The Royals on Wednesday traded outfielder Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks for a pair of minor-league arms.
Jay, 33, signed a one-year contract with the Royals during spring training, just days before the team announced that outfielder Jorge Bonifacio would serve an 80-game suspension after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance that violates MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program.
Since joining the Royals, Jay has made himself known at the top of the batting order. In 46 games as the Royals’ leadoff hitter, he batted .304 and scored 26 runs. In all, he was batting .307 with nine doubles, two triples, a homer and 28 runs scored.
“I’m glad that he gets to go to a contender,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Jay. “He gets to go to a team that’s in first place in their division right now and help them compete.”
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Moving Jay enabled the Royals to replenish their farm system for a second time this week: After selecting five college pitchers within the top 60 picks on the first night of the first-year player draft, all of whom are juniors, the Royals further supplemented their endeavors by acquiring Elvis Luciano and Gabe Speier.
“We want to get pitching into the system,” Royals assistant general manager Scott Sharp said.
Luciano, an 18-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic, will go to rookie-level Burlington when the season commences. Speier, a 23-year-old lefty who's been packaged in three trades for a major-leaguer since being selected in the 19th round of the 2013 draft by the Red Sox, was assigned to Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Ranked as the Diamondbacks’ 28th-ranked prospect by Baseball America, Luciano flew through the rookie levels in his first professional season. He wound up pitching in one game for their Pioneer League affiliate at the end of his campaign and in all amassed a 2.84 ERA in 66 2/3 innings spanning 16 games (eight starts).
Already 6 feet 2 and 182 pounds, Luciano throws a low-90s fastball and a projectable changeup.
“Luciano has got a lot of upside,” Sharp said. “He’s just getting started in his career.”
Speier, on the other hand, is playing his sixth professional season. He’s pitched almost exclusively in relief since 2015. Listed at 6 feet and 175 pounds, he’s posted a 3.03 ERA in 20 games for Class AA Jackson. He’s allowed a high batting average (.250) in 29 2/3 innings while striking out 29 and issuing 10 walks.
But two seasons ago, when he progressed from low-Class A ball to Class AA within a few months, Speier had a 2.62 ERA and struck out 49 batters in 58 1/3 innings.
“He has some experience in terms of professional baseball but he’s young,” Sharp said. “He has power from the left side and gets a lot of ground balls.”
The Royals had just 24 players available during their 4-3 defeat to the Angels on Wednesday night. A 25th player will join them in Oakland on Thursday.
The Jay move — it came just a few weeks before outfielder Jorge Bonifacio is eligible to return from his 80-game suspension — will flip over some dominoes down the line. As the active roster stands, Abraham Almonte is poised to get the majority of the playing time with Jay’s departure. Paulo Orlando, meanwhile, could be recalled from Class AAA Omaha as the team’s fourth outfielder until Bonifacio is ready to join the Royals.