The Royals were on the lookout for a starting pitcher and one or two bullpen arms to help round out their pitching staff at the trade deadline. They handled it all in one move, acquiring starting pitcher Trevor Cahill and relievers Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter from the Padres in exchange for Travis Wood, Matt Strahm and Esteury Ruiz. Padres beat reporter Dennis Lin reports that the Royals will pay Travis Wood’s salary this year and next as part of the trade.
If you’re interested in the financial aspect of it, the Royals will add about $1.6 million to their 2017 payroll number by paying the salaries of all three new acquisitions along with Cahill’s $250,000 assignment bonus. He also has $250,000 incentives for starting 15, 20 and 25 games. It’s unlikely he reaches 25 starts at this point, but he could get to 20, which would earn him and cost the Royals an additional $500,000.
Let’s get back to the trade and look at the new Royals.
Cahill has made 11 starts this season, going 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA over 61 innings. He’s struck out 10.6 per nine and walked 3.5. He allows less hits than innings pitched and his 2.75 DRA indicates there might be more to what he’s done this season than the raw numbers show. In front of the Royals defense, he should be able to put up even better numbers. And, as I noted in my preview of starting pitchers the Royals might acquire, he can shift to the bullpen in the postseason relatively seamlessly as a late inning arm. Cahill was signed to a $1.75 million deal with incentives this season, so he’s not owed much in terms of base salary. Health is an issue with Cahill, but if he’s healthy, he’s a very good pickup.
Brandon Maurer has had a rough season, but he’s been serving as the Padres closer. He’s struck out nearly a batter per inning with excellent control but a 5.72 ERA. Like Cahill, his DRA is much better at 4.24, but unlike Cahill, it doesn’t change his performance from good to potentially great. He has a big-time fastball that averages 97 MPH plus to go along with a slider and changeup. If he can put it together, he has a chance to be an elite late inning weapon. In his career, that hasn’t happened, but the stuff is outstanding. Maurer is earning $1.9 million through arbitration and has two more years of team control.
Ryan Buchter is a lefty who is nearly impossible to hit (5.5 hits per nine the last two seasons) who gets a ton of strikeouts and walks more than you’d like. The home run has bit him a bit this season, but that wasn’t an issue last year. He throws his fastball a lot at about 93 and it really moves and it’s really good. He has a 3.05 ERA this season but a DRA that says that might be a bit misleading. The issue with Buchter isn’t the quality of his pitches, it’s where they go. If he has it under control, he might be the best pitcher in the deal, though he’s already 30, so the success could be fleeting. The best part about Buchter is that he isn’t even arbitration eligible yet and won’t be another season after this one, so the Royals have him through the 2021 season.
Now let’s take a look at what they gave up.
To me, the biggest name they’re trading is Matt Strahm. The lefty burst onto the scene with the Royals last season and was a key part of their August push back into the playoff ace. As we all know, he struggled this season early before finding his groove and then struggling again in his shot in the starting rotation before a knee injury ended his season. I love Strahm, so it hurts to have to give him up, but a lefty who can strike out batters like Strahm can and could potentially be a big league starter is tough to give up.
Travis Wood has been mostly terrible for the Royals this season, but he had come around in the bullpen prior to his entrance into the rotation over the last few weeks, but even if the Royals are still paying him, it’s good to be able to get away from his lackluster performance. I personally think Wood have been useful next season after getting away from the nightmare that was 2017, but I’m definitely not broken up about losing him.
While Strahm is the biggest name, Ruiz might be the one that hurts the most when it’s all said and done. He’s still in rookie ball, but as an 18-year old, he’s hitting .419/.440/.779 in Arizona in 91 plate appearances. He has speed, pop and the ability to play the middle infield for now. I’ll let Clint evaluate the Ruiz portion of this deal further, but his inclusion is the only part of this deal that makes me stop and think for a minute, but at the same time, an 18-year old in rookie ball isn’t something you should avoid dealing in a trade to make you better today.
I think the Royals did well here, but I don’t think this is a slam dunk win or anything. The goal is to make the playoffs in 2017 and the Royals improved their pitching staff in both the rotation and bullpen with one big move. I love Cahill if he can stay healthy, and I believe Dave Eiland can help to unleash the great stuff Maurer has. Add Buchter from the left side to go along with Scott Alexander and Mike Minor and the Royals bullpen is now deep and incredibly balanced with some serious power arms.
The Royals are in a bit of a tough position now because I think they could still use another bat to be considered favorites to make the postseason, but I’m not sure where they put that bat with Brandon Moss now hitting. This trade, though, makes them legitimately formidable in the playoff race and, I think, gives them a leg up in the Wild Card race at least and might be able to get them over the hump in the AL Central as well.