It is mid-July. For the baseball world, this means one thing. The trade market begins to heat up and sellers deal anyone with value away while buyers negotiate over which prospects they should give up in order to find the missing piece to their puzzle.
The Royals have been very proactive so far in the market: Homer Bailey was dealt to the Oakland Athletics last week and Martin Maldonado was dealt to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for former Royals first-round pick Mike Montgomery on Monday. This is just the beginning of a flurry of moves that the Royals will make over the next few days as they look to deal some of their veterans away in order to give prospects valuable playing time at the major league level.
Let’s start with the Homer Bailey trade. The Royals did not receive much back in this trade, acquiring Kevin Merrell, a minor league infielder who was drafted 33rd overall in the 2017 MLB Draft. The 23-year-old was with Oakland’s Double-A affiliate, and he’ll report to the Royals’ Double-A affiliate Northwest Arkansas. He will not go onto the Royals’ 40-man roster.
Merrell posted a slash line of .246/.292/.339 at Double-A this season. Last season was his first full season as a professional. The key for Merrell is his speed, it is seen as a key attribute to his game and is also a nightmare for pitchers to deal with.
“We liked him a great deal out of the draft a couple years ago,” Moore said of Merrell. “He’s our type of player, speed player, loves to play, high-energy, can stay in the middle of the diamond, we liked his potential versatility out of the draft.”
Bailey, 33, had gone 7-6 with a 4.80 ERA in 18 starts for the Royals. He was serviceable for the most part and was seen as a low risk, high reward signing given the fact that the Dodgers picked up the remaining $23 million left on his contract. Oakland will be getting some much-needed depth in their rotation as they look to contend for a playoff spot.
The other notable move the Royals made was trading catcher Martin Maldonado to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Mike Montgomery. Long known as being an excellent defensive catcher with a questionable bat, Maldonado did more of the same in Kansas City. In 261 plate appearances in KC, Maldonado hit .224/.288/.359 (71 wRC+) with six home runs. On the other end, he threw out an above-average 33 percent of baserunners.
The Royals will be getting a pitcher with two plus years of team control in Mike Montgomery. While he has been a reliever for most of this season, Montgomery will slot into the Royals’ rotation immediately. While he did not have a good first start, the key is to get Montgomery’s pitch count up over the next couple of weeks so that he can go further in games.
Montgomery will also be rejoining the organization that drafted him with their first round pick in 2008. Four years later, the Royals traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays in a blockbuster deal that also included James Shields, Wade Davis, Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi.
However, Montgomery has not had the best of seasons so far. He has logged a woeful 5.67 ERA, 6.21 FIP with 6.0 K/9, 4.33 BB/9 and a 43.3 percent groundball rate over 27 innings. The Royals will be hoping to turn these numbers around overtime as Montgomery will be a key piece to the pitching staff over the next couple of years.