The Oakland Athletics have closed on a deal to acquire Kansas City’s Homer Bailey, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported (via Twitter) that a trade was imminent. The Royals will receive minor-league infielder Kevin Merrell in return, according to an official Athletics release.
Bailey, 33, will go down as another bargain-bin acquisition for the playoff-hungry Athletics, who sit six games behind the first-place Astros, but currently slot in as the second Wild-Card team in the American League. Much like last season, when the team won 97 games and landed in the Wild Card game, the Athletics will hunt for affordable pitching help (which came in the form of Mike Fiers in 2018) to boost the club to back-to-back postseason berths. Rarely a team to make splash acquisitions, the A’s will likely remain on the periphery of the discussions surrounding marquee starters like Noah Syndergaard and Trevor Bauer. Of course, that doesn’t mean that value can’t be found elsewhere on the trade market.
Evidently, David Forst, Billy Beane and company believe that Bailey represents such a value. With the Dodgers, who acquired and immediately released Bailey in a December blockbuster with the Reds, paying the remainder of his hefty salary, the Royals snagged the veteran on a minor-league deal, meaning that the Athletics will only owe about $250K to Bailey.
Though he was maligned last season for his 1-14 record, Homer Bailey has shown some encouraging signs this year, and has posted his lowest ERA since 2014. He’s striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings, and home runs have come less often than last season. This isn’t an acquisition that can transform a pitching staff overnight, but Bailey will step in as a low-cost veteran who could pay dividends in the stretch run.
It’s been pitching that has concerned the Athletics all season, and many anticipated the team pursuing upgrades on the mound this summer. With a myriad of injuries preventing promising southpaws Sean Manaea, Jesus Luzardo, and A.J. Puk from contributing thus far, Oakland has had to patch together a makeshift rotation to carry them through the first half. Not to mention breakout star Frankie Montas, who won’t be eligible for postseason play after a PED suspension. And while the staff hasn’t plummeted to the bottom of the league—Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, and Chris Bassitt have held their own—it’s hard to put much confidence in that group winning a playoff series, especially against the juggernauts of the American League.
Expect more to come from Oakland this trade season, especially on the pitching front. The front office, though garnering a reputation as frugal, can be aggressive when it senses a window for contention, and the club is in a good spot. Other veteran starters may still be in play, but it seems that with Bailey in the fold, the team’s focus will shift to the bullpen. The existing group has a solid track record between Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen, and Lou Trivino, though consistency has been lacking in that department this season.
As for Kansas City, it seems unlikely that this is the last we’ll hear from Dayton Moore and the front office this July. The 32-61 Royals have been rumored to be open to trades involving just about anybody on the roster, with a few exceptions. Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier appear to be two cornerstones that the franchise is intent on keeping around, though a steep asking price for Whit Merrifield might make it difficult to pry him away from KC. Alex Gordon, meanwhile, may have redeemed some of his value with a renaissance season, but the veteran seems keen on playing out his career with the Royals, the franchise that drafted him.
That said, there are a number of Royals who could find themselves in different uniforms by the time the calendar turns to August, with Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jake Diekman, and Jorge Soler perhaps the most realistic trade candidates. Diekman has apparently already attracted some interest from the Nationals, and other contending clubs could be drawn to Kennedy’s resurgence as a high-leverage reliever. Of course, in the cases of Kennedy and Duffy, the Royals would likely have to eat considerable portions of their remaining contracts to facilitate a trade.
Kevin Merrell, who heads to Kansas City in this swap, was a 2017 draft selection of the Athletics in Competitive Balance Round A. Ranked by MLB.com as the Athletics’ 17th-best prospect, Merrell is touted for his speed on the bases, with questions surrounding his bat. In general, his profile keeps with the Royals’ trend of acquiring speedy athletes, and Merrell, 23, has the potential to grow into a multi-positional depth role with Kansas City. With a crop of impressive young position players and an influx of college pitchers from the 2018 draft, the team may find its way out of the rebuilding phase quicker than anticipated.