Au Revoir, Adalberto Mondesi
One day after trading their center fielder, the Royals traded their long-term question mark at shortstop.
When I was told over the weekend that the Royals were working on two or three trades, I didn’t expect them to come in rapid fire. But that’s what has happened over the last two days. After dealing Michael A. Taylor to the Twins for a couple of relief prospects, the Royals sent Adalberto Mondesi (and a PTBNL or cash) to the Boston Red Sox for lefty reliever Josh Taylor. I said yesterday I wouldn’t be shocked if he was traded, but I would be a little surprised. That was more in reference to being the next move and I have to say that I was a little surprised.
While I was never exactly agnostic regarding the return on a Mondesi deal, I do think the time was right for a few reasons. I’m rehashing old comments, but for a player like him heading into the last year of his deal, there’s very little good that can come from him hanging around on a roster. I guess first I should explain what I mean when I say “a player like him.” I think I actually explained it in a tweet.
Mondesi is an electric talent who, at any given time, can look like the best player you’ll ever see. He truly has everything. We’ve seen him get to third as fast as anyone in baseball on a triple. We’ve seen him hit the ball 450+ feet. We’ve seen him hit rockets. We’ve seen make amazing plays at shortstop. But the phrase I kept coming back to all winter last year was to believe a player when he tells you who he is. And Mondesi has been screaming for years that he isn’t good. Could he be good? Without a doubt! Do I want him to be great? Without a doubt! But what he was for the Royals was a below average hitter who couldn’t get on base and couldn’t stay on the field. And his best position was the same position that the guy the team is counting on to be their star plays. It just didn’t work.
So what happens if they keep him on the roster to start the year. Play a few scenarios out.
If he’s great for two or three months, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a deal for him that nets more in actual value than the one they made. Maybe it’s a bit more or they don’t have to include the PTBNL/cash, but if you’re skeptical about him keeping something up, think what an opposing GM might think. Compare him to Jurickson Profar, who was traded with a full year of control left and netted the A’s Austin Allen, a catcher who has a .195/.252/.288 career line in 127 big league plate appearances, and Buddy Reed, an outfielder they released last season. Profar’s four years before the deal at the same age saw him hit .235/.319/.405. Now, he can’t play shortstop and probably couldn’t at the time, but I don’t think you’re getting more than that.
You may also think if he’s great for a couple of months that the time is right to extend him. Only you’re caught in a bad situation because he probably wants to test the market, so you have to offer a guy market value after he’s been below average and hurt for years. That doesn’t seem great.
If he’s healthy but still playing poorly for the first half, you’re not getting much for him.
If he’s hurt, you’re not getting anything for him.
Yes, there’s a world where he plays like an MVP and you can get a very nice return for him, but in this age of sports betting everywhere, that would be like +10000. Now, personally I wouldn’t have traded for a 30-year old lefty reliever who missed all of 2022 with a back injury. I actually like Taylor quite a bit, but my preference would have been a lower-level prospect who the Royals offensive development team could probably work some magic with, but I think the actual value of Taylor is about right for Mondesi.
Because the thing is that he’s got a lot to like about him as a reliever. All of this is based on his 2021 season since he didn’t pitch at all last year, but he’s a big lefty who relies heavily on a slider that got whiffs on 47.3 percent of swings. It’s a damn fine pitch.
It’s easy to see why it’s so effective. The bottom just drops out of it and I think is what helped him be more effective against righties at least in 2021 than he was in 2020. He still wasn’t good against them, but he was outstanding against lefties. He held them to a .146/.222/.159 line in 90 plate appearances with 28 strikeouts and just seven walks. And while he doesn’t have impeccable control, he gets enough strikeouts for it to matter a little less. He made just eight appearances in 2020 and I think we’re all cool acknowledging that it happened but understanding that the sample is just so small that it may not matter, but in 2019 and 2021, he had a 30.3 percent strikeout rate and 9.7 percent walk rate. That, as Alec Lewis would say, will play.
Now the Royals have built some very real depth in their bullpen. I tweeted out some names, but I want to put them here in a list for impact. These are the possibilities in the bullpen for the 2023 season:
Those are just the guys who I think have a shot at the Opening Day roster. Some will be starters and some may get traded, but that is 23 pitchers. Of those 23, 17 of them have options. Some, like Barlow, won’t get used, but they’re there and could be. When Matt Quatraro was hired, he mentioned depth a lot and also mentioned utilizing depth while being transactional within your own roster.
This is what teams like the Rays do. They find the right combination of pitchers for a series of games and guys go to the minors sometimes. The Royals appear ready to make a lot of use of I-29 for their bullpen to keep arms fresh and to use them in the most advantageous of ways. I like that a lot. I might like more that there’s a very clear plan in place here.
So as with the Taylor trade, it brings up the question of what’s next? You might recall the “three” portion of “two or three” with trades in the works. So is there another one coming? My guess is yes, but I don’t have a whole lot of information to guarantee that. There was a report from yesterday that the White Sox were interested in Nicky Lopez and apparently other teams have some interest as well. I would be a bit surprised if the Royals end up trading Lopez, but if this return…
…is accurate, I think they might reconsider. The reason I don’t think they’re terribly keen on trading Lopez is that I’m not sure they’re completely sold on Michael Massey being ready to go every day at second base. Plus, they don’t currently have a third baseman. I think Mondesi was going to fill that role and now he’s gone.
I got some assurances that they are working hard to move Hunter Dozier, who could play third to start the season, but that’s a tricky deal. Maybe I’m wrong here, but he feels like someone who goes when someone gets hurt in spring training and a team has an immediate need. Otherwise, it’s the same general idea as I mentioned yesterday with a bad contract swap or the Royals have to pay down some or all of the money owed to him. It could absolutely happen, but my guess it that’s more down the road.
So, to me, that sort of leaves a bullpen arm. The Royals have amassed a bullpen, including Chapman who remains unofficial, that has five immediate left-handed options, including Garrett, Lovelady, Taylor, Misiewicz and the aforementioned Chapman, but also Bubic, Lynch, Sisk and Zerpa. That’s just another reason why the Chapman deal was unnecessary, but I’ll mention Garrett again as someone who could easily get moved and clear even a little more salary.
I’ll get back to the salary because I’ve also heard from a different source that Barlow could go at any time as well. The Royals recognize that his velocity dipped (so does every team) and that he’s only under team control for two more years and he’s now 30. They can probably get back a nice return and should be moving him when they get the offer they like.
So let’s get back to clearing that salary. In JJ Picollo’s comments yesterday, he did give a payroll range for 2023.
I’ll start by saying that they currently have about $65.3 million guaranteed to 13 players (including Chapman), there’s another $3 million-ish for Brady Singer and then they’ll need to fill out the roster with minimum salary guys as the roster is currently constructed. So I have their payroll at about $77 million. I wonder who they could sign to make up the final $8 million to $13 million. Maybe there’s a pitcher who started his career with the Royals, won a Cy Young, left and made A LOT of money but came back last season and was solid, though with flaws. Wait a second, is that Zack Greinke’s music?
Picollo did say it could be used for in-season acquisitions as well, but I’m thinking that’s just GM speak and they’ll be making another move or two to fill out the rest of that payroll. At this point, I’m leaning toward being surprised if it isn’t Greinke, but we’ll see what move is next for the suddenly active Royals.
Thanks David, so happy to start to see a clearer plan now and some roster churn. I don’t even really care the return at this point. Some of these arms will work, some won’t and that’s fine. I will care a little more about the return for Barlow though. A little worried they try and trade Barlow specifically for a third baseman…which just get the best deal you can and not worry about a specific position. Does Garret have much trade value. One of these lefties probably get moved…but I’m just not sure which one has all that much value or you just moving a ehh bullpen arm for a ehh bullpen arm which is fine I guess.
I might be the only one not all that excited to see Greinke return….at least if it is a two year deal. And maybe that’s the hold up and the royals will wait him out on a one year deal. But for two…..he made it work last year but a lot of smoke and mirrors. The Royals are at least interesting this week. Better than most of the offseason.
I decided to look for every player the Royals have moved on from this offseason.
If you include Greinke (and I know that will likely be reversed soon), that's 25% of the 40-man out the door AND they've overhauled the front office and on-field coaching staff.