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KC looking to jump-start rebuild at Deadline

Moustakas, Duffy, Merrifield among impact players Royals may swap for top prospects
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- At the Winter Meetings last December, Royals general manager Dayton Moore conceded that rough times were ahead.

"It's going to be challenging," he said.

KANSAS CITY -- At the Winter Meetings last December, Royals general manager Dayton Moore conceded that rough times were ahead.

"It's going to be challenging," he said.

Moore recently had brought home back-to-back pennants and subsequently a World Series championship in 2015. But much-needed trades for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist in 2015 had depleted Moore of several pitching prospects, including talented left-hander Sean Manaea, now with Oakland.

And rather than trade off Kansas City's best assets from those 2014-15 teams as they approached free agency, Moore mostly went all-in in '16 and '17 with hopes of reaching the postseason once again with his core group.

Moore made two additional deals, giving up left-hander Matt Strahm and high Draft pick A.J. Puckett at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season in hopes of bolstering a team that was positioned as the second American League Wild Card team on July 30 and was just two games back of the first-place Indians in the AL Central.

The Royals, though, faded down the stretch. And the bill came due.

All that was left for Moore to do was to make qualifying offers to his best players -- Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas -- that wound up securing two compensatory picks in the 2018 Draft.

Video: KC@SEA: Moustakas crushes a 3-run homer to right

And so the rebuild is on, though mostly in its infancy stages.

With that rebuild has come some obvious discomfort in the win-loss column. Kansas City is 27-68 at the break, which is the worst record in Major League Baseball and its worst start in franchise history.

Here's a quick look at the direction the Royals are heading for the rest of 2018:

Current status: Seller
The selling already began when the Royals traded outfielder Jon Jay and closer Kelvin Herrera in June. The rebuild is on. Herrera netted third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, now Kansas City's No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and outfielder Blake Perkins (No. 14). The Jay trade netted No. 27 prospect right-hander Elvis Luciano.

Video: TEX@KC: Herrera reflects on his time in Kansas City

What they are seeking
Prospects, prospects, prospects. The Royals' Minor League system took a hit after the 2015 trades and needs to be restocked.

What they have to offer
Moustakas will almost certainly be dealt. The veteran third baseman signed a one-year deal in March, and with 19 home runs, he should be an attractive fit for a contender hoping to deepen its batting order. First baseman Lucas Duda could be a nice left-handed bat off the bench for a contender. Kansas City also would like to move right-hander Jason Hammel, now as a bullpen piece -- he has been impressive in his two relief outings since being demoted from the rotation and is hitting 94-95 mph with his four-seamer. Right-hander Wily Peralta, now the unofficial closer, could be of some help to a contender as well. Perhaps the most attractive assets are utility man Whit Merrifield and left-hander Danny Duffy because of club control on both for years to come.

Video: CLE@KC: Merrifield clubs a solo jack in the 1st

Possible scenario
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand suggests, quite logically, that Moustakas won't be dealt until Manny Machado is moved, which will start the domino effect. Moustakas still seems like a solid fit for the Phillies, Braves, Yankees, Cardinals or Angels. Merrifield can play any position on the diamond, making him a fit for any contender. Duffy has been dominant lately, posting a 2.73 ERA in his past 10 starts, and would be attractive anywhere as well.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Danny Duffy, Jason Hammel, Whit Merrifield, Mike Moustakas