KC Royals fans want the team to be more transactional moving forward, but even they were confused about the team trading for pitcher James McArthur. McArthur, 26, has struggled this season in Triple-A and has yet to make his MLB debut. Plenty of prospect followers scoffed at the Royals trading away teenage outfield prospect Junior Marin. Sure, the Royals desperately need pitching help now, but McArthur was not going to turn things around in Kansas City this season or beyond. At least Marin was a lottery ticket that the Royals might cash in years down the road.
Can the KC Royals maximize low-level trades, like pitcher James McArthur?
I told myself I was not going to judge the trade when it happened, because maybe the Royals saw something they could work with in McArthur. Royals general manager J.J. Picollo confirmed that was the case recently, saying McArthur has some untapped potential.
"There were things that our pitching coaches really liked," Picollo said. "They thought there was something to work with. So that’s why we made the trade for him. We value what he can do and we also have a strong belief that we can help him."
The huge 6-foot-7, 230-pound righty was a starter in the Philadelphia Phillies minors for years, but his size and stuff projected best in the bullpen. That is how the Storm Chasers have used McArthur, with not much better results. He has an 8.44 ERA through his first three appearances, totaling only 5.1 innings. Sure, Werner Park is known for being hitter-friendly, but 6.75 BB/9 is not helping McArthur one bit. His 5.88 FIP looks better, but that is still the worst mark in his career.
My optimistic side says that McArthur only needs more time to settle down. He has a 15.19 K/9 so far for Omaha, a clear career-best in Triple-A. Plus, opposing batters have a .417 BABIP against McArthur. That leads me to believe that luck is involved sometimes, but not always for McArthur.
Why bring McArthur up? Because the Royals need to hit with these low-level moves. Trading for McArthur in the first place sets some expectations for him in Kansas City. They may not be high, but teams do not trade for players to boost their minor-league records. Every move should be done with improving the major-league product in mind. The Royals will not fetch top-tier prospects during the upcoming trade season. They do have quality trade pieces, but nothing fetching a generational haul. Likely, they will get several pitching prospects in hopes of one or two hitting. Their success rate in converting their trade returns into MLB contributors rests upon their ability to evaluate talent in other systems and develop that talent. McArthur's ultimate success or failure is a low-risk, low-reward watermark for what fans can expect.
It is unfair to deem McArthur's time in Omaha a success or failure yet. It would be unfair to the player, the front office, and the coaching staff. But McArthur is not looking hot so far. Hopefully, he turns things around and will be a success story in the Royals farm system.