With the official signing of Jason Hammel on Wednesday the Royals needed to do some housekeeping to free up a spot on their 40-man roster. In order to perform this function the Royals decided to DFA minor league starting pitcher and 2016 callup to the bullpen, Alec Mills. Just a few hours later it was announced that Kansas City had worked out a trade of Mills with the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs in exchange for 23 year old A-ball outfielder Donnie Dewees.
What did the Royals give up?
In trading Mills Kansas City is giving up a right-handed starter with a backend profile based on his control and mix of four pitches. The change up to go along with Mills 91-94 mph fastball are his two best pitches, but currently still grade no better than average. The righty admitted in his latest interview with me, posted yesterday, that while currently throwing a curve and slider he was still in search of a refining a breaking pitch that he could rely on to earn outs. The profile that Alec presents without that wipeout breaking ball is actually something where the Royals have strong depth already with Jake Junis, A.J. Puckett and Eric Skoglund as potential backend rotation starters in the minors. With his current mix of pitches, I would put him equal to that of Skoglund, but behind Junis who possesses slightly less control but a better fastball and much, much better breaking ball with a more durable frame. The Royals director of scouting, Lonnie Goldberg, comped Puckett to Mills last year during the post-draft press conference with Puckett’s lack of a 40-man spot and invite to spring training likely making Mills available for trade.
What are they are getting?
In Dewees the Royals are getting a slightly older than level outfielder with a profile that you typically see in the KC minor leagues. A 65/70 grade runner, 50/55 hit tool to go with pension to hit for average than get on base via walk while being a multi-sport athlete. Coming out of college Dewees drew comparisons to Brett Gardner, thanks in part to some ridiculous power numbers while playing in a friendly hitting park. The Royals may have coveted Dewees during the ’15 draft, missing out on him when the Cubs selected him in the 2nd round and paying him $1.7m to sign as the 47th overall selection. That power hasn’t followed from college like some thought it might however, connecting on just a .402 slugging average since debuting in 2015. While he hasn’t been able to convert that power, he did show off that he was starting to convert that speed on the bases this season, connecting on 14 triples and stealing 31 bags in 129 games. The 31 steals isn’t especially impressive on the surface, but when you dig in and realize that he went a perfect 14 for 14 in just 35 games at High-A when he was promoted this past season, it looks a little better. This part of his game should become a major weapon once employed in a Royals system that pushes the running game quite a bit more than the Cubs. The hit tool was expected to be a tad better than it has so far, possibly profiling as more of a .300+ hitter than he has shown, but his all-field approach and line drive swing should fit well should he make it to the K. The biggest detractor in Dewees game is his lack of arm strength, getting a 20 grade arm from Keith Law or at best a 40 grade arm via a scouting report provided by BP.
If you believe he’s closer to that 40 grade, then the Royals could possibly iron out the defensive kinks and make him a centerfielder where his lack of power isn’t as big of an issue. If that arm is in Law’s realm he would likely have to move to a leftfield corner where the lack of a power starts to become a real issue. With this move the Royals are hoping they are dealing from a position of depth for a top of the order table setter or controllable and cheap fourth outfielder much like they just gave up in Jarrod Dyson. One insider in the game indicated to me that they would rate Dewees as the Royals third best prospect, behind just Matt Strahm and Josh Staumont. A sentiment that prospect writer and draft guru Chris Crawford agreed with.
One last interesting note involving this trade. With the addition of Mills, the Cubs currently have five former Royals among the 24 pitchers on their 40 man roster in Wade Davis, Aaron Brooks, Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing and Mills.