Kansas City, our previous prediction of a trade with Kansas City is no longer feasible. If the Brewers move for Merrifield, a deal could look more like this.
In this deal, the Brewers get their second baseman of the future. Merrifield is under team control through the 2022 season. Because of that, there is no room for Mauricio Dubon who should be able to take over a starting spot sometime during the 2018 season. Dubon can become the second baseman of the future in Kansas City.
Troy Stokes, Jr. is a speedy outfielder in Double-A. He is stuck behind a glut of outfield prospects in the Brewers system. He hit 20 homers in 2017 while adding 30 stolen bases with a .251/.341/.447 batting line. McDowell is a young catcher that is known more for his defensive skills than his bat and is a good depth addition for the Royals system.
In this deal, the Milwaukee Brewers give up their projected second baseman of the future who needs a little more seasoning for a controllable starter that’s ready to go right now and develop into the second baseman of the future.
What about a deal for Duffy?
If the Royals look to move Duffy and his contract to Milwaukee, a potential trade could speculatively look something like this.
To move Duffy, the Royals could include cash to offset his contract in order to get a better return. This package also fits the Royals needs and rebuilding schedule. Broxton can immediately replace the departing Lorenzo Cain. This means that the Brewers are becoming a constant supplier of Royals center fielders.
Erceg is the prize of the deal. The Milwaukee Brewers 10th best prospect has moved quickly through the minor leagues. He reached Triple-A late this year after going in the second round in 2016. Erceg has done nothing but rake since becoming a professional. He appears ready to reach the Majors quite soon. The problem is that Travis Shaw now occupies the hot corner for the foreseeable future. That makes Erceg expendable, even though he is the only third base prospect the Crew has developed in the past few years.
Phil Bickford came over in the Will Smith trade to the Giants in 2016. He was suspended for the first part of 2017 and then suffered an injury that set back his season debut. Bickford still has a ton of potential and could be a future big league starter. The Brewers’ 24th rated prospect only pitched in six games this year, but posted a 2.12 ERA in those games.
In Duffy, the Brewers get a left-handed starter to front the rotation alongside Chase Anderson and eventually, Jimmy Nelson. Duffy has not yet thrown 180 innings in a season. He is not a workhorse like Nelson, but he is effective and that’s what’s important.
With the Royals looking to rebuild, David Stearns would be wise to give Royals GM Dayton Moore a call about both Merrifield and Duffy. These two teams have been trade partners before and could be again. A deal for either of these players would be beneficial to both teams. It would help the Brewers polish off their roster for a World Series run and give the Royals a building block or two for their next World Series run.
It would be tough to see players like Mauricio Dubon or Lucas Erceg succeed in Kansas City after watching Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar win a World Series. But you have to give something to get something in this industry and the Brewers know that all too well.