The Royals get transactional
The Vinnie Pasquantino era is upon us.
It doesn’t seem like it’s been almost two years, but yes…That was when Dayton Moore first talked openly about the Royals becoming more “transactional.”
“They (the Rays) do an excellent job of developing and maintaining pitching. They’re very transactional. They’re more transactional than we are. I’ve been criticized for that many times, that we stay with players a little too long. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes it doesn’t. We’re one of the least transactional organizations in baseball. I think as we go forward, I have to be more open-minded to being more transactional.”
The fun part about the quote is that was published in the Kansas City Star with the headline KC Royals’ GM Dayton Moore: We expect to win in 2021. As you were.
While the Royals have been criticized for being not transactional enough over these last several years, one thing they absolutely cannot be criticized for is waiting for the market to evolve before making a move. Once they decide to act, they move, damn the timing. They did that on Monday as a confluence of events found Carlos Santana heading to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Wyatt Mills and William Fleming, both right-handed pitchers. It was the first salvo fired ahead of what should be a busy trade deadline. Not just for baseball, but for these newly transactional Royals.
Let’s examine the events that led to this move. First, Salvador Perez had surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament on his left thumb. You’re damn straight I think these events are connected. With a recovery timetable of at least eight weeks, Perez will be lost for most, if not all, of the rest of the season. I would be willing to wager that this, not the fact they’ve been pacing for 100 losses since May, is the catalyst for this front office to begin to revamp this offense. They seem to operate in a different reality at times. It’s not outside the realm of probability that they have been clinging to the hope that Perez could elevate this offense and carry it to maybe 70 wins. Or at the very least, another strong September finish. What better way to sell their brand of offseason optimism heading into 2023? Just look at the headline from the article above. It’s how they operate.
With Perez sidelined, that means a rethink for how the Royals will approach these next couple of months. Rather than focusing needlessly on a won-loss record, the club will now shift to becoming more transactional. It’s a wild theory, but one that’s probably a little closer to reality than anyone would like to admit.
The other event was the fact the Seattle Mariners, a team that certainly does not need to get more transactional, lost their first baseman, Ty France, to a grade 2 flexor strain and is expected to miss a sizable portion of time. Losing France is a blow to a club that harbored postseason expectations coming into the year. He was hitting .316/.390/.476 with a 2.3 fWAR, making him the most productive first baseman in the AL this year. Seattle is currently 34-41 and resides 12.5 games back in the AL West. They are 7.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot.
While they have quite a hill to climb to get to October, they are desperate to make up some of that production they lost with France hitting the IL. Hello, Santana.
Usually, the focus on a trade would be the return. But this deal did something more important. It freed up a spot on the big league club for Vinnie Pasquantino.
Pasquantino, a 24-year-old left-handed-hitting first baseman has been a stud in the heart of the Storm Chasers lineup. At the time of his call-up, he was hitting .280/.372/.576 in 296 plate appearances. The power absolutely plays—he had 38 extra-base hits for Omaha, including 18 bombs. Most impressive is his plate discipline. He owned a 12.5 percent walk rate while striking out just 12.2 percent of the time. In raw numbers, it was 37 walks and 36 strikeouts. Swoon.
From FanGraphs where he was rated as the fifth-best prospect in the system:
There are missile defense systems with less precise tracking ability than Pasquantino, who seems to be lasered in on everything that crosses the plate, and is on time with remarkable consistency. He will track and whack breaking balls that most hitters would swing over top of, and he can also flatten his bat path and get to fastballs at the top of the strike zone.
Baseball America hung a 60 grade on Pasquantino’s hit and power tools.
He didn’t start on Monday, but would assume he will be in the lineup on Tuesday as the Royals continue their series against the Rangers.
By opening a spot for Pasquantino and moving on from Santana, in a way, my initial reaction to the trade was something like this Rays meme that circulates on Twitter from time to time.
Oh, those transactional Rays!
Ok, I thought about this more for the whole “who’d they get?” bit. That the Royals were able to move Santana for anything is an absolute win. For real. The dude hit .199/.287/.300 from May 16 to the end of the season in 2021. Yes, he may have been hurt, but still…that was four and a half months of poor production. That came off a 2020 season where he posted a .199/.349/.350 in the Covid-shortened season. And then the start of 2022…
It seemed that if the Royals were to shed Santana from the roster they would need to DFA. Who would take him? A stretch of 17 games where he raked .357/.478/.554 over 69 plate appearances and where he did, in fact, look locked in at the plate, suddenly gave him a little more appeal.
Santana was owed about $5.7 million for the rest of the season. The Royals would need to pick up a sizeable portion of that if they were to get any kind of return. And they did, reportedly sending over $4.2 million to Seattle as part of the deal. That enabled them to get the two right-handed pitchers as part of the package.
Wyatt Mills was rated as the Mariners’ 17th best prospect according to Baseball America.
Mills is a classic sidearm reliever who relies on keeping the ball on the ground with his sinker and slider. His sinker sits 92-93 and touches 97 with late armside run that locks up righthanded batters. His average mid-80s slider sweeps horizontally across the plate out of his arm slot that is nearly parallel to the ground.
Mills made his major league debut last summer and has had a turn in The Show this year. He’s thrown 19.2 innings at Triple-A Tacoma this year with an 18 percent strikeout rate against an eight percent walk rate. He’s getting ground balls 53 percent of the time. He projects as a middle-of-the-bullpen guy who can be brought in to face a string of right-handers. As a sidearmer, he shows a bit too much to the lefty bats to be effective against them with any kind of reliability. He’s 27 years old.
Since Mills has pitched in the majors, he was on Seattle’s 40-man roster, as such, he was added to the same in Kansas City. He will report to Omaha, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to find him with the Royals soon.
William Fleming was listed at number 26 on FanGraphs’ list of the top 31 Mariners’ prospects.
Fleming has long filled the zone with his fastball and shown above-average glove-side command of his slider, but his fastball’s shape made it quite hittable in college…There’s a plus-flashing breaking ball and above-average am strength here, and maybe more in the event that he moves to the bullpen.
Fleming was an 11th-round selection out of Wake Forest in the 2021 draft. He has pitched in A-ball at Modesto for the Mariners all year, making 14 starts and throwing 67.2 innings. He currently has a 4.92 ERA and is striking out 7.9 per nine while walking 3.2 per nine. I wouldn’t expect too much here, but again…any live arm for Santana is a good arm. As FanGraphs mentioned, maybe a move to the bullpen is in his future. Fleming was assigned to High-A Quad Cities.
Now that the trade deadline has officially been opened, the Royals should remain transactional. I would expect Andrew Benintendi to be moved sometime in the next several weeks and chatter to pick up around Whit Merrifield. I’m a little less sold they’ll move on from Merrifield as Lopez has struggled this year with the bat and with so many players sidelined or moving on, the club will want that intangible veteran presence to help guide this influx of youngsters.
We’re about to see exactly how transactional the Royals are willing to get.