The Royals ended up making two trades. That was approximately two more trades than a lot of people expected. Honestly, I expected them to make at least three. But I didn’t see either of the guys going that the Royals dealt. First, let’s talk about the trades they did make.
Danny Duffy to Dodgers for Player to be Named Later (PTBNL)
This was a weird trade because, at first, it seemed like Danny wouldn’t be traded just because he was Danny. Then he also got hurt. But the Dodgers think he can help them in the post-season, I guess. According to reporting by Athletic writer Alec Lewis, the Royals will be allowed to scout a pool of players in LA’s system for the next two months before deciding on the return. Indications are that the Royals paid Duffy’s entire remaining salary while sending him to the Dodgers to get a better prospect. This means that the guy they for Duffy will probably be better than your average PTBNL.
Overall I like this trade. Duffy wasn’t going to add much for the Royals; getting anything back for him was a bonus. The fact that the Royals paid his salary to get a better return is a bright sign of things to come after the team was forced to take lesser prospects and give up more prospects in prior seasons under the ownership of David Glass. At least until we know who the PTBNL is, the biggest takeaway is that John Sherman’s group continues to show a willingness to spend money in ways that help the team win that Glass just never seemed comfortable with.
Jorge Soler goes to Atlanta for a high-A reliever
Have you ever heard of Kasey Kalich? I sure hadn’t. But this time last week, I was pretty sure the Royals would cut Soler just to make room on the roster for players to make a case for future play, so getting anything for him is, again, a smart move. Kalich, unsurprisingly given the Royals history, has some great stuff but not a great track record of using it effectively. He’s currently allowing more hits than innings pitched at High-A ball. He isn’t afraid to walk guys, either. He’s not likely to turn into much, but a lottery ticket was more than I think any of us truly expected Jorge Soler to return in a deadline deal.
The bizarre part is that Atlanta had already added three outfielders via deadline trades, and Marcell Ozuna is expected to return from injury soon. Add Soler’s poor defensive reputation to that, and it’s hard to understand what Atlanta even wants him for. The only thing that makes sense is that they think they can use him as a pinch hitter, but I’m just not sure I can see him offering enough value in that role to justify rostering him.
No one else got traded
The Royals kept every other player. I’m not surprised they kept Whit Merrifield, Scott Barlow, Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, or Mike Minor. Those guys are all under contract for next season, and it’s easy to see how any or all of them make next year’s team better than anyone the Royals could have gotten for them. I don’t even necessarily disapprove of that choice - except for Whit Merrifield*. One of the frustrating things about the 2021 Royals is that they go on stretches for a week or two at a time where they look like a legitimately good ball club, and they still haven’t gotten everyone to play as well as could be reasonably expected all at the same time, much less their potential ceilings. It’s not hard to see where a certain kind of person could truly believe this team will compete in 2022 with most of the same guys returning if just a couple of things break their way and they make one or two more additions.
* Whit just isn’t as good as he used to be. He’s not utterly useless, but his flexibility is no longer a huge asset as he’s not hitting well enough to justify playing him anywhere but second base, and the Royals have a younger guy who has shown nearly the same value as Whit that they could stick there in Nicky Lopez. I hear you saying that Adalberto Mondesi can’t be trusted to stay healthy, but all signs point to Bobby Witt Jr. being a Kansas City Royal earlier in 2022 rather than later, and he could easily play short if/when Mondesi misses time. Meanwhile, if Mondesi is healthy, then you’re benching Nicky, Whit, or Hunter Dozier, given the current likeliest roster construction scenarios. If you’re going to bench Whit or Nicky, then Whit’s presence isn’t benefitting you. If you’re going to bench Dozier, you’re admitting you really screwed up by giving him the contract extension. It just doesn’t make sense.
If things don’t work out in 2022, the Royals can still trade all of those guys next year, too. Maybe they won’t be as valuable, or maybe the market will be less flooded by former Cubs, and they’ll actually be more valuable. So it’s not like the Royals have given up that much by not trading those guys. And if there were no good deals out there, it makes a lot more sense to hang on to them and see what happens next season.
What doesn’t make sense, however, is not trading the players whose contracts are up at the end of this season: Greg Holland, Michael A. Taylor, Ervin Santana, and Jarrod Dyson. Unless the Royals intend to play .750 ball for the rest of the season, none of those guys will make any kind of difference for the Royals, and all seem unlikely to return next season. The Royals should absolutely have dealt them for anything they could have gotten. I have a hard time believing they were able to deal Soler but couldn’t find offers for any of those others. It smacks to me of the team keeping guys they think can help them win this year even though this year's wins don’t mean anything.
It’s not that I don’t understand Dayton Moore’s philosophy of telling guys they always need to go out there and try to win. Still, he should have traded these guys and told everyone left they still need to win as much as possible. It’s a waste to keep them on the roster. Speaking of wastes of space...
People still hate to see athletes take care of themselves
I know this is unrelated to the trade deadline. Still, it also happened this week: US gymnast Simone Biles came under fire for removing herself from the Tokyo Olympics after realizing her health wouldn’t allow her to compete at the level to which she and others have been accustomed. Much like Naomi Osaka and Adalberto Mondesi before her, Biles’ choice has caused many unaffected people to take great offense and make wild accusations for which they can have no basis to make.
Before I go on, I just want to point out that Biles’ initial decision to pull out of the team event was about what was best for the team as much as for her. She recognized that the team’s alternates would perform better than she would, given her current health status, and made a choice that improved the team’s chances of winning. Anyone who criticizes her on the basis of not being there for her team doesn’t understand what it means to be on a team in the first place.
As for pulling out of the individual competition, we will never, ever know all she has done and sacrificed to become one of the best gymnasts in the entire world. What we do know is that it was a lot. We also know it was a metric ****-ton more than anyone else has sacrificed for her competitive dreams. Given that she’s the one who put in all the work, she’s also the one who loses out the most in not competing, which has to tell you that there was a pretty compelling reason not to do it.
HuffPost had an excellent article reframing this issue as one where Simone Biles refused to sacrifice herself for her job. The US - in particular, but hardly alone - has developed a culture that celebrates overwork to an insane degree. People brag about putting in 80-hour workweeks at their jobs as if it’s something to be proud of instead of horrified. Video games have become one of the most profitable industries in the world on the back of so-called “crunch,” which involves developers working 100 hours or more per week, sometimes for months at a time. In that context, the pushback against women like Osaka and Biles is completely understandable but still incredibly disheartening. All of us should be rallying to them for finally resisting the pressure to destroy ourselves for the profit of others. Still, calls for change almost always meet resistance early on. Here’s hoping that Biles is continuing a path that Osaka set us on, leading to less worker exploitation for all of us soon.