Luis Mendoza has been a bit of an enigma during his time in the Royals organization. He had a relatively decent 2010 season in the minors, posting a 10-9 record with a 4.10 ERA in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Mendoza then followed that up by going 12-5 with a 2.18 ERA, despite having roughly the same peripheral numbers. No matter how inexplicable as it may have been, that type of success helped Mendoza to get a spot in the Royals rotation in 2012. Mendoza was essentially a league average pitcher, going 8-10 with a 4.23 ERA, good enough for an ERA+ of 99. However, Mendoza’s ability to fool hitters disappeared, as he went 2-6 with a 5.36 ERA, eventually losing his spot in the rotation to a resurgent Bruce Chen.
Now, the pitcher better known for his long, flowing locks of hair than for anything he has actually done on the mound may be on his way out. Hunter had already speculated that the Royals may not tender Mendoza a contract for next season, but things may have progressed further than that. According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, Mendoza will be heading over to Japan to play for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Hearing the reports from Japan are correct, that #Royals RHP Luis Mendoza is heading to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Confirmation expected soon.
— Bob Dutton (@Royals_Report) November 11, 2013
As surprising as this may seem, it does allow the Royals the opportunity to get something for a player that they likely no longer had any room for, even if it is just the relief of not having to pay his salary next season. With prospects such as Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura seemingly close to contributing in the majors and a deep bullpen, Mendoza likely did not have a role for the 2014 Royals.
For Mendoza, this move could help him to resurrect his career. At this point, the best Mendoza could have likely hoped for as a free agent would have been a minor league contract with an invitation to a major league camp, where he would have to prove that 2013 was an aberration. Instead, he can head over to Japan and pitch for one of the storied franchises in the Japanese League, where he will be given every opportunity to turn himself back into a viable major league option.
As unexpected as it may have been for Luis Mendoza to be shipped off to Japan by the Royals, this is a move that makes sense for both sides. In the end, is that not what trades are meant to do – benefit both parties?