The Royals have acquired righty James McArthur from the Phillies in exchange for minor league outfielder Junior Marin, per a team announcement. Outfielder/DH Franmil Reyes was designated for assignment in a corresponding move. McArthur, who was designated for assignment by the Phils a few days back, will be assigned to Triple-A Omaha.
Kansas City signed Reyes, 27, to a minor league deal back in February, hoping that the 6’5″ slugger could recapture some of the form he’d showed with San Diego and Cleveland in years past. Reyes has a pair of 30-homer campaigns under his belt, including a 37-homer effort back in 2019. Overall, from 2018-21, he posted a combined .260/.325/.503 with 92 home runs in 1540 plate appearances. Strikeouts were an issue, as he fanned in 29.5% of his trips to the plate during that stretch, but Reyes offset that issue with his prodigious power and a respectable nine percent walk rate.
Things went south in a hurry in 2022, however, and they’ve gone from bad to worse in 2023. Reyes batted just .213/.254/.350 with a mammoth 37.1% strikeout rate in 280 plate appearances with the Guardians last year before being placed on waivers and claimed by the Cubs. A .234/.301/.389 showing down the stretch in Chicago resulted in an outright off the 40-man roster and minor league free agency, which eventually brought Reyes to Kansas City.
Though Reyes slugged a pair of early homers and had a brief hot streak in mid-April, he was optioned to Triple-A after going hitless and failing to reach base in 20 consecutive plate appearances. That swoon dropped him to a .186/.231/.288 batting line and sent his strikeout rate soaring to 36.9%. In four Triple-A games, he’s gone 3-for-15 with a homer, a walk and seven strikeouts (18 total plate appearances).
The Royals will have a week to trade Reyes, place him on outright waivers, or release him. His minor league contract came with a $2MM base salary, which makes it all the likelier that he’d pass through outright waivers unclaimed if the team goes that route.
In place of Reyes, the Royals will hope to unlock something in the 26-year-old McArthur — a towering 6’7″, 230-pound righty who has yet to make his big league debut. McArthur has opened the 2023 season with a rough patch in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, yielding 13 runs on 20 hits, seven walks and a pair of hit batters against 15 strikeouts in 16 innings of work. That’s his first taste of Triple-A after spending the two prior seasons in Double-A Reading, where he combined for a 4.73 ERA with a 24.7% strikeout rate against an 8.4% walk rate in 131 innings.
McArthur has worked primarily as a starter in the minors (including this year in Triple-A), though FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote in his April overview of the Phillies’ system that McArthur was sitting 94-96 mph during short relief stints in spring training. Pitchers this tall can often have difficulty repeating their mechanics and thus be pushed to the bullpen, and it’s possible that’s where McArthur will ultimately land.
The Royals have Major League Baseball’s third-worst rotation ERA and fourth-worst bullpen ERA, so it’s hardly a surprise to see them adding nearly MLB-ready depth. McArthur doesn’t possess a huge ceiling, but he’s not far off from being ready for a Major League look, and Kansas City needs all the arms it can get at this point.
In exchange for some near-MLB pitching help, the Royals will part ways with a teenage outfield prospect who is likely years from being anywhere close to a consideration at the big league level. Marin turned 19 in mid-March and hasn’t yet advanced beyond Rookie ball. He’s already listed at 6’2″ and 240 pounds and has played right field near exclusively, with only a two-game cameo in left otherwise. Marin is a .328/.425/.554 hitter in 214 professional plate appearances but also struck out 31 times in 103 plate appearances with Kansas City’s affiliate in the Arizona Complex League last year. There’s some obvious power in his bat, but he wasn’t ranked among the best prospects in a sub-par Royals farm system and will now be a years-long development project for the Phillies.