The Royals finally pulled the trigger on a deal before the Thursday trade deadline, sending third baseman Danny Valencia to the Toronto Blue Jays in return for catcher Erik Kratz and right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks. The Jays are among the teams the Royals are chasing for the Wild Card, and Valencia has been a useful asset for the Royals this year. This trade is a real head-scratcher.
Valencia was hitting .282/.328/.382 for the Royals in 36 games. He was acquired last winter from the Orioles for outfielder David Lough, a move that has largely worked out for the Royals. Valencia has spotted Mike Moustakas against left-handers and filled in for him when Moose was temporarily demoted to Omaha. In Toronto he can platoon with left-handed third baseman Juan Francisco and serve as a defensive upgrade.
The Royals receive 34-year old journeyman catcher Erik Kratz and 25-year old journeyman right-hander Liam Hendriks from Toronto. Kratz has played in parts of five Major League seasons with the Pirates, Phillies, and Blue Jays, hitting .216/.271/.397 in 510 career plate appearances. He was hitting .198/.226/.346 in 84 plate appearances with Toronto this year. The right-handed hitter will serve as the backup catcher for Salvador Perez as Brett Hayes was designated for assignment to make room on the roster.
The right-handed Liam Hendriks is an Australian who originally began in the Twins organization, but bounced around on the waiver wire this winter, landing with the Blue Jays. In 169 career Major League innings, he has a 6.06 ERA with just 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings, mostly as a starting pitcher. He will be assigned to AAA Omaha, and gives the Royals another option with Joe Saunders and Aaron Brooks should the Royals suffer injuries to their starting rotation.
Christian Colon has been recalled from Omaha to replace Valencia.
Getting Valencia off the roster does create more roster flexibility, as the Royals now have a reserve middle infielder should Infante or Escobar get hurt. However, getting rid of a decent bat like Valencia when the team is supposedly contending for a playoff spot is curious, especially when it means sending him to a team you are contending against. Perhaps a larger deal is in the works, but as for now, this is one of the strangest transactions of the Dayton Moore era.