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Grading 2022 trades to prepare for the 2023 deadline

Last year’s trades were not bad, but also not great

Kansas City Royals v Miami Marlins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The trade deadline is coming, and it will be the first with J.J. Picollo as GM and no Dayton Moore watching over his shoulder. I do not know who to give credit or blame to for last year’s in-season trades, so I thought we should review them, and how they are doing, in preparation. This will help evaluate how they are looking so far as well as refresh our memory so when trades start happening we can determine if they look different with Picollo flying solo.

I have put them in order of importance, though you could quibble with flipping one or two of them. Also, I am ignoring trades like Foster Griffin for Jonatan Bernal because they don’t matter as neither of those guys has done anything really. So the first one up:

June 3: Yohanse Morel to the Rangers for Albert Abreu

The final trade is pretty minor. They acquired Albert Abreu for Morel. Yohanse is in High-A ball as an okay reliever about to turn 23, so did not give up a lot. Abreu has had several stints in the majors since 2020 and has turned into a decent bullpen piece. He played in four games for the Royals, giving up two earned runs in 4 13 innings. Then the Royals placed him on waivers, and the Yankees took him back. They traded him to Texas before the 2022 season. He is nothing special, but that is something the team needs in the bullpen, so I still don’t understand why they didn’t keep him around. It’s hard to get worked up about any of it though, and the trade itself I feel like the Royals got the better end of the deal. Just wish they handled the time after that a little better. Guess I give it a B.

June 27: Carlos Santana to the Mariners for Wyatt Mills and William Fleming.

Santana needed to go since he was blocking Pasquantino. I thought they would just DFA him early in the season because he was so bad, but then the Royals got lucky and his bat got hot. This turned into a trade with the Mariners where the Royals received two arms. Mills pitched out of the bullpen briefly last year for the big league club before being traded to the Red Sox in the offseason for Jacob Wallace. If Wallace can stop walking everyone, he has a chance to be something. The 7+ walks per nine is holding him back. Fleming is in High-A ball at the age of 24 and only striking out 7.86 per nine. He will likely never make it to KC. You weren’t going to get much for Santana, so this lackluster haul is fine. I give it a B.

July 11: The #35 pick in the 2022 draft to the Braves for Drew Waters, Andrew Hoffmann, and CJ Alexander

Trading draft picks is still not wide open in baseball, but competitive balance picks can be, and the Royals took advantage of that last year in a deal with the Braves. It is hard to know how to evaluate these since we have no history to work from. We cannot know who the Royals would have taken here, so that end is harder to think through as a counterfactual.

Andrew Hoffmann has a non-zero chance of becoming something useful at the big league level, though Double-A has been too much for him so far. CJ Alexander just looks like an organizational player who will likely never make it out of the minors. We will probably only evaluate this trade based on what Drew Waters does. Last year he held his own in KC, but it was partially BABIP luck and he was striking out way too much. Since coming back from injury to begin this year he has struggled with strike outs again and his walk rate has plummeted. It’s only been 85 plate appearances, so we should wait another month to see how he is doing. The Tampa Bay series went well for him. I like the idea behind this trade, and hopefully Waters becomes an everyday center or corner outfielder, but that is still far from a guarantee at this point.

In general, I have a hard time looking at a pick like this and valuing it crazy high. Drew Waters could be an everyday player, which I would take over most draft picks any day. He does have a profile that makes me concerned though, so for now I would give this a C+.

July 27: Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees for Chandler Champlain, Beck Way, and T.J. Sikkema

Last summer, the Royals sent Benintendi to the Bronx for three minor league arms. Benintendi hit .254/.331/.404 over 33 games with the Yankees. He was fine, but the Royals did not lose much since their season was already effectively over. Benintendi went on to sign with the White Sox in free agency last winter.

T.J. Sikkema has been moved to the bullpen since the trade and started walking twice as many batters as he had been in New York, so the results have not been good for him. Beck Way looked okay in High-A last season over seven starts then moved up to Double-A to start 2023. So far, the jump to Double-A has been rough. His walk rate jumped to 8.7-per-9 innings!! He basically has one good start out of 12 so far, not what the Royals were hoping for. Champlain is the lone bright spot in 2023. He started in high A this season, pitched well, and is now in Arkansas. His first start in Double-A did not go well, but I don’t think it is fair to judge him there on one start yet. His almost four-to-one strike out to walk rate in High-A is what I like the most

This trade is still pretty iffy a year later. If any of these pitchers becomes a big league starter for the Royals, it will be a win. If two can reach, and contribute, out of the pen I would be satisfied too. You just do not get a lot of high ceiling talent for a short-term rental of a player like Benintendi. For now I would give this trade a grade of C-, but there is potential for it to pan out and climb into the Bs.

August 1: Emmanuel Rivera to the Diamondbacks for Luke Weaver

This was the weirdest trade of the bunch in my opinion. The third base tree for the Royals was pretty bare, but Rivera came up last year and didn’t embarrass himself. Then they traded him to Arizona for Luke Weaver? Why trade a position player with many years of control for a pitcher with only a year and a half left to free agency?

Also, he’s not a good pitcher. Weaver had a couple of decent seasons in 2017 and 2019, both as a starter. He was not good for KC and they dumped him and now he is being not good for Cincinnati. Rivera has been okay, posting 1.0 fWAR last year and 0.4 so far this season. He seems to be adequate at third and has a bout a league average bat. Not a great player, but much better, cheaper, and under control for longer than Weaver. This gets a D-. It would sting more, but Maikel Garcia has come in and shown some serious potential as an actual answer to third.

August 2: Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays for Max Castillo and Samad Taylor

The Royals traded former All-Star Whit Merrifield not long after controversial comments that he would get vaccinated for a contender, after not doing so for the Royals. Merrifield was under contract for the end of 2022 and all of this season (and a mutual option for 2024), so this trade gave the Blue Jays more control than what the Yankees got with Benintendi.

Whit hit well for Toronto down the stretch last season posting a 119 wRC+ and picking up 0.8 fWAR. So far this season he has been pretty effective as well. Max Castillo has not been good for KC, though he has gotten a couple looks in the big leagues as a starter and reliever both. The ERA over 5 has kept him on the bus back to Omaha every time. Samad Taylor is starting to make this deal look like it could pay off. He has forced his way onto the big league team by hitting very well in Omaha to start 2023. In his eight games in the majors he has not hit well, but it’s way too early to really say anything definitive. He has not looked overmatched at the plate and defensively he has covered LF and 2B, so the versatility is nice to have with Massey out.

Because Whit needed to be moved and Taylor looks like he could end up being something, I would give this a B- so far. I am pretty close to giving up on Castillo, but I also don’t think Merrifield would have been as productive as a Royal as he has been in Toronto.

August 2: Cam Gallagher to the Padres for Brent Rooker

With Melendez coming up to be a second catcher, Gallagher became redundant. Back up catchers are not going to get you even close to a top 100 prospect, so the Royals settled for Brent Rooker. Rooker lit it up in Omaha and made it to the majors where he did not light anything up. KC ended up just cutting him, and then he was picked up by the soon to not be Oakland A’s. He was absolutely crushing the ball in April, posting a 236 wRC+. In May and June he remembered that he is Brent Rooker and is sitting at a wRC+ of 79. He is similar to Jakob Junis last year where he left and had some early success, but really neither of them were “fixed” after leaving. I would call this a B- and at this point it is basically done.

Overall, the Royals made quite a few trades last summer, and only one of them was what I would consider an obviously bad deal. None of them were particularly inspiring either. I would like to see Piccolo get aggressive this season as there are a lot of things they need. Whether the deals tend to look like these from 2022 will tell us a lot about who was pulling the trigger last season, which in turn will give us some idea about the competence of the current front office in this particular facet. Can’t wait for the trades to start, just so we have something to talk about other than how bad the team has been.