Kansas City Royals Rumors

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

AL Notes: Tigers, Closers, Bird, Gordon

MLive.com’s Chris Iott takes an extended look at the Tigers‘ payroll situation going forward, explaining that the team will probably have over $130MM on the books even before addressing numerous still-undetermined roster spots. (MLBTR provided Iott with some hypothetical arbitration raises for players such as J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias. If Martinez finishes the season at his current production rate, he could be in line for nearly a $5MM salary bump.) Newly-minted GM Al Avila will face challenges even if the team spends at or past the $170MM+ Opening Day payroll it trotted out to start 2015, Iott writes, as the team has a host of needs if it hopes to put a legitimate contender on the field. He reasons that one or two starters, multiple bullpen pieces, a corner outfielder, and possibly a reserve backstop may need to be acquired between now and the start of the 2016 campaign.

  • One more immediate issue for the Tigers that could have future ramifications is the resolution of the team’s closer role. As George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports, manager Brad Ausmus has not yet committed to either Alex Wilson or Bruce Rondon, both of whom have recently converted two save opportunities. Ausmus says that Rondon may receive “some more opportunities” in the ninth, adding that “Wilson is going to pitch in the back end somewhere.” Regardless of their particular roles, Detroit will surely hope that the pair can make up a reliable one-two punch at the back of the pen. Neither will qualify for arbitration until 2017, making them cheap options for the organization as it approaches an interesting offseason.
  • The Yankees brought up promising young first baseman Greg Bird today, as Jack Curry of the YES Network reported on Twitter. Bird, 22, has put up a .277/.356/.469 slash with 12 home runs over 362 plate appearances. MLB.com currently rates him as the organization’s fourth overall prospect.
  • Royals outfielder Alex Gordon expects to begin a rehab assignment “shortly,” he tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter link). Kansas City has been deploying trade deadline acquisition Ben Zobrist in left, but will have an opportunity to move him around the corner outfield and infield once Gordon goes back to his customary position. With an eleven-game division lead, however, the team will surely make sure that Gordon is at full health before working him back.

AL Central Notes: Patton, Tigers, Swisher

Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…

  • Left-hander Troy Patton can opt out of his minor league deal with the Royals on August 15 if he isn’t called up to the MLB roster, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports.  Patton served an 80-game suspension after testing positive for amphetamines last November, and has posted a 3.07 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and a 5.5 K/BB rate over 14 2/3 relief innings at Triple-A Omaha.  As McCullough notes, the Royals may not be able to find a place for Patton in the already-stacked K.C. bullpen.
  • New Tigers GM Al Avila faces a number of pressing questions about the 2016 team, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News writes.  Beyond the payroll, young pitcher development and fixing the Tigers bullpen, Henning also speculates on the future of manager Brad Ausmus.  “It would be no shocker if Avila” wanted to hire his own manager to run the team, and if a change was made, Henning believes that the Tigers would pursue an experienced skipper, namely Ron Gardenhire.
  • Nick Swisher‘s tenure with the Indians is recapped by Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  While Swisher helped the Tribe earn a wild card slot in 2013, that contribution alone wasn’t worth his $56MM contract with the team.  Meisel also hints at a bit of tension between Swisher and some teammates, writing that “his relentless enthusiasm wore on members of the clubhouse” and “when his performance went south…his insistence on being the club’s commander and cheerleader didn’t carry much weight.”

NL Notes: Utley, Reds, Finnegan, Olivera

Longtime star second baseman Chase Utley will rejoin the Phillies tomorrow, the club announced. It’s almost certainly too late for him to reach sufficient plate appearances to trigger his vesting option for next season, making it a straight team decision whether to pick him up at $15MM or instead pay a $2MM buyout. But that doesn’t mean his return won’t be interesting, as Utley remains a very plausible August trade candidate. Indeed, the Phillies veteran is drawing interest around the league, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The CubsDodgers, and Yankees are among the teams expected to have some interest in adding Utley down the stretch. Of course, his appeal will depend heavily upon the form he shows upon his return.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty provided some interesting thoughts on his team’s trade deadline moves, especially the Johnny Cueto deal, in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (links to Twitter). “We had the Cueto deal done, then another team came in,” said Jocketty, “and I was actually able to get a little more out of the Royals.” 
  • One key piece of that deal, of course, was lefty Brandon Finnegan, who Jocketty says will be expected to work as a starter at Triple-A before joining the big league club in September. After entering the year with 28 days of service and tacking on about 37 more thus far in 2015, Finnegan still has six years of team control remaining and won’t line up as a Super Two candidate even if he spends next month (and all of next year) on the Cincinnati staff.
  • Jocketty also discussed the Reds‘ timeline to return to contention (Twitter link), saying that “our plan at this point is that we realistically have a real good shot in 2017.” While he praised the team’s “nucleus,” Jocketty’s statement seems to suggest that next season will be something of a regrouping year. The club has worked to fill its system with young arms after parting with Cueto and Mike Leake, but it remains to be seen how and when they will develop into productive big leaguers. With several big contracts limiting flexibility, and players like Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce entering their final years of control, it will be interesting to see whether Cinci pursues further trades over the winter.
  • Braves GM John Hart also discussed his team’s role in the three-team, thirteen-player deadline deal with the Dodgers and Marlins with MLB Network Radio (Twitter links). He confirmed that the club was motivated primarily by the chance to add the bat of infielder Hector Olivera for a relatively minor commitment (five-years and roughly $30MM after 2015). Atlanta was weighing its options for bolstering its lineup, he indicated, and felt that it would cost too much to compete for the top-level bats set to hit the coming free agent market.


Minor Moves: Cards, Carpenter, Murphy, Clemens

Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Cardinals outrighted right-hander Marcus Hatley and first baseman Dan Johnson off the 40-man roster and sent them to Triple-A, according to the club’s official transactions page.  Both players were designated for assignment earlier in the week.
  • Braves right-hander David Carpenter has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets.  Carpenter was designated for assignment last week and had the option of becoming a free agent, which he declined to stay in the Braves organization.  Carpenter has only appeared in four games for Atlanta this season, posting a 7.36 ERA over his 3 2/3 innings of work.
  • The Brewers released infielder Donnie Murphy, as per the Pacific Coast League’s transactions page.  Murphy signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee in February and had a .257/.352/.371 line over 162 PA at Triple-A Colorado Springs.  The 32-year-old Murphy has appeared in parts of nine Major League seasons with five different teams since 2004.
  • The Royals signed righty Paul Clemens to a minor league deal, according to MLB.com’s transactions page.  Clemens posted a 5.51 ERA over 98 innings with the Astros in 2013-14 and a 5.54 ERA over 26 innings in the Phillies’ minor league system this season.  He was released by the Phils in June.
  • Chris Capuano has accepted his outright assignment from the Yankees and reported to Triple-A, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets.  The veteran southpaw had the option of becoming a free agent, though doing so would’ve forfeited the roughly $1.7MM still owed to him on his Yankees contract for the rest of the season.
  • Angels right-hander Jeremy McBryde has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, the club’s communications department tweets.  McBryde was designated for assignment earlier in the week.  McBryde has a 4.07 ERA over 659 1/3 career minor league innings, though he’s struggled to a 5.63 ERA in 46 1/3 relief frames for the Halos’ Triple-A affiliate this season.
  • While McBryde’s case has been settled, over 20 players are still in DFA limbo.  Check out the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker for a full accounting of the players still awaiting their next assignment.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Dodgers, Mets, Hamels, Jays, Astros

An elite starting pitcher was a luxury good for the Dodgers, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That’s why Los Angeles passed on talents like Cole Hamels, David Price, and Johnny Cueto despite possessing the prospect depth to acquire their pick of the litter. Instead, the club flexed its financial might to acquire Mat Latos, Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan, and Jose Peraza. The biggest piece dealt away by the Dodgers was 30-year-old Cuban infielder Hector Olivera. The utility man has not yet reached the majors after signing a six-year, $62.5MM deal with the Dodgers. A full $28MM of that was in the form of a signing bonus.

Here’s more from Rosenthal:

  • Cynics may find a way to criticize the Mets deadline transactions. Perhaps they didn’t add enough to the payroll or were too small minded? However, the moves for Yoenis Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Kelly Johnson, and Juan Uribe provided essential upgrades to a roster that was showing signs of stress. GM Sandy Alderson deserves kudos for improving the club while working within tight constraints. To me, this was Rosenthal’s money quote, “Mets fans will not be satisfied –€“ and should not be satisfied –€“ until the team raises its payroll to a level more commensurate with the New York market.
  • Echoing the sentiments of many analysts, both the Phillies and Rangers did well in the Hamels trade. With the Phillies taking on Matt Harrison and chipping in cash, the Rangers will pay Hamels an average of $13MM to $14MM per season if his option vests. They also hung onto top prospects Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara. On Philadelphia’s end, acquiring three quality prospects will do much to bolster their future.
  • The Blue Jays, unlike the Dodgers, are often described as a cash strapped organization. Instead of taking on payroll like L.A., the Blue Jays dealt 11 prospects and Jose Reyes to acquire Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe, and LaTroy Hawkins. They’re 6.5 games back in the AL East and 1.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot.
  • The Astros also spent their prospect chips for major league upgrades. They made the first deadline strike by acquiring Scott Kazmir then paid a princely sum for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. Interestingly, mid-market teams like the Astros, Blue Jays, Mets, and Royals used prospects in their search for October baseball. The Yankees and Dodgers opted to use money or stand pat.

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.