I heard an interesting and quite likely theory today: the 2011 Kansas City Royals could have a completely different starting rotation at the end of the season than they did at the beginning of the year.
For that matter, the Royals could also have a different infield, outfield and bullpen.
It all depends on where the Royals sit in the standings come the few weeks before the trade deadline: if they are out of the race, the Royals will likely be sellers. If they are in the hunt, they’ll probably be looking to bring players in.
Let’s take a look at the players the Royals could be shipping out if they’re sellers, and the players they could bring in if they’re buyers:
SELL: Melky Cabrera
The player: Melky has played extremely well this year, and the Royals could (and should) capitalize on that if they’re out of the race by July.
The return: How about a right-handed pitching prospect to complement the lefties in the farm system?
BUY: Chone Figgins
The player: Seattle’s Figgins could make a good fit at second base and batting if a contending Royals team doesn’t have faith in Chris Getz.
The return: Salary relief for the Mariners and/or a bullpen arm.
SELL: Robinson Tejeda or Kanekoa Texeira
The players: Speaking of bullpen arms. The trade deadline is a great time to flip relievers to contenders. Tejeda would have to get healthy and prove he can bounce back to 2010 form to be tradable.
The return: Not much. A B-level prospect or two.
BUY: Mike Pelfrey, Chris Young or Aaron Harang
The players: Pelfrey and Young of the Mets and Harang of the Padres are stable veterans who could boost the Royals’ rotation if they’re in the race. These are not front-of-the-rotation guys, but they’re definitely an improvement over Kyle Davies.
The return: Again, salary relief, or…
SELL: Mike Aviles or Wilson Betemit
The players: Even if the Royals are in contention, it’s likely at least one of these guys will be on the trading block. The hot corner belongs to Mike Moustakas come June.
The return: A major league starter or an outfield prospect.
BUY: A front-line starter, such as Felix Hernandez
The player: A Cy Young winner, Felix may or not be on the block come the trade deadline. But if he is, a team like the Royals could pry him loose with their salary flexibility. But it would take a lot.
The return: Like I said, a lot. Kansas City would have to give up one of their top-line prospects, a major league-ready starter (like Jeff Francis) and a couple B-level prospects. This would only be a worthwhile venture if the Royals are truly in the race.
SELL: Billy Butler
The player: Butler has been the anchor of this team’s lineup for a few years. But with the emergence of Eric Hosmer, the presence of Clint Robinson at AAA, and Kila Ka’aihue hanging around as a stopgap, Butler could become expendable. He also has a team-friendly contract, which is attractive to opposing teams.
The return: It would have to be overwhelming. How about top-rated catcher prospect, a right-handed starter and a young first baseman to replace Butler in the system?
BUY: Albert Pujols
The player: Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?
The return: The farm. As in, the entire farm system.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and associate editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.