March 11: The Royals have announced the signing. To make room on the 40-man roster, Perez has been placed on the 60-day injured list.
March 9: The Royals are in agreement with free agent catcher Martin Maldonado on a one-year, $2.5MM contract, per the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter). Maldonado can earn up to $1.4MM in incentives. The deal is pending a physical.
This union was destined ever since the Royals lost starter Salvador Perez for the season to Tommy John surgery. The Royals were left with only Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria atop their depth chart, which easily would have been the most inexperienced duo in the league. The Maldonado signing likely gives Viloria more time to season in the minors, as he had not appeared above High-A before getting 29 plate appearances with the Royals last season.
While Maldonado has a good chance of becoming a trade chip before the end of July – he’s a good one, one of the most accomplished defensive backstops in the game, and he should help buoy a young Royals staff.
As MLBTR’s own Steve Adams wrote just two days ago: “That Maldonado remains unsigned has seemed an oddity in recent weeks; while he’s unequivocally a below-average hitter, the 32-year-old is also among the game’s premier defenders at his position. As I noted about three weeks ago when Maldonado was linked to the Mariners, the 2016 Gold Glover ranks third among all active catchers in Defensive Runs Saved dating back to the 2012 season, trailing only Buster Posey and Yadier Molina — each of whom has caught at least 2000 more innings than Maldonado in that span. He’s also a perennially strong pitch framer with a career 38 percent caught-stealing rate, including a ridiculous 49 percent mark in 2018 (17-for-35).”
Considering the prevalence of time shares at the catching position these days, it was indeed surprising that it took Maldonado so long to find a home. With the Brewers, Angels and Astros, he has a career batting line of .220/.289/.350, but that shouldn’t have been much of a deterrent in an ecosystem that lacks elite offensive production from the catching spot. Playing devil’s advocate here, Maldonado’s 0.9 fWAR in 2018 places him tied for 25th among catchers last season, on par with names like Matt Wieters and Nick Hundley, both of whom had to settle for minor league deals this winter. Maldonado was rumored to have received a two-year, $12MM offer from the Astros early in the winter, but according to his former agent Scott Boras, they never received a formal offer from Houston, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter).
Interestingly, the deal comes just a few days after Maldonado switched representation, hiring Dan Lozano of the MVP Sports Group. Maldonado had spent just a few months (since August) with the Boras Corporation. Still, it appears this contract was put in place before the switch, as Boras will collect commission on the deal. Rosenthal (via Twitter) quotes Boras as saying, “The Kansas City deal was in place and finalized without us knowing Maldonado had switched agents.”