Royals stockpile prospects in last-minute deals for Barlow, Yarbrough

August 2nd, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- Shortly before 5 p.m. CT on Tuesday, the Royals completed deals that sent two veteran pitchers to the West Coast. That wrapped up a Trade Deadline season that saw the club trade five Major League players and acquire nine Minor Leaguers -- some of whom will help out the Major League club this season.

Kansas City traded lefty starter to the Dodgers for Minor League infielder Devin Mann (L.A.'s No. 29 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) and 19-year-old shortstop Derlin Figueroa. Closer  is headed to the Padres; in return, the Royals acquired right-handers Henry Williams (Padres' No. 10 prospect) and Jesus Rios.

Earlier in the day, the Royals also acquired lefty reliever Tucker Davidson, who had been designated for assignment last week, from the Angels for cash considerations. Earlier this week, the Royals traded reliever Jose Cuas to the Cubs and infielder Nicky Lopez to the Braves in exchange for Triple-A outfielder Nelson Velázquez and lefty reliever Taylor Hearn, respectively.

And more than a month ago, the Royals acquired lefty Cole Ragans and Dominican Summer League outfielder Roni Cabrera when they sent reliever Aroldis Chapman to the Rangers. After the Royals’ 7-6 walk-off victory in 10 innings over the Mets at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday -- in which they won on a balk call with the bases loaded -- Ragans is now lined up to start Wednesday. He’ll take the fifth spot in the rotation while Alec Marsh, who was originally scheduled to start Wednesday but threw an inning in relief on Tuesday, will line up to start this weekend.

Royals get: RHP Henry Williams (Kansas City's No. 9 prospect), RHP Jesus Rios
Padres get: RHP Scott Barlow

Royals get: INF Devin Mann (Kansas City's No. 26 prospect), SS Derlin Figueroa
Dodgers get: LHP Ryan Yarbrough

The Royals entered Tuesday knowing they had a likely suitor in the Padres for Barlow, their reliable closer who ends his Royals tenure ranked eighth all-time among Kansas City relievers with a 6.7 bWAR. But because he still has one more year of control, general manager J.J. Picollo said they were willing to hold onto Barlow if they didn’t get the return they wanted.

The key was Williams, the Padres third-round pick out of Duke in last season’s Draft. The 21-year-old is coming off of Tommy John surgery that he underwent before the 2022 Draft and has a 5.74 ERA with a 22% strikeout rate in 12 starts with the Padres’ Single-A affiliate.

“Being a top 10 prospect, they certainly didn’t have to give him up,” Picollo said. “I know they liked Scott, not just this year, but in the past, they’ve tried to pursue Scott. We knew that was a team that would probably hang in there with us. Williams was the guy that we thought was in the range of what we wanted in return. Rios is a nice piece to add to the deal and make it complete.”

Picollo said the Royals weren’t “overly anxious” to trade Yarbrough but viewed the return as a way to make their farm system better. Mann is a 26-year-old utility infielder who has a .933 OPS in Triple-A this season, and Figueroa is a young shortstop who has power potential with plate discipline.

Perhaps what was more interesting on Tuesday is who the Royals didn’t deal. They hung onto reliever Carlos Hernández, who had received interest from several teams, as well as veteran catcher Salvador Perez and veteran pitcher Zack Greinke, who gave up one run in five innings against the Mets on Tuesday.

The Royals explored deals for all three.

“Especially with the veteran players, we try to communicate as much as we can with them,” Picollo said. “You need to be upfront with them. Salvy was aware there were discussions going on, as was Zack. Both players were open-minded. But both players reiterated to me how much they wanted to be here. If it’s a great deal for the organization, bring it to me. If not, then, we’re happy being here.”

Picollo declined to comment on the team he was talking to about Perez, but sources indicated the Marlins, White Sox and Rangers all checked in on the Royals’ captain.

“It was a very complicated concept that we still would have had to get approval from Salvy,” Picollo said as a reminder that Perez has 10-and-5 rights. “... It was worth going down the path, but we knew, with the team we were talking to, how complicated it was, and it was going to be hard to pull off.”

With Hernández, the Royals didn’t receive the offer they thought was right for a 26-year-old pre-arbitration reliever who has a chance to be their closer -- and will get chances now with Barlow gone. 

Picollo hinted at a couple deals that fell apart throughout the day because neither team was budging on names being exchanged. But the Royals have a big offseason, and it’s likely these names circulate again, along with more from Kansas City’s roster.

“We were open-minded with some names that would hurt to trade,” Picollo said. “We let teams know that that’s something we would do. But we’re going to have to win the deal. Long term, we’re going to have to win the deal. We don’t need to trade certain guys that have three, four, five years of control. …

“Our approach will be the same in the offseason. Any deal with a player that’s talented and has a lot of control, we have to stick to what we think is the right return and get the most impact in return that we can.”