MLB Rumors: Royals holding a golden ticket at trade deadline

Aroldis Chapman, Kansas City Royals (Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports)
Aroldis Chapman, Kansas City Royals (Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Kansas City Royals hold one of the prizes of the upcoming MLB trade deadline. 

The Kansas City Royals are expected to be trade deadline sellers ahead of Aug. 1 after opening the season 18-44. With wild card hopes out the window, no player is off limits. The biggest name circling the rumor mill right now is LHP Aroldis Chapman, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

According to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, a Chapman trade is “certain.” It’s a matter of when, not if. The Royals could package him with another key player, such as RHP Scott Barlow or C Salvador Pérez, to shed salary. If another team wants Chapman now, instead of waiting for the deadline, it would take a significant prospect haul.

Chapman has been drawing interest around the league since early May.

The Kansas City Royals will trade Aroldis Chapman, but where?

With an average fastball speed approaching 100 MPH, Chapman is slinging the ball faster than he has in years. There’s only so much a reliever can do to influence the broader trajectory of his team, but Chapman isn’t to blame for the Royals’ struggles.

His ERA of 2.95 is the lowest mark of his career since 2019. He’s averaging 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings with only eight hits compared to 35 strikeouts across 21.1 innings pitched. Those are the numbers of a player who can greatly improve any bullpen.

At 35 years old, Chapman is past his prime and he is quite possibly a rental. No team will pay top dollar to get him, but a desperate contender will surely fork over a couple decent prospects. The Royals are also playing it smart at the negotiating table. An earlier trade — say in June, instead of July — could net them more assets in exchange for a longer rental period. With the season already down the drain, there’s no point in waiting.

If the Royals do decide to package Chapman with another player to dump salary (or gain more assets), that will only further their rebuild over the second half of the season. Barlow in particular could interest teams; both are quality relievers who can reinvigorate a languid bullpen.

There’s an inherent intrigue around Chapman as a player. He’s must-watch television on the mound with his blistering heaters and slippery sliders. The Cubs have been floated as a potential landing spot, while other bullpen-hungry groups like the Padres or Phillies could emerge as strong candidates too.

Like Rosenthal said, it’s a matter of if, not when. Royals fans should buckle in for a potentially chaotic trade season ahead of Aug. 1.

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