By: Joe Botana
Late on Monday, the KC Royals completed a trade designed to add depth and a veteran presence for their post-season run. The Royals get 13-year veteran LF Jonny Gomes from the Atlanta Braves. In exchange, the Braves receive a very promising young SS prospect, Luis Valenzuela, plus some cash to cover the approximately $1 million due to Gomes on his current deal.
The deal appears to benefit both teams, which find themselves at opposite end of the competitiveness spectrum as we move into September baseball in the 2015 season. In Gomes, the Royals get several positive elements. First, he brings a veteran presence with 13 years of MLB experience to a talent-rich but young team. The Royals average under 8 years of experience on the current outfield roster, and many of KC’s stars are in their first five years. He is also by all accounts a well-liked teammate and a good clubhouse presence. Finally, he brings reliable outfield depth and a good right-handed bat on a team with many lefty handed hitters. Gomes’ stats against left handers are not spectacular, but they are solid. In 73 ABs in 2015, he has a .247 batting average. a .412 OBP, and is slugging .466, for a .878 OPS. Even though only 37% of his ABs are against LH pitchers, 5 of his 7 HRs are against southpaws.
For their part, the Braves acquire a very intriguing young IF prospect in Luis Valenzuela. The 22-year old can play SS and 3rd but is primarily a 2nd baseman. In 47 games with the Lexington Legends, he has a .339 BA with a .368 OBP and is slugging at a healthy .483 clip, for a .851 OPS. Granted, this is at the single-A level, and he is most likely still 2-3 years away from arriving at the MLB level. However, for a team which is going nowhere but home after this regular season, stocking up on prospects now for a run several years hence is undoubtedly the right approach.
At the end of the 2014 post-season, the Royals were only one game and one amazing Madison Bumgarner performance away from winning it all. Trades like today’s incrementally bolster their chances of success this year. Meanwhile, the Braves continue the process of loading up on talented prospects for a run of their own, several years in the future, in the friendly confines of their soon to be built new stadium.