Grade That Trade! Royals Trying to Bolster the Rotation Edition

We have our first, legitimate off-season trade (Diamondbacks-A’s-Marlins swap was technically before the World Series ended), folks! In a move that proved the Kansas City Royals are serious about shoring up their starting rotation, they traded a minor league pitcher to the Los Angeles Angels for right-hander Ervin Santana on Tuesday.

Let’s break it down:

Royals Get:

SP Ervin Santana

Cash

Angels Get:

RP Brandon Sisk (Triple-A)

The Angels were expected to either trade Santana before the deadline for his $13 million option was up, or to trade him. They went with the latter and came away with a decent haul. You can never have enough bullpen depth, especially lefties. In Sisk, Los Angeles receives a young, impressive southpaw.

According to multiple scouting reports I read, Sisk has a great K to BB ratio, a 2.60 ERA in his minor league career, and averages 10 K/9. It looks to me like he projects as a lefty specialist in the Major Leagues, but a good one of those is invaluable.

Santana had been wearing out his welcome in Los Angeles anyway – the 29-year-old never lived up to his full potential in an Angels uniform, though he had flashes of brilliance. A no-hitter in 2011 helped keep him in favor for another season and a half, but for the $13 million price tag, he was easy trade bait.

For the Royals, this is a great pick up. I couldn’t find a figure on how much of the $13 million the Angels are picking up in the deal, but I’m assuming it’s going to be around $5 million at least to make it affordable for the smaller-market Royals. [UPDATE: The Angels sent just $1 million along with Santana, meaning the Royals are responsible for $12 million - very surprising to me. Severely limits KC's ability to test pitching market in free agency.] 

Some dummy picked the Royals as a fringe playoff team in 2012 (okay, it was me) because I fell in love with their offense. Nothing has changed as far as the lineup is concerned; I’m still incredibly impressed with Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, and Alex Gordon. But what really killed the Royals this year was the pitching staff.

After trading away Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez before the season (oops), they made up for it partially by swinging Sanchez to Colorado for Jeremy Guthrie. He looked good for the Royals down the stretch, and kind of fits the mold like Santana. That is, a righty starter in his prime with dominant stuff that hasn’t quite put it all together.

The Royals are apparently going to let Guthrie test the free agent market, but I personally think they’d be smart to bring him back. He pitched well in Kansas City after coming over mid-season, and would pair nicely in the middle of the rotation with Bruce Chen and Santana.

With plenty of payroll room now that they declined their option on closer Joakim Soria (replaced admirably by Greg Holland), the Royals can spend a little bit on another starter. This blogger thinks they should try to make a play at Kyle Lohse.

I like the offense and bullpen in Kansas City, but I’d like to see them shore up the rotation even a little more. On paper, Chen, Santana, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza and Chris Volstad is nothing to get excited about. But with Will Smith and Jake Odorizzi just waiting to claim permanent spots in the rotation (they might even win spots in Spring Training) and Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy expected back from Tommy John in the second half, this rotation might be better than people expect in 2013.

Now, the Angels mostly got rid of Santana to clear up cap space to re-sign Zach Greinke. They’d also like to trade Dan Haren to clear even more room, and I’m sure they are exploring options for that right now. As an Angel fan, you’d have to like a top three of Greinke, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

But, after signing Wilson and Albert Pujols to mega-deals before last season, the Angels were a major disappointment, finishing third in the AL West. They need to do something to fall back into favor with the fan base. No matter what, you have to expect the Angels will be gunning hard to make amends and reach the playoffs in 2013.

That being said, I think both teams made out evenly in the trade. Because question marks loom for both rotations, I’ll put them each around a B+, with room to move up depending on the rest of the wheeling and dealing the respective GM’s do.

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