Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Royals have announced that they have traded David Lough to the Orioles in exchange for third baseman Danny Valencia. Valencia hit .304/.335/.553 with 8 home runs in 170 plate appearances for Baltimore last season.
Lough was likely on his way out of town eventually, since the team had acquired Norichika Aoki, and he was realistically behind the other 4th outfielder options in Jarrod Dyson and Justin Maxwell. Lough did have a very strong rookie campaign, posting 2.4 fWAR in just 335 plate appearances, largely due to very good defense in the outfield. His .316 wOBA was probably unsustainable, but a team can do much worse for their 4th outfielder.
As for Valencia, he is out of options, which makes his acquisition an interesting one. He’ll be a part of the big league roster, and will provide insurance for Mike Moustakas at third base, with the potential to be a true platoon partner. In his career, Valencia has an .879 OPS against left-handed pitching, compared to just a .629 OPS against righties. He doesn’t walk much, but an ISO of .183 against lefties is a valuable asset. Defensively, Valencia is not very good, with a career DRS of -11, so if Moustakas were to go down for an extended period of time, the pitching staff may not be terribly fond of having Valencia’s glove at the hot corner. Still, he should provide some right-handed pop off the bench, which is a terrific thing to have.
Bringing Valencia into the fold also all but assures that the team will only carry 4 outfielders on Opening Day, which means either Dyson or Maxwell will be on their way out. While I said on Monday that Maxwell and his power needed to have a roster spot, Valencia’s presence allows the team to consider keeping Dyson instead, since Valencia’s right-handed bat could be used in late innings instead of Maxwell’s. I’m not saying the Royals will definitely trade Maxwell now, but I do think they’d prefer Dyson at this point, based on the current roster construction.
Regarding his contract status, Valencia won’t be arbitration-eligible until after next season, and won’t be a free agent until after the 2017 season. Having a cheap, controllable player with some upside as a platoon bat is good for the organization, and allows them to hide Moose’s bat if he doesn’t come around against left-handed pitching.