SAN DIEGO -- It's that time of the baseball season: Round up the usual suspects and head for the Trade Deadline.
Yes, it's still a little over a month away until 3 p.m. CT on July 31, but never too early to start sorting clubs into the category of buyer, seller or "hmmm."
The Royals, being in the American League dungeon, logically would be in a sales booth, and they've got some of the usual suspects -- veteran players who are doing well enough or have enough crunch-time experience that they might be attractive to contending clubs.
They've got outfielders in Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, both of whom have reinvigorated flagging careers; a corner infielder in Wilson Betemit, who switch-hits and does it well, and pitchers in Bruce Chen, Jeff Francis or Kyle Davies, all starters who could fill a rotation vacancy somewhere.
Those are the most obvious possible trade pieces that the Royals have on their roster. But what would they want in return?
Their biggest needs are top-of-the-line starting pitchers and a right-handed hitter with power. And, yeah, granting those wishes on the list with players who will have immediate impact is not very likely.
Not without sacrificing some hot young players, and the Royals are building around the likes of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Aaron Crow and Danny Duffy, so that's not going to happen.
"Any deal that we would potentially make would be something that we felt would help us long term," general manager Dayton Moore said. "We'll be open-minded as we move forward, as we always are, but there's no specific strategy in place where we're trying to push a certain player."
If the Royals are going to deal any of their veterans, probably the most they can get in return are more young prospects who might help the cause in the next year or two. That's when the Royals' master plan has them maturing and blossoming into contenders.
That's basically what the Royals did last year. On July 22, they acquired young starter Sean O'Sullivan and pitching prospect Will Smith from the Angels in exchange for third baseman Alberto Callaspo. On July 28, they acquired catcher Lucas May and pitcher Elisaul Pimentel, both prospects, from the Dodgers for outfielder Scott Podsednik. On July 31, they got promising players in outfielder Gregor Blanco and pitchers Tim Collins and Jesse Chavez from the Braves for outfielder Rick Ankiel, pitcher Kyle Farnsworth and cash.
If there was anything in the works for outfielder David DeJesus, that possibility ended when he broke a finger slamming into the Yankee Stadium wall on July 22. There were later moves, as outfielder Jose Guillen was designated for assignment and then traded on Aug. 13 to the Giants for a player to be named, pitcher Kevin Pucetas, and utilityman Willie Bloomquist was dealt on Sept. 13 to the Reds for cash.
All of the acquired players, except for May and Blanco, are still in the organization and still in the future plans. Collins and O'Sullivan are on the Major League roster although O'Sullivan is on the disabled list.
Two players on the Royals' usual suspects list have been through this before, and they are not concerned about the Trade Deadline.
"Literally, no," Chen said. "Early in my career, it did affect me because I got traded two or three times at the Trade Deadline. You never know what's going to happen ... but I'm happy here and I feel like I can help this team win, and that we still have a chance. We're not where we want to be, but we definitely have a team that can compete."
Nor is Francoeur losing any sleep over it.
"For me, I used to get on the websites and look at the trade rumor stuff and read it," Francoeur said. "I don't anymore. What's going to happen is going to happen. I've made it well known to Dayton and all these guys that I like it here and I want to be here, and I think I'm a good fit to help this team going forward, at least the next couple years."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.