The Royals have announced that they’ve traded Danny Valencia to Toronto in exchange for Liam Hendriks and Erik Kratz. Ken Rosenthal and Shi Davidi were the first to report the move. To make room on the 25-man roster, Brett Hayes has been designated for assignment. Hendriks has been assigned to Triple-A Omaha, and Christian Colon will be rejoining the roster as the utility man.
Kratz now fills in as the backup catcher, although he hasn’t been that much better than Hayes this season, hitting .198/.226/.346 in 84 plate appearances. Ok, I suppose that’s quite a bit better than Hayes’ .135/.151/.212, even if it isn’t what you would classify as “good.” The 34-year old isn’t a free agent until after the 2018 season, so the Royals could keep him at an affordable rate for a few years, if they were so inclined. Defensively, Kratz appears to have an average arm and solid blocking ability, allowing just 6 passed balls in 1,076 career innings behind the plate.
Hendriks is a 25-year old right-hander, who was a top prospect in the Twins’ organization a few years ago, has struggled quite a bit in the big leagues, posting an ERA of 6.06 across 4 partial seasons. In 2014, he’s pitched just 13.1 innings, and has allowed 3 home runs. That doesn’t bode well for a pitcher who will now call Werner Park home, but Hendriks has displayed very good control, walking just 7 batters in over 108 innings for the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate. Hendriks should serve as depth in the case of any injuries to the current Royals rotation, and the organization likely hopes the elite outfield defense and home run-suppressing Kauffman Stadium can improve Hendriks’ production, if called upon.
Dayton Moore has indicated this move was a way to get Colon back in the big leagues, where he was impressive in his debut earlier this month. He’s also been hitting the ball extremely well in Omaha lately, posting an OPS of 1.127 since rejoining the Storm Chasers. I would expect Colon to get a start or two per week at various spots around the infield, including third base, where Mike Moustakas is now left without a platoon partner.
Valencia had performed very well as the short side of the third base platoon, hitting .354/.386/.492 against southpaws this season, and with him gone, Moose could be exposed to facing more lefties himself, which is certainly less than ideal. While he has been much better overall since his quick stay in Omaha, Moustakas still is best served facing right-handers. Colon has a .954 OPS against left-handers this season, so it stands to reason he could provide some help at third, even if the Royals don’t use a strict platoon.
All in all, this series of moves is somewhat confusing. I do think Kratz will provide more value as Salvador Perez‘s backup than Hayes, but I don’t see a ton of upside with Hendriks, even though he’s still “young” at 25. Losing Valencia isn’t necessarily a huge cost, although if it means far more plate appearances for Moose against lefties, it’s difficult to see how much the team has really upgraded.
Some may speculate this deal is a precursor to another trade, but I’m not so sure. Obviously they may still make a deal for a right-handed outfielder as has been rumored, but I don’t think that hypothetical trade would have to be connected to this real trade.
The one thing I do like is having a player on the roster who is a legitimate utility player, who can back-up shortstop and second base without having to ask where to stand on the diamond. Alcides Escobar is in a pretty bad tailspin, and Omar Infante has had some injury issues this year, so it only makes sense to have a guy like Colon in Kansas City. An argument could be made the Royals could have simply gotten rid of Raul Ibanez instead of unloading a useful player like Valencia, but alas, the team felt differently.