The Royals announced that they’ve acquired right-handers Brad Keller and Burch Smith in trades with the Reds and Mets following today’s Rule 5 Draft. Kansas City will send a player to be named later or cash to both Cincinnati and New York in each trade. Keller was selected with the No. 5 pick out of the D-backs organization, while Smith was selected out of the Rays’ system.
Keller spent the entire 22 season in Double-A despite pitching most of the season at the age of 21. He made 26 starts and totaled 130 2/3 frames with a 4.68 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 49.6 percent ground-ball rate. He had been considered the No. 12 prospect in the D-backs’ organization by Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com but was unprotected on at last month’s deadline to set 40-man rosters.
The Rule 5 selection could pave the way back to the Majors for Smith for the first time since 2013. Smith tossed 36 1/3 innings for the Padres as a 23-year-old that year, and though he logged an ugly 6.44 ERA, he also punched out 46 batters in that time.
Now 27 years of age, Smith has seen two seasons wiped out by Tommy John surgery and other arm troubles. But, he was healthy in 56 1/3 minor league innings as he worked his way back across three minor league levels this year — his first action on a mound since 2014. Smith posted a 2.40 ERA with 8.9 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 before impressing with 29 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League.
Both pitchers will retain their Rule 5 status with the Royals, meaning neither can be optioned to the minors without first being exposed to waivers and then offered back to their original organizations for $50K. If either lasts the entire season on the Royals’ big league roster (with at least 90 days on the active roster and not on the DL), he’ll become their property without any restrictions in 2019.