Even though the Royals pretty much kicked off the trading season by dealing right-hander Homer Bailey on July 14 and catcher Martin Maldonado on July 15, the rest of the industry has mostly been silent.
One industry source said of the Royals, “It’s pretty obvious they’re just not going to give [Diekman and Hamilton] away. Like the other sellers, they’re waiting for something fair in return. And things just aren’t moving right now.”
Even Royals officials have wondered if there simply will be a frenzy of deals just before Wednesday’s Deadline.
Diekman, though, continues to draw a fair amount of interest. The Dodgers, Nationals, Phillies and Braves have scouted Diekman in recent weeks and appear the most interested. Of course, there could always be mystery teams interested, too.
Interestingly, though, no matter where Diekman -- who signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal last offseason -- goes, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for the Royals to pursue him again in free agency in the offseason. The Royals rave about his clubhouse presence and know he could serve as a mentor to their young arms as they maneuver through their rebuilding process.
Diekman, in fact, would welcome a chance to stay with the Royals.
“I really like it here,” Diekman told MLB.com.
But Diekman’s 97-98-mph fastball and wipeout slider have garnered attention from rival scouts. He has struck out 63 batters in 48 innings, and he is the type of power arm contenders could use in their bullpen.
“When he comes into a game,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “you better be ready. He will bring it.”
Yost hasn’t really had a power lefty like Diekman in the bullpen during his nearly 10 years as the Royals' manager. Mike Minor hit 96 mph out of the bullpen in 2017 for Yost, and Scott Alexander had a power sinker that could hit 93-94. Matt Strahm also could touch 96.
“None of them has really had the velo that Jake has,” Yost said.
Another factor that has Diekman in demand is his splits -- left-handers are hitting just .213 against him, while righties are at .211.
“It doesn’t matter, because he can strike out righties just as well as lefties,” Yost said. “It kind of goes back when we had the really good bullpens in the past when [Kelvin] Herrera was the seventh-inning guy, Wade [Davis] in the eighth and Holly [Greg Holland] in the ninth. Jake is the eighth-inning guy, and we don’t really look at matchups for him. He’ll pitch the eighth when we have the lead because he strikes out anyone.”
Diekman’s ERA is a bit inflated, mainly because he had an 11-game stretch in late May and early June when he struggled, posting an 11.00 ERA while opponents registered a 1.165 OPS against him.
“But I don’t look at ERA for relievers,” Yost said. “No doubt it takes a long time to get [the ERA] down after a few bad outings. Starters’ ERAs are a little better telltale sign.”