Royals acquire lefty Josh Taylor from Boston for Mondesi

January 24th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- On Oct. 30, 2015, became the first player to make his Major League debut in a World Series game. In some ways, the chase toward his tantalizing future began then. He was on his way to becoming the game-changing superstar his skills had long suggested he’d become.

Seven years and several injury-riddled seasons later, the Royals are moving on from their dynamic but oft-injured shortstop, sending Mondesi and a player to be named to the Red Sox on Tuesday. In return the Royals acquired lefty reliever , who has his own injury history but was an effective reliever for Boston.


Royals get: LHP Josh Taylor

Red Sox get: INF Adalberto Mondesi, player to be named

It became increasingly obvious this offseason that the Royals were going to move on from Mondesi given his injury history and the makeup of Kansas City’s roster, with set to be the starting shortstop in 2023. Mondesi could play second or third base, but the Royals couldn’t guarantee him a starting job after doing so the past couple years and then watching him sidelined by injuries.

“Bobby is clearly our shortstop,” executive vice president/general manager J.J. Picollo said. “And this paves the way for him to play as much as he can at shortstop.”

Mondesi, who will make $3.405 million in his final year before free agency, is as talented as they come at shortstop when he’s on the field. The Royals once saw Mondesi -- armed with elite defense, power and speed -- as a foundational player in their rebuild.

But injuries have limited his availability over the past seven seasons. His slash line is .244/.280/.408 with 38 homers and 133 stolen bases, but he’s played in only 358 career games.

The Royals have had their eye on Taylor for some time. He was a key reliever for Boston in 2019 and 2021, with ERAs of 3.04 and 3.40, respectively. In 2021 he was extremely effective against left-handed batters (.146/.222/.159), and he comes to Kansas City with postseason experience.

The 29-year-old did not pitch at all in 2022 because of a back injury, but the Royals feel comfortable with his health and see him as a key lefty in their bullpen. Taylor will make $1.03 million in ’23 after he signed a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. He also has options remaining, allowing the Royals to maximize matchups in their bullpen based on their opponent.

“It gives us a chance to map out and strategize and plan when we go to play whoever it may be -- let’s put the best matchups together that we can and put our roster together week to week,” Picollo said.

The Royals debated internally whether to trade Mondesi now or wait to see if his value would increase if he stayed on the field. They also recognized that they’ve waited before, only to find Mondesi on the injured list. This was a chance to add a reliever with three years of control in exchange for a player who will be a free agent at year’s end.

“We can debate, ‘When is their highest value?’” Picollo said. “It could be now, it could be at the [Trade] Deadline. You just don’t know.”

The Royals hope for nothing but the best for the soft-spoken player who wants nothing but to stay on the field -- including the man who executed the trade.

“He’s an incredibly talented player. The injuries have impacted his performance,” Picollo said. “… What I’ve shared with Boston and I’ll share with you: He can take off there. He’s going to get a great opportunity. It would not surprise me one bit -- with the change of scenery, his talent, we know his knee is healthy -- if he has a great year. And that’s how the game goes. There’s risk on both ends.”

Mondesi will get the chance to be Boston’s starting shortstop, and he could still enjoy a long career, with these past seasons reduced to a blip in his player bio. But it won’t be as a Royal. Could the team have done anything different to prevent injuries? Perhaps. They were looking into workload-management scenarios at the start of last season before Mondesi got hurt.

“I know Mondesi did all his work,” Picollo said. “I know our medical staff, our strength and conditioning staff, our coaching staff spent countless hours trying to figure out how we keep him on the field and get the most production out of him.

“So is there some regret, or do we question what we could have done better? Sure, there is. I just don’t know what the answer would have been. I know the effort was there, and the minds got together and the collaboration happened. We just didn’t see a positive result.”

What the Royals did with back-to-back trades this week is send a message about their direction in 2023. Witt is their shortstop. Center field is open for young players to establish themselves. The Royals will evaluate that talent this season to help them move forward.

“I think it makes our transition better to being competitive,” Picollo said. “I don’t like using the word ‘rebuild.’ I know that teams do get into rebuilds. But the players that are going to be in the lineup the majority of the time have Major League experience right now. They just simply need to take their next steps.”