Kansas City Royals Rumors

Kansas City Royals trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Pirates Acquire Joe Blanton

The Pirates announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Joe Blanton from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations. Blanton had been designated for assignment by the Royals earlier this week despite generally solid numbers, and he’ll join the Pirates’ roster tomorrow.

Blanton made a nice comeback to the Majors this season after spending the 2014 season away from the game. He’s pitched quite well overall for the Royals, working to a 3.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. Blanton’s 90.8 mph average fastball is the fastest of his career, though one can imagine that’s partly attributable to the fact that 11 of his 15 appearances have come in a relief role.

The veteran Blanton seems likely to be asked to help the Pirates in a relief capacity, but he could also emerge as an option at the back end of their rotation eventually. Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano have all turned in excellent seasons thus far, but each of Jeff Locke, Vance Worley and Charlie Morton has posted an ERA above 4.00.


Pitching Notes: Leake, Astros, Pirates, Angels, Johnson, Royals

The sudden availability of David Price will shake up the starting pitching market, of course, but there are plenty of less significant, but still notable developments to cover. Let’s take a look in at a few notes on the pitching market.

  • Reds starter Mike Leake is among the many pitchers still being considered by the Blue Jays, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Per Rosenthal, the club is looking at a variety of arms at a similar level of ability, with the hope of getting the best value out of a deal.
  • The Astros are “monitoring” the market for bullpen pieces, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. They have given at least some thought to quality arms like Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, and Francisco Rodriguez. Houston is also still involved on Cole Hamels, though it still doesn’t seem that they are terribly likely to get him, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • The Pirates, meanwhile, seem to be looking more at middle relief options, per MLB.com’s Tom Singer. And the Angels are also looking to add another arm to their pen, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter. Los Angeles is looking for something on the order of last year’s addition of Jason Grilli says Gonzalez. Presumably, the same holds for Pittsburgh, which sent Grilli out west last summer in exchange for Ernesto Frieri.
  • With many teams (including those just noted) looking to add arms, the Braves are “getting lots of play” on righty Jim Johnson, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets. Johnson isn’t too expensive, has been solid this year, and has obviously spent a lot of time in high-leverage situations, so it stands to reason that he’ll be moved to a contender looking to build out their stable of relief arms.
  • The Royals asked the Tigers about Price before acquiring Johnny Cueto, but moved on to the righty when they learned that Price was not yet being marketed, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets.
  • Wondering who the teams listed above could target? MLBTR recently listed the starters and relievers most likely to be available at this year’s trade deadline.

AL Central Notes: Twins, Polanco, Tigers, White Sox

The Twins announced the call-up of highly-regarded shortstop prospect Jorge Polanco, who will take the roster spot of Trevor Plouffe as he heads to the paternity list. It’s unclear as yet whether Polanco — currently rated the 89th overall prospect in the game by MLB.com — will stick around for a lengthier stretch. He has already seen two brief cameos, and Minnesota probably hopes he’s the future at the position. But the team is struggling to find consistency at shortstop now, as it continues to remain in contention. GM Terry Ryan said yesterday that he isn’t ruling out the possibility of adding a shortstop in the next three days, as MLB.com’s Betsy Helfand reports“If you’ve got a chance to get better, then you look at it,” Ryan said. “If you’ve got a chance to just do something to make a move, that wouldn’t be very smart, either. We’ve got three of them here.” Polanco now joins that group, which also includes Danny Santana, Eduardo Escobar, and Eduardo Nunez. As I noted in breaking down the shortstop trade market, Minnesota figures as a possible participant, and could find some veteran options available at reasonable prices.

Here’s more from the AL Central:

  • As they approach the deadline, the Twins should exercise caution in making deals for their short-term impact, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN writes. He advocates for a bullpen addition or two, at a relatively low cost, as the best way to balance the team’s solid position in the Wild Card hunt with its long-term interests.
  • Indeed, even with the Royals making big moves to bolster their already high-performing roster, the Twins do not seem inclined to respond to keep up with their division rivals. As MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports on Twitter, Ryan indicated that his moves won’t be dictated by what Kansas City has done: “You still have to do what’s right for your own club,” he said. “You’re not going to be reactionary.”
  • The Twins have steadily enhanced their reliance on analytics, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press writes“It’s probably not at the level the Pirates were at and are at,” says Twins manager of major league administration and baseball research Jack Goin, “but it’s significantly better (than it was). This is just kind of a natural evolution.” You’ll want to give the full piece a read for an interesting look at Minnesota’s changing philosophies.
  • After another rough loss yesterday, the Tigers should be deadline sellers, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press opines. While Detroit is still on the periphery of the Wild Card race, four and a half out, the club has now dipped 13.5 games back of the division-leading Royals. For George Sipple of MLive.com, given the club’s veteran core, there’s a case to be made in either direction — adding pieces or selling off expiring veteran contracts — but no real argument for standing pat.
  • With the White Sox now climbing past the Tigers in the standings, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that he believes there’s a better chance of Detroit moving David Price than there is of Chicago parting with Jeff Samardzija. Both will hit the open market after the year, of course. It’s worth bearing in mind that the latter has far less trade value, making it somewhat easier for the White Sox to keep him and plan to recoup prospect value by extending a qualifying offer after the season (with expectations that it will be declined).


Reactions To The Ben Zobrist Trade

The Royals added their second major rental piece via trade earlier today, acquiring Ben Zobrist from the Athletics in exchange for right-hander Aaron Brooks and minor league lefty Sean Manaea. It’s another steep price for the Royals to pay, as they’ve now parted with their first-round picks from both 2014 (Brandon Finnegan) and 2013 (Manaea) in addition to their 2013 second-rounder (Cody Reed).

Here are some reactions from around the web…

  • Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with several Athletics players and GM Billy Beane about the move. “You’d rather be on the other end of it,” Beane told Slusser. “We’ve been on both sides in my tenure here, but you have to be realistic in evaluating your situation going forward. This season we had high hopes and we got off on the wrong foot….and it just snowballed.” Beane stressed that he has no plans to trade a player that is controlled beyond the 2015 season, Slusser adds. Beane said that Manaea wasn’t the type of player he thought he could get in a deal, but he’s happy to bring him on board. Athletics DH Billy Butler is familiar with Manaea from his time in the Royals organization. “I thought Manaea was untouchable,” said Butler, who praised Manaea’s “tremendous” arm.
  • Brooks was assigned to Triple-A following the trade, but he won’t stay there long. Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area tweets that Brooks will start Saturday’s contest for the Athletics. A roster move will have to be made prior to that happening, of course, though Brooks is already on the 40-man roster.
  • While Zobrist isn’t the player that he was a couple of years ago, he’ll still be a significant improvement over Omar Infante at second base (once he moves there upon Alex Gordon‘s return from the DL), writes ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required/recommended). Zobrist is at least a one-win upgrade, if not more, says Law, who finds the price paid by Kansas City a reasonable one. Manaea’s upside is tantalizing and Law has seen him at his best, but he also notes that he saw him unable to hold his velocity two weeks ago. Manaea’s injury history raises questions about whether he can handle the workload of a starter. If he proves durable enough, Law notes that Manaea can be at least a mid-rotation starter even with average velocity, or more if he can stay healthy and maintain his velocity deeper in games. Brooks fits the strike-thrower mold of Tommy Milone or Kendall Graveman he adds — a fringe rotation option for many teams that could succeed due to Oakland’s cavernous stadium.
  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com (video link) broke down the prospects acquired in the trade, praising Manaea’s “solid first full season” but explaining that the lefty dropped off MLB.com’s Top 100 on their midseason update, in part due to missing the first half of 2015 with non-arm related injuries. Mayo feels that if everything comes together for Manaea, he can be “at least” a No. 3 starter, but “has a chance to be much more than that.” Brooks doesn’t come with a big upside but has average stuff across the board and four-pitch mix that can pitch as a fourth or fifth starter. The Athletics’ trade activity over the past week has done quite a bit to restore what had been a declining group of Top 30 prospects and deepen Oakland’s farm, Mayo adds.
  • The Royals were pursuing Zobrist even before acquiring Cueto, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The team had, in fact, pegged Cueto and Zobrist as its two top targets entering the trade deadline, and they’ve managed to secure both pieces. As McCullough notes, last season, the Royals “spun their wheels” and tried for incremental upgrades at the deadline, pursuing deals for Marlon Byrd and Alex Rios without success. Riding a World Series berth and record attendance, however, the Royals have been able to take a win-now, all-in approach that the organization and its fans haven’t experienced before.
  • One NL exec told ESPN’s Jayson Stark that Manaea was the most surprising prospect he saw traded today, calling him an “impact player” and opining that the A’s did well to acquire him in the deal (Twitter link). Stark’s colleague, Buster Olney, tweets that he’s heard other teams praising the Athletics’ acquisition of Manaea as well.
  • MLBTR’s Zach Links was among the reporters on today’s conference call with Royals GM Dayton Moore. As Zach wrote, Moore said he doesn’t foresee making any significant additions between now and the trade deadline, so it would seem that the heavy lifting for Kansas City is out of the way.
  • Instagram users can check out our new @traderumorsmlb account for a glimpse of what Zobrist will look like in his new uniform when he joins the team, which will reportedly happen on Thursday.

Royals GM Dayton Moore Talks Zobrist Trade

Dayton Moore pulled off a major acquisition when he landed ace Johnny Cueto from the Reds on Sunday, but he didn’t rest on his laurels after that trade.  Today, he finalized another major deal when he acquired versatile veteran Ben Zobrist from the A’s.  Earlier today, I asked the Royals GM if he was under a mandate from ownership to go for broke this summer and make major moves.

We always have a mandate to put the best team on the field,” Moore told reporters on the conference call.  “Certainly the play of our team and how our players have responded gives us more motivation to make moves, but we’ve always tried to do whatever could at the deadline to make our team better for the second half, even when we weren’t competing.”

While Cueto came to K.C. before Zobrist, the GM explained that talks with Oakland actually started before the discussions with Cincinnati. There are still a few days to go until the trade deadline but Moore doesn’t expect to make another blockbuster deal between now and Friday.  Like a responsible Christmas shopper, it appears that Moore has avoided the rush to get the top shelf prizes.  Interestingly, however, he says the timing of it all was happenstance.

You’ll have to speak with [Reds GM] Walt [Jocketty] and [A’s GM] Billy [Beane], but for me, they were just satisfied with the package that was offered,” said Moore.  “I don’t think anybody is gonna execute a deal unless they’re as satisfied as they can be.  When we enter into these types of discussions for a player we want we are very aggressive.  We have a good idea of what we want and what we want to provide as far as the package goes and what they desire…No sense in stringing things out and creating unnecessary tension.  If you know at the end of the day that you’re going to get to a certain place, you might as well get there.”

Zobrist is expected to join his new teammates “in a day or two,” and when he gets in the mix, he’ll be slotted in left field rather than second base, where he’ll be filling in for the currently injured Alex Gordon.  There’s plenty of work ahead for Zobrist, Cueto, and the Royals, but it sounds like their GM is done with the heavy lifting for the week.


Royals Designate Joe Blanton For Assignment

The Royals announced that they’ve designated right-hander Joe Blanton for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for the newly acquired Johnny Cueto.

Blanton made a nice comeback to the Majors this season after spending the 2014 season away from the game. He’s pitched quite well overall for the Royals, working to a 3.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. Blanton’s 90.8 mph average fastball is the fastest of his career, though one can imagine that’s partly attributable to the fact that 11 of his 15 appearances have come in a relief role.

Nonetheless, Blanton looks much improved over the form he showed in his first and only season with the Angels. After signing a two-year, $16MM contract with Anaheim, Blanton quickly declined, posting a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings, due largely to a colossal spike in his homer-to-flyball rate. Prior to that deal, Blanton had been a solid back-end starter with the Athletics and Phillies. From 2005-12, Blanton averaged 178 innings per season with a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.


Royals Acquire Ben Zobrist

The Royals have officially acquired Athletics utilityman Ben Zobrist, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Young hurlers Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea are the two pieces heading back to the A’s, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter link) were first to report. Kansas City will also pick up over $2MM, which covers a large piece of Zobrist’s remaining salary, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.

Jul 26, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Ben Zobrist (18) crosses home plate after an rbi single by third baseman Brett Lawrie (not pictured) during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY SportsThe deal delivers the second major rental piece heading to Kansas City this summer, as the club already picked up Johnny Cueto from the Reds. After dealing a trio of young arms to get Cueto, and now agreeing to send out two more to add Zobrist, Kansas City is firmly committed to winning this year. The club surprised the baseball world with its World Series run last year, narrowly missing out on a championship, and obviously decided that the time to win was the present after a strong first half in 2015.

[RELATED: Royals GM Dayton Moore Talks Ben Zobrist Trade]

In Zobrist, the Royals have added a uniquely valuable asset who can help the team in several ways. Star outfielder Alex Gordon is still working back from a significant groin strain, creating a need in left field. And the club has received less-than-sterling results from Omar Infante at second. Presumably, Zobrist will move between those positions — as he has for much of his career — depending upon needs and matchups.

Zobrist was perhaps the most hotly pursued player in the league this year, as he looked to be a strong fit for multiple contenders and is only owed the balance of a $7.5MM salary this season. At 34 years of age and set to hit the market after the season, he’s a pure win-now rental.

Despite playing half of his game’s in Oakland’s cavernous ballpark, Zobrist has increased his power output after a down 2014 in that department. He’s also rebounded nicely after getting out of the gate slowly and dealing with injuries. All told, Zobrist owns a .268/.354/.447 slash over 271 turns at bat on the year, with six home runs. Those figures land right at his career mark of .264/.354/.430, so Kansas City will feel comfortable that they are still likely to receive typically strong work at the plate.

There are some additional concerns on the defensive side of the ledger, however. Zobrist has shuttled between the corner outfield and infield this year, as usual, but has been rated as a negative contributor in both positions by advanced metrics. But the Royals will surely feel comfortable utilizing him in either role the rest of the way, based upon his past record as a highly-regarded fielder.

Kansas City has certainly paid a considerable price to add Zobrist, after doing the same to bring in Cueto. Manaea came into the year rated the club’s third overall prospect by Baseball America, just behind the since-dealt Brandon Finnegan, and landed on many top-100 lists. He’s generally shown well since his draft position fell owing to a hip injury, leading to surgery, which allowed K.C. to grab him with an above-slot deal. Manaea earned a promotion to Double-A this season, but has struggled in two outings at that level. All said, he’s missed some time and thrown 31 2/3 total minor league frames on the year, posting a 3.69 ERA with 11.1 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. There’s plenty of upside to dream on, but he’ll have a lot to show in Oakland.

Brooks, meanwhile, is a 25-year-old righty who has seen brief MLB action in each of the last two seasons. He’s spent most of his time in those campaigns at Triple-A, however, posting a cumulative 3.81 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 over 245 2/3 innings. Brooks seems like more of a depth add than the more variable, headlining Manaea.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Market Notes: Guerrero, Iwakuma, Latos, Prado, Cardinals, Ross

The Dodgers are having active discussions on utilityman Alex Guerrero, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Though Guerrero’s contract allows him to opt into free agency after the year if he’s dealt, Rosenthal notes that he’s expressed a willingness to work out a deal with a new team if he’s traded. Guerrero’s production has fallen back after a blistering early showing, and he’s lost playing time along the way, but he does offer relative youth and has shown good power. The 28-year-old has also dealt with a seemingly minor back issue of late. Los Angeles has several other similar utility options, as well as an overflowing stock of outfield pieces, so it’s certainly plausible to imagine that he’d have more value to another team.

Let’s take a look in at some other notable market developments as we continue to see significant activity in advance of Friday’s trade deadline:

  • It’s not yet clear whether the Mariners will move pending free agent righty Hisashi Iwakuma, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Seattle has, however, received interest from several clubs. Since a mediocre and injury-plagued start to the year, Iwakuma has turned in three consecutive solid outings and could be a nice mid-rotation piece for a contender.
  • The Marlins are increasingly “confident” they’ll find a taker for starter Mat Latos, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Latos has pitched well of late and has appeal as a reasonably high-upside rental piece. According to the report, the market for his services is “coming into focus.”
  • Marlins infielder/outfielder Martin Prado increasingly seems available, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). An executive from another club says that the Fish appear to be “open to at least contemplate” a deal, which seemingly indicates slightly more availability than we heard yesterday (when Miami was said to be interested only for a sizable offer). Sherman notes that the Yankees and Mets could join the Royals with interest in Prado as a secondary option to Ben Zobrist (who is expected to be dealt in short order).
  • The Cardinals are looking at possible bullpen additions to slot alongside the just-acquired Steve Cishek, Heyman tweets. St. Louis will hope to bring back righty Jordan Walden in the relatively near future, as he’s progressing through a rehab assignment, but the club has been active in recent years in adding pitching depth.
  • Padres righty Tyson Ross remains a hotly-pursued name on the market, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported yesterday. He’s drawn interest from teams like the Blue JaysAstros, Dodgers, and Rangers, per the report. Expectations are that Ross would require a significant return, and Heyman notes that the team would likely prefer to move other pitching assets.

Impact Of Clippard Deal: Beane On A’s, Latest On Zobrist

Earlier today, the Mets added a late-inning relief arm in Tyler Clippard. That move did not come as a major surprise, but it nevertheless created a ripple effect for the two teams involved, as well as the rest of the market.

  • Most notably, perhaps, Athletics GM Billy Beane indicated in his comments on the deal that the team could continue to build up lower-level prospect depth in its summer trades, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports“The Houston Astros have done a really good job of spending the last three or four years really creating a dynamic farm system,” said Beane, “and now they’re starting to reap the rewards of that. If we’re ever going to compete, we’re probably going to have to take a somewhat similar approach and at least make sure we’ve got young players that are coming through the system that will be here for a few years.” Oakland acquired younger players in both the Clippard trade and the earlier swap involving Scott Kazmir, marking something of a departure from the team’s winter moves (to say nothing of its win-now acquisitions last summer).
  • The Mets had been working on a deal with the Athletics that would have delivered not only Tyler Clippard, but also Ben Zobrist, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. But the clubs honed in on the reliever alone after New York went out and got Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mets are out on Zobrist, though adding a pair of versatile pieces in Uribe and Johnson could lessen heir need.
  • Meanwhile, the Mets have clearly positioned themselves as buyers, and are still looking at corner outfield bats. As we also covered in that link, the Athletics seem uninterested in parting with controllable pieces like Josh Reddick — despite their apparent decision to load up on high-ceiling youngsters.
  • Zobrist will likely be the next player dealt away from the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. She sees the Royals and Nationals as the possible front-runners for his services. Oakland has drawn wide interest in the utility man extraordinaire, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with almost every contender having checked in on him. Joining Kansas City with active interest, per the report, are the PiratesYankees, and Cubs. We’ve heard no shortage of other clubs mentioned in recent weeks as well, as Zobrist’s MLBTR timeline attests.
  • While the Mets are earning plaudits in some circles for adding a quality pen arm without dealing away any top prospects, prospect analysts say that the return for Clippard might be better than many realize. Keith Law of ESPN.com writes that he’d rank Casey Meisner as the organization’s sixth-best prospect, just behind a touted group of names, giving him a #2 starter ceiling. That’s far too much to give up for a few months of a reliever who has not been pitching at an elite level this year, Law argues. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs is not quite as high on Meisner, but still tweets that he sees him as a solid return for Oakland.
  • Clippard becomes the second shoe to drop on the relief market, following the Cardinals’ acquisition of Steve Cishek. Check out MLBTR’s round-up of the relief market. We’ve heard rumblings on star Padres Craig Kimbrel today, and there are plenty of other high-end arms that could change hands.

Marlins Open To Trading Martin Prado For Big Return

Reports of teams showing interest in Marlins infielder Martin Prado have been circulating for weeks, but to this point, there’s been little to suggest that the Marlins are open to moving the versatile 31-year-old. However, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com now reports that the Marlins are at least open to moving Prado, though it would take something “big,” and the team is still reluctant to part with him (Twitter links).

A shoulder sprain cost Prado about a month this summer, but he’s been roughly as productive since returning from the DL as he was prior to the injury. Overall, he’s hitting .273/.312/.369 and playing strong defense at third base, as he has whenever he’s been asked to man the hot corner throughout his career. Prado is capable of handling multiple positions, though, as he’s logged more than 2000 innings at third base, second base and left field in his career. Defensive metrics consider him a bit below average at second base, but he again grades out quite well in left.

Prado is earning $11MM in both 2015 and 2016, though the Yankees are picking up $3MM of the tab on that salary in each season. Prado has been connected to several teams, including the Mets and, most recently, the Royals. Frisaro, though, hears that Kansas City’s interest in Prado at this time is “minimal.” Given his defensive versatility, Prado would likely draw interest from many of the same teams that have been connected to Ben Zobrist.

The Marlins, though, seem to value Prado beyond his production — a significant return on a player whose park-adjusted production is about 10 percent below the league average seems unlikely. Much has been written about Miami’s appreciation of Prado’s leadership and clubhouse presence, but the Marlins would have a better hope at obtaining something notable in return were his production at the plate closer to the .289/.339/.423 line (108 OPS+) that he recorded from 2012-14.