Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day, I will be taking a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that makes sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's kick things off with the American League West as I examine a possible trade involving the Los Angeles Angels.
Like most things in Los Angeles, several players on the Angels are drastically overpriced and aren’t as good as you’d think they'd be. The Angels are the masters of handing out bad contracts, whether it be Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols or Anthony Rendon, and the team is willing to pay a whole lot for what ends up being very little.
The Angels also have the two best baseball players in the world on their roster in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, which means that tanking will always be off the table for them as long as those two are present. So, if another organization is going to pluck a player off their roster, it either has to swallow a gargantuan contract or will have to find a player so unspectacular that the Angels trade him away to pursue a big-name free agent.
This is where the subject of today's trade comes into play because as a solid player with little to no name-brand value at 30 years old, he’s the type of player the Angels will gladly depart with to pursue a big star in the future.
Los Angeles Angels Receive: C Cam Gallagher, RHP Joel Payamps, SS Lucius Fox
Kansas City Royals Receive: C Max Stassi
Yes, that’s right: The Royals should be interested in trading for a catcher this offseason and before anybody jumps to conclusions, let me explain.
Salvador Perez, at times, single-handedly carried the Royals offensively and quite frankly, his WAR of 5.3 feels too low considering the Royals probably would’ve been contending for the first overall pick had he not played this year. With that said, it's unrealistic and unfair to demand him to hit 40-plus home runs again from behind the plate when the physical demands of catching wear down the body at a rapid rate.
If Perez takes a step back offensively while being a full-time catcher this year, that means that other players will have to pick up the slack. Carlos Santana, Hunter Dozier, Ryan O’Hearn and Adalberto Mondesi are not capable of picking up said slack for him at either first base or DH. Creative options must be explored.
In steps Max Stassi, a capable offensive catcher — ranking 12th in OPS among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances last year. He is also quite capable behind the dish as well, ranking in the top five when it comes to defensive runs saved and is an “expert” when it comes to pitch framing.
The problem is that players like Stassi (at least in the minds of front offices) aren't going to help the Angels win now and with Ohtani desperately wanting to do so, players like Stassi become expendable. His contract is up in 2023 and if you’re still unsure of why the Angels would let a balanced performer like him go, let’s look at the possible catcher free agent class of 2023.
- Buster Posey
- Yadier Molina
- Christian Vazquez
- Tucker Barnhart
- Mike Zunino
- Wilson Contreras
- Gary Sanchez
- Omar Narvaez
It’s not about if the Angels will move on from Stassi, it’s a matter of when. This trade merely expedites the process. Gallagher and Stassi both have a lot in common, as neither has ever played in 100 games at any point in their careers and both have generally been looked at as platoon or backup catchers. This makes them at least somewhat interchangeable in terms of value. Also, Gallagher is slightly younger than Stassi and has far less mileage on his legs. That's something that might make him attractive to Los Angeles.
If Stassi can’t cut it as a starter, the plan would just be to take Perez out of the designated hitter or first base (or both) role and move him back behind the plate. If Stassi can produce for a full season, then the Royals have a catcher that can eat innings behind the plate while they wait for M.J. Melendez to fully develop and they can begin the process of making Salvador Perez into a full-time DH or first baseman who can still catch in a pinch. There have also been rumblings about Melendez possibly switching to another position so if this trade occurred, it would likely solidify that should he make the MLB club in 2022. The object of this trade is certainly not to block the Royals' No. 4-ranked prospect.
Payamps also adds value to this trade for the Angels because the middle of their bullpen was an absolute mess this season and they need some type of steadying presence. Payamps might have had a rough close to the season but for the bulk of his time with Kansas City, he was one of Mike Matheny’s more reliable options out of the pen. A career 3.45 ERA, while not spectacular, is an upgrade over what the Angels were rolling out last year in terms of performance and cost.
Fox is merely a throw-in to sweeten the deal for the Angels, a team that has a very poor farm system. The appeal of someone who was once a participant in the Futures Game could be enough to push this trade over the edge. Fox’s role in this would be up for negotiation, as he could easily be replaced with another player of similar value.
For the Royals, this trade allows them to possibly prolong Perez's offensive peak by moving him to DH or a first base role without having to worry about any defensive downgrades behind the plate. For the Angels, they replace one catcher with another, get bullpen help and add a boom-or-bust prospect while they patiently wait on the 2023 catcher free agent so they can hand out an absurdly large contract.
Acquiring Stassi should not be viewed as a demotion for Perez nor a negative for Melendez, but rather an opportunity to prolong the prime of a Royals Hall of Famer's career while getting the absolute most out of him offensively.