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The Royals officially began what will likely be an active Trade Deadline season on Monday by sending first baseman Carlos Santana and cash considerations to the Mariners for right-handers Wyatt Mills, who was added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Omaha, and William Fleming, who was assigned to High-A.
The biggest news to come out of that trade yesterday was not the trade itself, but what it triggered: the promotion of Vinnie Pasquantino, the "Italian Nightmare." With Santana no longer blocking Pasquantino's path to the Majors, the Royals acted quickly to select the contract of their No. 3 prospect. You can read about Pasquantino's day and what he will add to the club's lineup and clubhouse here.
• What makes Pasquantino's arrival so interesting
• What to expect from Pasquantino
The other part of this trade is what the Royals added to their system in place of Santana, a 36-year-old veteran who struggled to start the season but got hot at the perfect time for the Royals. Santana posted a 1.032 OPS in June, just in time for contending teams to think about the pieces they needed to add to stay in the playoff race down the stretch. Seattle, dealing with injuries, was aggressive over the weekend in pursuit of Santana.
As Pasquantino's bat forced its way into discussions about the Major League lineup, the Royals' patience with Santana over the first part of the season paid off. While they ate most of Santana's $10.5 million salary this year -- sending over $4 million to Seattle, per a source -- they did receive two prospects and an opportunity for one of their top hitting prospects.
"Carlos was a professional throughout, and just happy that we found a landing spot for him," general manager J.J. Picollo said. "He's got a chance to go and help a team that's in the middle of a divisional race, and we were able to get something in return that we're excited about -- not only right now, somebody who's been in the Major Leagues, but somebody that we think highly of that will be in the Major Leagues in years to come."
Here's a breakdown of the two pitchers the organization added Monday:
2022 stats: 1.83 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 19 2/3 Minor League innings; 4.15 ERA with six strikeouts in 8 2/3 Major League innings
The Royals have a long history with Mills, now a 27-year-old reliever. They were interested in drafting him in 2017 and hosted him in their pre-Draft workout that year, intrigued by his sidearm delivery. The Mariners beat them to the punch in the Draft, taking Mills in the third round out of Gonzaga.
"He went on to do what we thought he would do and moved pretty quickly, of course with the 2020 season in there as well," Picollo said. "And then subsequently, we had some trade discussions prior to this trade where he was a name that came up often in our trade discussions. We have a lot of history with him."
Mills relies on his funky delivery and fastball/slider combination to get hitters out, missing bats and inducing tons of ground balls. His fastball sits in the low-90s with a lot of sink to it, and his slider serves as his main strikeout pitch. He struggles with command at times, but the Royals believe he offers a different look to their 'pen, similar to Collin Snider and Jose Cuas. The Royals will work with Mills in Omaha until he's needed in Kansas City, but it's likely he'll be called up at some point this season.
"We feel like there's a formula there that can help us put a bullpen together that gives you different looks and makes it tough for opponents to game plan against you," Picollo said. "He throws a lot of strikes, high number of ground balls. The strikeout numbers are fair, but I think in that type of role, it's not really strikeouts you're looking for, it's soft contact. He's shown throughout his career that he can get off barrels and produce soft contact. We just thought it was a good fit."
2022 stats: 4.92 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 67 2/3 Single-A innings
An 11th-round pick out of Wake Forest last year, Fleming caught the eye of scouts in the Draft process and in his first season, when Fleming held hitters to a .198 average and posted a 3.27 ERA in 22 innings last year.
He's struggled a bit more in '22, but the Royals are intrigued by the movement on his fastball, as well as his sweeper slider. The 23-year-old is also an imposing presence, standing at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds.
"He's not quite an established prospect just yet as far as having number of years in Minor Leagues, but there are some things that he does that attract us from a pitching standpoint," Picollo said. "He's going to continue to start, and now that we're with him, we'll learn a lot more about him and give him the opportunity to pitch and see what his abilities are. But the fastball profile is probably what stood out the most, along with the things that people who have coached him before have said about him."
What's next for the Royals as the Deadline nears? It's still over a month away, but expect them to be active sellers. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi is on an expiring contract and is surely to be sought after by contending teams needing a lefty bat. Center fielder Michael A. Taylor could net a large return with his defense and improving bat -- especially because he has one more year left on his contract.
It's becoming clearer, though, that the Royals will listen to offers on most of their players, outside of Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez and now Pasquantino.
"We're going to be exploring everything we can possibly explore to make our team better," Picollo said. "Guys on expiring contracts tend to draw a little bit more interest than those that are not, especially teams that are contending. So a lot like we've gone through with Carlos, we'll go through the same process with Andrew. Andrew is a really good player. He's having a great year. If he's with us the entire year, we'll be a better team for it. But at the same time, I think if there's an opportunity that allows us to make us better not only today but more so even moving into the future, we have to be open minded to it.
"Really, that goes for all our players. We just have to be open minded to improve this team any way we can."
Zack Greinke has historically pitched well against the A's, and that was no different Friday night, when the veteran starter returned from the injured list and held Oakland to one run in six innings. Greinke now has a 2.70 ERA against Oakland in 25 appearances (20 starts) and 133 1/3 innings.
A's manager Mark Kotsay has been watching Greinke do his thing for several years now; the two were locker-mates with the Brewers in 2011.
"He's brilliant at game planning and executing it," Kotsay said. "He does a lot of that on his own. I watched him prepare for each start. He's a brilliant baseball mind and just a great pitcher. He scouts on his own and forms his game plans. He watches swings. His craft is amazing."
Asked if any Greinke stories stood out from their time on the same team together, Kotsay laughed.
"He definitely goes to amateur [college] games and actually scouts," Kotsay said. "Writes reports. The whole nine yards. I don't know if he's been to high school games, but I wouldn't put it past him."
Kotsay was a member of the A's in 2004 when Greinke made his Major League debut at the Coliseum. Kotsay played center field and went 0-for-3 against Greinke, who allowed two runs in five innings as a 20-year-old. While Kotsay doesn't remember that game specifically, he does remember what it's like to face Greinke.
"That was when he had 95-97 [mph] in the tank," Kotsay said. "He's a different pitcher now. He's evolved. He'd probably say he's a better pitcher now than he was then. When you make an out against Zack, from my standpoint, when I probably made several outs, it was always, 'How did I miss that pitch?' Or, 'What was that pitch? Was it a changeup? Did he take some more off?' That's the memories of facing Zack."
With 11 homers and 12 steals, Bobby Witt Jr. is already one of just three players in Royals history to record 10 home runs and 10 stolen baes in his first big league season. Who was the first player to do so?
A.) Eric Hosmer
B.) George Brett
C.) Alex Gordon
D.) Carlos Beltrán
• In what many viewed as a shocking and unprecedented move, Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson is leaving mid-season to become the pitching coach at LSU. Twins beat writer Do-Hyoung Park has the details.
• He throws 105 mph. You've seen the video. How far can that fiery fastball take Tennessee pitcher Ben Joyce in the MLB Draft? Anthony Castrovince tells us the story, the history and much more in this great piece.
• A no-hitter happened this weekend. Three Astros pitchers combined to achieve the feat in Yankee Stadium, and Houston beat writer Brian McTaggart takes us through it.
Just over six years ago, on June 25, 2016, Royals pitcher Chris Young hurled a breaking ball up in the zone to Astros outfielder George Springer, locking the hitter up for a called strike three -- and Young's 1,000th career strikeout. Young spent the final three seasons of his 13-year career with Kansas City and posted a 3.06 ERA in 34 appearances (18 starts) in 2015.
Young is now the general manager of the Texas Rangers, who are in town this week for a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium.
C.) Alex Gordon
Gordon was the first Royals player to record at least 10 home runs and 10 steals in his first big league season, doing so in 2007. He reached the 10/10 mark on Aug. 12, 2007, in his 108th game. Hosmer became the second Royal to achieve the mark on Sept. 8, 2011, in his 111th game. Witt hit the mark on June 21 in his 65th big league game.
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