The trades I am pushing have a common theme, which is that the team needs to free up space in it's lineup for the young players who will come up out of the farm system to contribute next season. We can pencil in the following starters in next years lineup for guaranteed contractual reasons:
C - Kendall
SS - Betancourt
1B - Butler
P - Greinke
P - Meche
P - Hochevar
P - Soria
P - Wood
P - Tejada
While it probably makes more sense to trade Soria right now than any other player on the roster, as he'd bring the most in return and the Royals are hardly making an effort to use him (woo! blowout wins!), it's pretty safe to say that he's going to be in next year's bullpen, and should account for that. If 9 players on this year's team are going to be on next years team for sure, then there are 2 or 3 others who could be here next year under current deals and/or arbitration, but their names are going to surface heavily in trade talks over the next month.
David DeJesus seems like the best place to start. He's been on such a torrid pace over the last month with the bat. You probably realized the guy is on base two or three times every game, but you might not have realized that he's 6th in the AL in hits, 7th in doubles (Butler is tied for first), 7th in batting average, 7th in triples,13th in wOBA, 15th in OPS, 7th in OBP, and first on the Royals in slugging percentage and on-base (and OPS, if you want to add those together). He's been, and figures to be, one of the best hitters in the AL for the rest of the year. He's really good at defense (though clearly, his range is sub-par in CF) Maybe there's some teams where those numbers just barely good enough to be a fourth outfielder, but those teams don't play baseball in the year 2010.
At the beginning of the year, I would have said that there's no way you go and trade DeJesus with a team friendly contract option for 2011, and with a steady contributor who probably wouldn't return too much in a deal: he's worth too much to the Royals to trade and he's not expensive. But you have to look at what the Tigers turned Curtis Granderson into this past offseason: CF Austin Jackson, RP Phil Coke, and an upgrade from Edwin Jackson to Max Scherzer on the mound. DeJesus and Granderson were outfielders of pretty similar value in 2009, but DeJesus wouldn't have brought as much in a trade because he was a year older. What he's doing in 2009 is very remarkable, and with Granderson struggling with injuries and a .320 on base percentage in New York, the Royals have every right to respect an even better return for DeJesus. Boston and San Francisco have already inquired on DeJesus, and both need him badly for different reasons. Boston has been great offensively this year, but are struggling with many injuries to position players, while the Giants have been not quite so good.
The Royals really need to receive some sort of team controlled major leaguer or upper minors prospect in order to deal DeJesus. In other words, they need an Austin Jackson of their own. Boston offers the best piece to build a trade package around: CF Josh Reddick, who has played some in the majors for Boston this year, but has failed to establish his bat above AA in just over 150 PAs. He's 23 and major league ready, though the Royals would probably stick him in AAA for the remainder of the season. The other AL team I could see making a play on DeJesus would be the Angels (who would play him in LF, most likely), and they'd have to build a package around speedy CF Peter Bourjos. The Angels also have OF Mike Trout tearing up the Midwest League at age 18, but the Royals probably don't want to deal DeJesus for an 18 year old, nor would the Angels likely give up a top prospect for DeJesus.
I'd be interested to see if the Dodgers bought a straight swap of DeJesus for Matt Kemp. They shouldn't, but they also shouldn't have traded Carlos Santana for the right to negotiate an extension with Casey Blake. The darkhorse I like to land DeJesus at the deadline is the Cincinnati Reds, who are almost certain to make a move of some sort, and definitely have the pieces to work with: Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, and even Drew Stubbs could be the centerpiece of a package for the Royals' outfielder. We'll have to see exactly what they are planning to do with Gary Matthews Jr. that might limit their trade options, but they're in the race, will make a move, and DeJesus could actually put them over the top.
The Royals have one other everyday player who is still in his arbitration years who probably is worth more in a trade than to the Royals, and that's Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo, who spent the last two and a half years as a young, troubled acquisition in the middle infield, is now playing a good defensive third base for the major league club. The problem is that his move down the defensive spectrum is now blocking AA phenom Mike Moustakas in the big leagues. While the Royals will likely not rush Moose to the big leagues, the last thing the Royals can afford is to not have a spot in the big league lineup for him when he's ready, or have to use the DH position for Billy Butler in order to get Moustakas reps at first base. Callaspo could always go back across the field to second base, but considering how far the Royals went to get him off that position, trading him seems like a better option.
Callaspo is a valuable player under team control for two more seasons, so that increases the number of bidders for his services to include small market teams. He's unlikely to bring back much more than perhaps a bench player or relieving prospect, plus maybe a toolzy A-ball player who is a longshot to make the big leagues, but at this point, Callaspo isn't going to project to be a starter on a .500 or better Royals team, meaning there's little reason to keep him around. I would trade him at the deadline if only because the team can get more for him, and also because the team has 26 year old Ed Lucas raking at Omaha. He's not a prospect, but the Royals could give him all the work they are giving Callaspo, and possibly end up with another trade chip in the offseason.
The third player who is under contract in 2011 for the Royals but probably should be shopped now is Brian Bannister. The concept here is not that Bannister can't be a valuable player for the Royals next year at age 30, as he'll probably just be himself from the last two seasons. But every team that fancies itself a playoff contender is going to need to bolster that pitching depth -- particularly the teams that Bannister would be the no. 3 starter on: the Mets, the Angels, the Mariners, the Tigers, the Padres, the Brewers, and the Rockies are all potential landing targets for him.
Those three players would likely bring some return, but there's high incentive for the Royals to toss aside some of the veterans who have expiring contracts at the end of this year so they don't have to keep playing them all year. Scott Podsednik, Jose Guillen, Wilson Betemit, Willie Bloomquist, and Kyle Farnsworth have no future with the team next year, but they've all had their moments as Royals. At this point, straight giveaways of these players are probably better than riding them out here. Farnsworth might be an exception to that rule because his ability to eat innings is valuable to a team that struggles as much as the Royals, but the position players should be turned into whatever the heck the team can get for them. Guillen is the most important move -- there's just no reason he should finish out the season here.
The return for trading all 8 of the above player would likely amount to a cheap, major league ready outfielder with potential, a high level defensive backstop, a couple of legitimate relieving prospects or mid tier pitching prospects, and a whole bunch of farmhands with little projection. That's not going to do your franchise any favors for next year, in fact, the 2011 Royals aren't likely any better with that injection of youth than they are with DeJesus, Callaspo, and Bannister all on the team. But beyond that, an even strong farm system is more important than some veteran leadership in 2011, all things equal, and the Royals should do what it takes over the next month to maximize the return on these players.