What’s going on here?
Baseball’s Hot Stove has started, and it seems that the Kansas City Royals are the first to turn it on. As reported by Levi Weaver and Ken Rosenthal, the Royals are aggressively advertising their main trade chips now and declaring themselves open to business. It makes sense that the Royals would be sellers: they are bad and they frankly knew they’d be bad entering into the season, with the only question being “how bad.”
It’s pretty unusual to try and kick off the trade season this early—except Kansas City has a few good reasons for it. One of them makes sense, and the other is…unusual, especially for Kansas City. From The Athletic:
For now, the Royals are giving teams interested in Aroldis Chapman two options, according to sources briefed on their discussions who were granted anonymity so they could speak candidly:
• Part with a better prospect package to gain control of Chapman for nearly four months of the regular season, rather than the two months a team would get by acquiring him at the trade Aug. 1 deadline.
• Accept Chapman as part of a package with another Royals player, enabling Kansas City to shed payroll while ensuring a better return in a trade.
One club that spoke with the Royals interpreted the team’s desire to attach Chapman to another player as an indication it wanted to move its highest-priced asset, catcher Salvador Perez.
Trade rumors should be taken with a grain of salt at all times. Still, not every trade rumor is built the same, because not every journalist or journalistic outlet has the same clout. In just about every industry, there’s someone who is the guy when it comes to information reliability and industry knowledge. In the NBA world, that’s Adrian Wojnarowski. If you play video games, you know that the guy is Jason Schreier. In baseball, Ken Rosenthal is, as the kids say, Him, and it turns what might otherwise be a chuckle-inducing attempt at nabbing clicks into an eyebrow-raising nugget of information.
Trading Salvador Perez is frankly something the Royals should have done before they offered him an extension in 2021, but as has been very well established, one of Dayton Moore’s worst traits was having essentially no awareness of the organization’s quality or depth of talent. So, here we are, with Perez owed $45 million guaranteed after this season, which he is in the midst of making $20 million, even though the Royals have made negligible process in its rebuild since then.
On its face, trading now doesn’t make sense for a myriad of reasons. The big one is that we’re in this weird place where Perez means much more to the Royals than to anyone else, which makes trade calculations very difficult. To everyone else, Perez is a good, but not great, right-handed catcher who still lags behind as one of the worst pitch framers in baseball, a catcher who just turned 33 and has a huge contract hanging around his neck for multiple seasons.
Perez’s contract truly is the backbreaker here, and its effects can be explored using one of the best publicly available trade value simulators out there: baseballtradevalues.com. Its valuations aren’t perfect, but it hews closely to the logic that real life professional baseball teams use in their own proprietary trading calculators: namely, that every player has a trade value determined by their on-field effectiveness and their salary.
As you can see by AFV—Average Future Value, in this instance—Baseball Trade Values agrees that Perez is a good player. But his salary is so onerous as to sink his calculated trade value below even Hunter Dozier and Jordan Lyles.
You should not take Baseball Trade Values as a religious text; there are individual circumstances which can boost a player’s trade value and help grease the wheels of a trade that might otherwise not happen. However, it’s good shorthand, and in this instance, the shorthand is that Perez’s trade value is not enough on its own to really entice other teams to trade for him straight-up. Hence, packaging him with Aroldis Chapman, who does have positive trade value. Even then, the Royals will probably have to kick in some money to make it happen to not just get, like, a sack of baseballs and a stocked Pepsi vending machine in return.
One very big wrinkle here is that the Royals can’t unilaterally decide to trade Perez to another team. That’s because Perez has something called 10-and-5 rights, which is awarded to players with at least 10 years of MLB service time and five or more consecutive years of service time with their current team. These rights bestow qualifying players a full no-trade clause. In other words, Perez would have to assent to a trade before it could happen.
Now, we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors here. But as Carrington Harrison spoke about last week on 610 Sports Radio, it is entirely possible that Perez is simply sick of losing. The clock on his career is ticking, and the hard truth is that the Royals will likely not be competitive for the duration of his contract. If Perez wants a chance to contribute to a team with a winning record—let alone a team that is in a playoff race—ever again as a player, he must do so elsewhere. It would otherwise be odd for the Royals, who can afford Perez’s contract, would suddenly decide to jettison him at the trade deadline. Maybe Perez wants out.
So, fine, let’s say that Perez wants the chance to hit a glorious walkoff playoff single again and there’s a team that is willing to pull the trigger to acquire him to do so. Is it a good idea on Kansas City’s part? Could they get a return worth it? And wouldn’t fans be mad?
To obliquely reference the 1989 classic Major League, I think the Royals have zoomed way past the point of diminishing returns for shittiness. Somehow, the team has played at a 99-loss place over the past six-seasons. Royals attendance hit a 47-year low last season and is even lower this season. Plus, it’s never been more complicated and frustrating to watch the Royals (or baseball in general) as a cord-cutter. The fans that are still around will keep watching regardless if Perez is on the team or not, and those whose support would have been affected by a Perez trade have already checked out. Kansas City is also on track to lose 100 again with or without Perez.
As for whether it’s a good idea to trade him, well, the Royals wouldn’t get much of a return for Perez unless they ate a bunch of money, which I suppose is possible. But I guess it doesn’t really matter: if Perez wants a trade, the Royals will try to make it happen, and they’ll save at least some money in the deal. If Perez doesn’t want a trade, I don’t think the Royals trade him. It’s probably as simple as that.
It’s mostly just sad that the Royals are here in the first place. The AL Central is a dumpster fire, and a halfway decent team could compete for the division. The Royals are not halfway decent, to put it gently. That we’re discussing a trade of Perez at this point is an indictment on how the Royals have been run, which is to say exceedingly poorly. I wish it wasn’t the case. So, too, does Salvy, most likely.