KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals general manager Dayton Moore doesn’t like the term “seller” when the topic turns to the fast-approaching July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
“I’ve been given no directive (from ownership) to unload money,” he said. “I look at where we are and who we are, and I embrace that and what we need to do.”
Still, the Royals are barely clinging to the edge of postseason contention – 9½ games back – as they open their post-break schedule tonight with the first of three weekend games against first-place Chicago at Kauffman Stadium.
And they do have a few veterans whose long-term future with the club is debatable and who could be dangled as trade chips in coming days: relievers Jonathan Broxton and José Mijares, infielder Yuniesky Betancourt and outfielder Jeff Francoeur.
“We’re not actively pushing any of those players,” Moore insisted. “If they are fits for other organizations, I’m sure we’ll be contacted. Anytime anybody inquires about any of our players, we’ll go through the process.
“If it makes sense as a good baseball deal, I’ll act accordingly.”
Broxton and Betancourt are pending free agents with affordable contracts – owed about $1.9 million and $950,000, respectively, through the end of the season. But the new labor rules figure to make any deal tougher to execute.
Neither player is now likely to generate compensation if they sign elsewhere after the season, which depresses their value to other clubs. Previously, a contender might surrender more for a short-term gain because of anticipated compensation.
Mijares rebuilt his value this season by compiling a 1.62 ERA in 41 games and would be a good fit for any contender seeking a situational lefty. He, too, is affordable at approximately $450,000 remaining on his one-year deal.
But teams rarely surrender much for set-up relievers and, anyway, the Royals control Mijares through 2014. There will be interest in him from other clubs, but, unless the return is tangible, the Royals have little reason to make a deal.
Francoeur is a different matter. He is already drawing scrutiny from opposing scouts even though he is under contract through next season with approximately $10 million remaining on his guaranteed deal.
It’s also easy to see how the Royals, by trading Francoeur, could open a space for top prospect Wil Myers. Plus, Francoeur is the type of veteran often attractive to clubs seeking to make a postseason push.
The problem for the Royals is Francoeur’s salary and disappointing first half set up an either/or proposition. They might be able to trade him in a salary dump for little in return; or they might recoup a secondary prospect or two if willing to eat some salary. Not both.
Here’s the twist in all of this: The Royals aren’t really looking for prospects.
Moore said the club is positioned differently from previous years – that this isn’t, say, 2010, when he shopped outfielders Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel along with reliever Kyle Farnsworth for whatever prospects could be gleaned in return.
“What’s missing from our team right now,” Moore said, “is we need to score more runs. We’re getting hits, but we need to score more runs. We’re (12th) in the American League in runs scored.
“Our starting pitching, in ERA, is among the worst in the American League. Our bullpen has been pretty solid for us. It’s pretty apparent where we need to improve.
“When we go forward in making any deals, we’re going to have to make deals where we improve our team in those areas or we don’t do anything. Just to get prospects back … no, it’s not the same (as in previous years).”
The Royals, in fact, are quite willing to deal prospects to fill holes at the major-league level, especially in the rotation, although any such deal seems more likely to occur after the season.
“We’re at a stage in our development,” Moore said, “where we want back ready major-league players to help us. Three or four years ago, yeah, we’re looking for prospects.
“It’s very clear what the vision is. Now, we have prospects in our system. You can always use more. But we need guys who can help our major-league team.”
Those players are rarely available from contenders at the trading deadline. That might mean the Royals stand pat.