The Royals pulled catcher Martin Maldonado from their game Monday, likely because a deal is on the way. They’ve been “working on a trade” involving Maldonado with an unknown team, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. A trade is indeed “close,” Mark Feinsand of MLB.com adds on Twitter.
A former Brewer, Angel and Astro, Maldonado joined the Royals on a $2.5MM guarantee in free agency this past March. The signing came on the heels of Tommy John surgery for Royals starting catcher Salvador Perez, though the expectation then was that rebuilding Kansas City would move Maldonado sometime during the summer. The team previously did the same this past weekend with right-hander and fellow low-cost offseason pickup Homer Bailey, whom it flipped to Oakland for a prospect. Outfielders Billy Hamilton and Terrance Gore may soon follow Bailey and (seemingly) Maldonado out of town.
The Royals’ version of Maldonado has been close to the same player his previous teams got. Never much of a threat with the bat, the 32-year-old Maldonado has hit .224/.288/.359 (71 wRC+) with six home runs in 261 plate appearances. Maldonado has long been an exemplary defender, however, and he has continued to provide plus work behind the plate this year. Not only has Maldonado thrown out 33 percent of would-be base stealers, placing him 5 percent of the league average, but he’s Baseball Prospectus’ 18th-ranked catcher among 95 qualifiers in its Fielding Runs Above Average metric. Maldonado has been especially solid at blocking pitches, per BP. Unlike previous seasons, though, it grades him as a neutral pitch framer – not a standout.
Where to now for Maldonado? Not the Rangers, according to Jeffrey Flanagan and T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, even though they’re contenders whose catchers rank dead last in the majors in fWAR. Both the Cardinals (Yadier Molina) and Angels (Jonathan Lucroy) just lost their primary backstops to injuries that will cost them roughly three weeks apiece. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Phillies are among buyers who haven’t gotten particularly good performances from their reserve catchers.