Earlier today we learned that according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the Mariners and Orioles are both showing strong interest toward Billy Butler. Of course, Butler would be an incredibly tough asset to part ways with, and while it likely isn't a shock, according to a source I have that has spoken with David Glass, the organization is conflicted regarding the 26 year old designated hitter. He would be incredibly valuable on the trade market, but he has huge value to the team in that he is one of the few sure things on the roster. Based off my conversations, it sounds to me like Kansas City would have to be floored by an offer to move Bill the Thrill.
But what would it take?
Seattle Mariners Thoughts
As far as Seattle is concerned, the Royals would have to look to fill multiple holes in any trade. What I mean by this, is that not only would Seattle have to send a young arm Kansas City's way, but they would also have to send a hitter. There are two hitters that fit the bill. First, there is Nick Franklin. Franklin is near Major League ready and could feasibly slide right into second base, thus filling one of the few holes the Royals have on the offensive side.
The other option would be Jesus Montero. Montero has been linked to the Royals in the past, but I don't see any point in rehashing that subject again. Montero is coming off a disappointing year in Seattle, but as Royals fans we know how it goes with young hitters. The upside is still there and he continues to project as a middle of the order designated hitter, with the capability to spell Salvador Perez on occasion.
On the pitching side of things, the Mariners offer a triumvirate of Minor League hurlers with front end upside: Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton. Personally, I would prefer the three in that order, but I have to admit I am very back and forth between Hultzen and Walker. Hultzen is the closer of the two, but not many pitching prospects can match the upside of Walker.
Finally though, I would like a sweetener, his name is Jason Vargas. Vargas is a nice piece, but only offers one year of team control. His presence could hold down a spot in the rotation, which would allow the other pitcher in the deal some time to develop before making the jump to the Majors. Quite frankly, if it made sense perhaps the Royals add in Bruce Chen to fill Vargas's void in the Seattle staff. Here's how the deal would look:
Franklin or Montero + Hultzen, Walker or Paxton + Vargas for Butler and Chen
Pros: Royals are able to diversify their assets, while potentially acquiring a front end starter. Royals also gain more years of team control. Royals slightly upgrade 2013 rotation. Royals clear around $7.5 million in payroll space.
Cons: In the short run the Royals take a step back. They trade off their most advance hitter and a guy who was the eighth most efficient hitter in baseball in RBI situations.
Closing Thought: I've done a lot of research regarding the expected production of top prospects and my findings mirror those of others in the field. There is about a 50% chance that Franklin or Montero turn into the guy you hope they will be. There is about a 25% chance that whoever you get out of Hultzen, Walker or Paxton will turn into that front of the rotation starter. For a team that believes it is about to turn the corner do you trade a guy that already has developed into an All-Star for these odds? Do you roll the dice?
Baltimore Orioles Thoughts
As far as Baltimore is concerned, the trade discussion pretty well has to start and end with Dylan Bundy. Of course, Bundy is considered by many to be the top prospect in all of baseball and almost as untouchable as players come. But here is the problem, there are only about three players in the entire Baltimore organization that would be worth trading Butler for. The first is Manny Machado, who seems to be entrenched in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. The second is Kevin Gausman, who was just drafted last June and thus can't officially be traded for several months. The third is the aforementioned Bundy.
Obviously, I would love to see Kansas City get their hands on Dylan Bundy. He seems to be as sure fire of an ace as they come. But even he has the odds against him. (Not to mention the hype surrounding him has gotten a bit out of control. I mean seriously, to get him Kansas City should trade Myers + Butler for him? Give me a break.) Much has been said regarding the Royals love of Dylan Bundy entering the 2011 draft and since. Could this finally be their opportunity to acquire him? My gut says "no way". However, if the Orioles offered him for Butler straight up, I would have an incredibly hard time saying no.
Update: According to Bob Dutton, Royals officials view Seattle as a fall back option. This is an interesting choice of words. The implication to me is that the Royals are definitely looking at other options regarding Butler. Although, this could also be taken to me they are a fallback to upgrading the rotation. If this latter is the case, I don't think moving your top hitter should ever the fall back option, that just screams of desperation.
As for Baltimore, Dutton states the Orioles are an even "tougher match." As I outlined in this post, there is zero pieces of interest outside of the aforementioned prospects and I can't imagine Baltimore willing to part with any of the three. Situations like that make deals incredibly hard to navigate.