The Royals Are Interested In Felix Pie

Word is that the Royals are interested in Felix Pie, but had a hard time meeting the O’s demands (Alex Gordon or Billy Butler, sounds like). Here’s my immediate reaction:

Come one Andy, go for the kill. Tell them how much Pie will improve their OBP (seriously) and about his awesome defense. Plus he runs fast! (Add “zoom”/”woosh” sound effects here if necessary.) They’ve got Zack Greinke, so they can clearly spare a pitching prospect or two. And with Billy Butler at first-base, they don’t need Kila Ka’aihue.

What would be a reasonable return though, and should the Orioles try to get something done?

I had previously projected Pie as having around $15 M in value, as a solid though below average player. (If Pie would get to play full-time and is a 2 WAR player then it’s more like $20 M..)  The return should therefore be something like a 50-75 ranked prospect in baseball – though I somewhat doubt the Royals would be willing to part with third-baseman Mike Moustakas. The 21 year-old hit .250/.297/.421 in High A-Ball this season, after posting a .272/.337/.468 line last year. He used to play short, but probably couldn’t be moved back there going forward. If not Mous, then it would probably take a package of players.

The Royals, like the Orioles, are deep in pitching prospects than hitting prospects and so a nice match isn’t especially easy to find. Kila Ka’aihue is probably not going to get an extended chance with KC anytime soon, and the he would fit a hole at first-base/DH for the club. He’s not young at 25 and had a down season this year (.252/.392/.433, 17 HR in Triple-A), but absolutely raked in ’08 to the tune of .314/.456/.628 with 37 HR split between Double-A and Triple-A.  John Sickles ranked him as a C+ prospect going into 2010, which is worth something like $5 M in value. To get another $10 M, we’re probably looking at a B+/B pitching prospect. Someone like Tim Melville (3.98 FIP in A-Ball, grade B), Aaron Crow (drafted in the first round in ’09, grade B), or Danny Duffy (2.84 FIP in High A-Ball, grade B). Maybe toss in a C/C- guy on top of that, but that’s probably too much.

An interesting idea put forward by devil_fingers (of Driveline Mechanics and now FanGraphs fame), would be pitcher Brian Bannister. Banny was a Super-Two last year so he’s already in arbitration, but there’s still 3 years of team control left. Now – personally speaking – I would be in favor of that trade only because it would give me someone awesome to try to interview. That would be so very awesome for me. How about for the team though?

After a fine rookie season and a down 2008, Banny reinvented himself as a groundball pitcher and the results were solid (4.14 FIP, 49.5 GB%, 2.8 WAR). Assuming Bannister is a 2.5 WAR pitcher going forward – and using $4.5 M per WAR with inflation of 7% yearly and 60%-80%-80% arbitration to full value rates in his remaining years – you’ve got an excess value to the team of $9.5 M. That’s quite convenient.

So a Felix Pie for Brian Bannister and Kila Ka’aihue deal would be pretty even (Royals could potentially add in a B-/C+ prospect to cover Pie’s upside), and have the extra added bonus of getting a pitcher onto the team that might actually have a positive impact on the young starters beyond what the coaching staff would do.

Of course, given that Dayton Moore traded for Yuniesky Betancourt and Mike Jacobs, maybe Andy MacPhail could wrangle up Banny, Kila, and a B-/C+ guy PLUS one of Duffy/Crow/Melville.