The Royals are once again back in the thick of things after two-straight wins over the Yankees to start the week. With a 3-2 performance over their final five games before the break the Royals will be both .500 and likely within five games of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central. As a result, one would think the Royals would be in the market to upgrade their team if possible.
While the Royals certainly have issues with their lineup, starting pitching is beginning to become an issue after James Shields and Ervin Santana. Jeremy Guthrie is attempting to hold his own but the same can not be said for Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza who find themselves with ERA+ of 77 and 85 respectively. When one includes the fact the Royals have the best defense in baseball then it can be assumed Davis and Mendoza are pitching even worse than what their numbers indicate.
Ned Yost seems to be concerned, too, as he’s already made the move to send Mendoza to the bullpen and promote Bruce Chen to the rotation. While Chen has been a solid pitcher for the Royals in the past, he is nowhere good enough to be a catalyst the Royals need to propel them to the playoffs. With the rotation issues in mind, here are three trade candidates who could help the Royals this year that few others are talking about.
FIP: 4.36; xFIP: 4.46
Contract: Free agent after the season.
Assuming he stays healthy, Hughes would be a perfect fit for the Royals this season as a rental player. If there is anybody who could use a move out of Yankee Stadium it is Hughes who has been hit hard by the new stadium in New York.
Hughes biggest issue is the home run ball and Yankee Stadium has been his biggest nightmare. Since 2010 Hughes has allowed 84 home runs with 57 coming at Yankee Stadium. As a result he has an ERA split of 5.74 at home and 3.38 on the road.
With Kauffman Stadium being a big upgrade in keeping balls in the park along with KC’s outfield defense, Hughes could really thrive in Kansas City.
FIP: 3.88; xFIP: 3.81
Contract: three years, $36 million, free agent in 2017
Like most pitchers on this list, the defense behind Jackson this season has been terrible. As a result he has seen his ERA balloon from an expected 3.88 to over 5. Aside from an increase in walks there is little to suggest Jackson’s stuff has deteriorated as his strikeout rates have stayed steady and his ground ball rate has increased.
What Jackson provides for the Royals is not only another steady arm in the rotation but also something of a long-term solution. Kansas City is going to have to replace Santana at the end of the season and Jackson could be the guy to fills his role nicely. He won’t come cheap financially has he is due to make $13 million per season over the next three years, but this could help the Royals is driving down the price in terms of prospects.
FIP: 3.94; xFIP: 3.65
Contract: Free agent after the season.
Johnson has been heavily effected by poor defense from the Toronto Blue Jays, watching his ERA climb to 4.62 and his WHIP soar to 1.508. But his peripheral numbers suggest he is pitching much better than what his ERA and WHIP claim. Johnson is striking out batters to the tune of one per inning while walking three per nine. He has also seen his velocity jump back up to 94 mph hour on his fastball, which is what is was when he was dominating with the Marlins before his arm injuries.
Toronto is in a tough spot as they invested heavily into this season but have seen their chances slide as injuries to key players continued to mount up. Johnson is a free agent at the end of the season and there is no reason to believe he won’t test the free agent market. There could be a trade available to the Royals to obtain Johnson at an affordable price to improve the rotation this season without killing their future hopes.