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The Kansas City Royals were active in the trade market this year, making multiple trades to reshape their overall roster for the future.
The Royals acquired stalwart pitcher Cole Ragans from the Texas Rangers, for instance. They also picked up outfielder Nelson Velázquez and relief pitchers James McArthur and Taylor Hearn.
“That was a collective effort by the departments (analytics and scouting),” vice president and general manager JJ Picollo told The Star. “Our scouts did a really good job in identifying Cole Ragans. He is somebody that has upside and years of control. With Velázquez, we were looking for right-handed power.”
The Royals also received some intriguing prospects in exchange for players they dealt to fellow clubs, such as high-profile veteran reliever Aroldis Chapman, who was traded to Texas.
The Royals acquired Top 30 prospects Henry Williams (No. 22) and Devin Mann (No. 27) in separate deals. They have shown promise since entering the organization.
“We also have a couple of young prospects that are at the lower levels and have done a nice job since we acquired them,” Picollo said.
So how did the Royals fare overall in the trade market this season? Let’s recap some notable 2023 trades.
May 8: James McArthur acquired
The Royals made a splash early in the season by acquiring McArthur in exchange for minor-league outfielder Junior Marin and cash.
McArthur had a forgettable major-league debut against the Cleveland Guardians. He allowed six hits and seven runs in one inning. After coming to the KC organization, he bounced between the majors and Triple-A Omaha before settling into a bullpen role.
The Royals recalled McArthur from Triple-A Omaha earlier this month, and he has been dominant. In fact, he’s earned a high-leverage role since rejoining the big-league pitching staff.
“I think I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot about trusting my pitches,” McArthur said. “It comes down to execution. Going out there and competing with pitches and having conviction in them, whether it’s the right pitch to throw or the right situation.”
McArthur recently picked up his first career win and save. In his last eight games, he has allowed one hit and struck out 11. He also retired 31 of his last 32 batters faced.
“I think the catchers and pitching coaches here have done a really good job of helping me figure out what pitches in my arsenal are going to get those outs,” McArthur said.
June 30: Cole Ragans arrives
The Royals did their due diligence in trading the veteran Chapman. The seven-time All-Star reliever was the subject of numerous trade rumors.
The Royals had hoped to get a solid return for Chapman — and got more than they could’ve imagined. The Royals acquired Ragans and young prospect Roni Cabrera in the deal.
Ragans has been a summer star since his arrival in Kansas City. He’s emerged as a frontline starter and potential ace of the pitching staff.
In August, Ragans was named American League Pitcher of the Month. And he has shown no signs of slowing down.
“They traded for me for a reason, and they liked what they saw,” he said. “I am trying to prove them right and continue to keep doing it.”
Ragans is 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 10 starts with the Royals. He has struck out 76 batters in 59 1/3 innings and is limiting opposing teams to a .197 batting average.
Cabrera hit .271 in 22 games with Royals Blue in the Dominican Summer League (DSL).
Meanwhile, Chapman has carved out a role with the Rangers. He has a 3.08 ERA in 26 1/3 innings since the trade.
July 30: Royals trade Nicky Lopez
The Royals made a difficult decision by trading Lopez at the deadline.
The fan favorite had been with the organization since 2016. He’s a former fifth-round pick and was a key contributor in a variety of roles. Lopez offers versatility: He recently began playing games at first base and in the outfield.
The Royals traded Lopez to the Atlanta Braves for reliever Taylor Hearn. The move afforded playing time to several prospects. The Royals used infielder Samad Taylor and Nick Loftin in super-utility role.
Hearn has posted an 8.22 ERA and is currently with Triple-A Omaha.
Lopez is hitting .291 in 21 games with the Braves.
July 31: Royals add Velázquez
The Royals made an underrated move just before the trade deadline, acquiring Nelson Velázquez from the Cubs in exchange for reliever Jose Cuas.
Velázquez is known for his immense power. He can blast 400-foot home runs with a short, compact swing. But the Royals have been just as impressed with his ability to hit the ball to all fields.
Velázquez has hit 12 home runs since joining the Royals. He’s made some slight adjustments and they’ve helped refine his approach.
“He’s been great to work with in the cage. Great to work with on the field,” Royals hitting coach Alec Zumwalt said. “More than anything, it’s just him just understanding his own swing a little bit differently now.”
The Royals’ lineup needed the production. Velázquez offers additional support for teammates Bobby Witt Jr., Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez in the order. His 12 homers are the most for any Royal in his first 31 games with the club.
Cuas has a 3.60 ERA in 20 innings with the Cubs.
August 1: Royals trade Scott Barlow
The Royals shipped Scott Barlow to the Padres in a deadline move that netted two intriguing prospects, in Williams and Jesus Rios.
Both players are working their way through the Royals’ minor-league system. Williams has posted a 2-1 record and 3.38 ERA with Class A Columbia. He struck out six against the Carolina Mudcats in August.
Williams was selected in the third round of the 2022 MLB Draft. Meanwhile, Rios spent time with Royals Blue in the Dominican Summer League.
Barlow, meanwhile, owns a 3.00 ERA in 20 games with the Padres.
Aug. 1: Royals trade Ryan Yarbrough
The Royals received two infield prospects in the Ryan Yarbrough trade: Devin Mann and Derlin Figueroa.
Mann is hitting .197 with six home runs and 15 RBIs at Triple-A Omaha. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 MLB Draft.
Figueroa spent the 2023 campaign in rookie ball. He hit .571 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 11 games.
Yarbrough is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in nine games with the Dodgers.