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Royals trade Jon Jay to Arizona for two minor-league arms

Dayton Moore covets pitching.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Not a Royal
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a week after first being able to trade free agents signed the preceding offseason, Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals have dealt the first in what should prove to be many trades as they embrace the suck rebuild.

That first man moved? Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jon Jay. The Royals announced they have traded outfielder Jon Jay to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 18-year old right-handed pitcher Elvis Luciano and 23-year old right-handed pitcher Gabe Speier.

Signed to just a one-year, $3MM deal, Jay was still due roughly $1.86MM through the end of the year (h/t to Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors for the mathematics). The stopgap Royals outfielder had been worth 1.1 fWAR through his 59 games played, slashing .307/.363/.374 with a .326 wOBA and 104 wRC+ with passable defense in all three spots in the grass.

The necessity of his original signing was precipitated by the Jorge Bonifacio suspension that is nearing its course having been run, so Jay’s presence on the roster was about to be superfluous. Moore struck the deal while Jay’s value was still high, no sure thing going forward given that Jay was slashing just .238/.325/.277 on April 30. Red-hot his past 33 games, hitting .358/.392/.445 in that time, Moore definitely struck while the iron was hot.

With Jay heading to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Royals get two arms of negligible value from a farm system hardly stocked with talent.

Southpaw Gabe Speier turned 23 in April and has been pitching in AA this season. He was drafted by the Red Sox before being shipped to Detroit in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes deal. The Tigers held onto him for a year before he was traded twice the next offseason, eventually landing in Arizona with Shelby Miller after spending four minutes as an Atlanta Brave.

A Tommy John surgery survivor (went under the knife in 2013, cutting into much of his 2014 campaign), Speier has pitched almost exclusively in relief, with relatively unimpressive strikeout and walk totals in high-A and AA. He is, however, a fairly extreme groundball pitcher, something Dayton Moore’s Royals seem to be trending more and more toward. There’s nothing explicitly sexy here—surely some of the draw for Moore—but he could easily be another arm to shuttle between Omaha and Kansas City next year.

Or more likely, Speier is traded for the fifth time in his career because his is an itinerant existence.

Elvis Luciano (the Diamondbacks’ 26th-ranked prospect per’s Prospect Pipeline) has yet to pitch above rookie ball and is pretty much the definition of a lottery ticket. Still waiting to make his first appearance in 2018 after playing only short-season ball last year, the 6’2”, right-handed 18-year-old out of the Dominican with a thicker lower half (good for projection), virtually the only scouting report I seem to be able to find can be found here and briefly states that his fastball sat 91-92 touching 94 last fall with a mid-80s change and a repeatable delivery. He apparently also messed around with a curveball, throwing one in the outing seen. Prospect Pipeline grades the fastball a 55, with that seldom-seen curve also a 55 and a 50 change with 50 control and an overall 45 grade on the 20-80 scale.

Paulo Orlando looks to be coming up to fill Jay’s spot on the 25-man roster per rumblings in Omaha (h/t to Minda Haas Kuhlman).