Right-handed pitcher Homer Bailey abruptly went from Royals scheduled starter to a member of the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.
The Royals scratched Bailey from the lineup roughly a half hour before his start against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium, and just before first pitch they announced he’d been traded to Oakland in exchange for minor-league infielder Kevin Merrell.
“Homer did a tremendous job fitting in and doing what he needed to do to be more consistent,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “He’s been terrific for us, He was outstanding. I couldn’t be more pleased with what he accomplished and what we were able to obtain today. It’s a good baseball deal for everybody.”
Oakland selected Merrell, a left-handed hitter out of South Florida, in the first competitive balance round of the 2017 MLB draft (33rd overall). The 23-year-old was with Oakland’s Double-A affiliate, and he’ll report to the Royals’ Double-A affiliate Northwest Arkansas. He will not go onto the Royals’ 40-man roster.
Merrell, a shortstop, signed with Oakland for $1,800,000, according to Baseball America and was considered to have elite speed coming out of college.
Merrell posted a slash line of .246/.292/.339 at Double-A this season. Last season was his first full season as a professional. Moore said Royals scouts and coaches have seen Merrell play this season at Double-A and gave good reports.
“We liked him a great deal out of the draft a couple years ago,” Moore said of Merrell. “He’s our type of player, speed player, loves to play, high-energy, can stay in the middle of the diamond, we liked his potential versatility out of the draft.”
Left-handed reliever Brian Flynn started Sunday’s game in place of Bailey.
Bailey, a veteran right-hander, signed a minor-league deal with the Royals in February after having been traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers and released in what amounted to a salary dump for the Reds. He was part of the trade that sent Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds.
Bailey, 33, has gone 7-6 with a 4.80 ERA in 18 starts this season. In his past six starts, he’s posted a 3-0 record with a 2.83 ERA.
“He did a great job for us,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Bailey. “He kind of resurrected himself, which was I think his intent. It was our intent. He was very serviceable for us. He was great in the clubhouse. He was just a very pleasant surprise.”
Bailey, a former first-round pick of the Reds who has thrown a pair of no-hitters in his career, has a career record of 74-83 with a 4.58 ERA.
The Royals essentially took a flier on Bailey for low cost, since the Dodgers picked up the remaining $23 million on his previous contract, and turned it into a player ranked among the top 25 prospects in Oakland’s farm system. Bailey would have been a free agent at the end of this season.
The trade of Bailey hardly comes as a surprise with the Royals in need of young players to re-stock their farm system and who they can have under club control for multiple years.
Left-handed reliever Jake Diekman, speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton and veteran catcher Martin Maldonado all also seem likely trade candidates heading into the July 31 trade deadline.
“We are not motivated to move any of our players that we have under control,” Moore said going into the weekend. “So the players that would be most appealing for us to possibly move are players that are in the final year of their contracts and then it’s just a matter of whether we can strike the right type of deal.”