Less than 24 hours after KC Royals fans panned the Nicky Lopez trade, the team made a trade with little negative response. The Royals traded relief pitcher José Cuas to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Nelson Velázquez. The team announced the move less than 24 hours ahead of the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
The KC Royals redeemed themselves with another trade Monday evening.
Cuas, widely known for his rise from a FedEx driver to return to the MLB, has struggled to find consistent success on the mound this season. His 4.54 ERA, 4.45 FIP, and .275 batting average allowed are all career worsts and are not boosting the Royals bullpen at all. According to FanGraphs, Cuas leads the Royals with 10 "meltdowns", their measurement of an effective outing. The 29-year-old reliever has just 92 games in his professional career, so he still has time to find his footing or discover a new process in the Chicago bullpen.
The trade for Nelson Velázquez came as a surprise to many fans, who were pleased with the addition of a promising outfielder to the team. This move shows that the Royals are actively working towards strengthening their roster and making strategic trades to improve the team's depth beyond the 2023 season. The Royals assigned Velázquez to Triple-A Omaha after the trade, leaving another spot open on the 26-man roster.
Velázquez is a young player with sizeable potential, with only 90 career MLB games. The Cubs have a crowded outfield, so Velázquez only appeared in 13 games this season. But, in those 32 plate appearances, he has a 145 wRC+, .933 OPS, and three home runs. He is walking more and striking out less compared to the 2023 campaign in that limited action as well.
Frankly, these are the moves that Royals fans wanted to see. This trade offloads a replaceable player who will not contribute to a competitive Royals team while adding a controllable piece who could do that. The club still has many trade candidates to move ahead of Tuesday's deadline, but trading Cuas proves what other trades could net the Royals.
Velázquez is far from a sure thing, but Cuas was not making the team better and did not have the clear potential to do so. He is a great person, with amazing perseverance and impeccable professionalism. Hopefully, those traits will do him well on a Cubs team fighting to stay in the postseason race. But the Royals seem like the clear winners of this trade. Fans will watch Velázquez for both his individual performance and proof that this front office can add pieces to improve the future Royals.