ANAHEIM — The Royals’ off-season goal of restocking their farm system got a turbo-charged boost the past three days with their picks in the MLB Draft.
The rebuild got another boost Wednesday when the Royals traded outfielder Jon Jay to Arizona for Minor League pitchers Elvis Luciano and Gabe Speier.
Luciano, an 18-year-old right-hander, will report to Burlington for rookie ball. He was signed as an international free agent out of Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic in October 2016, and last year he combined to go 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA between the Dominican Summer League and Arizona League, pitching his way onto MLB Pipeline’s D-backs Top 30 Prospects list, ranking 26th.
“We feel he is just getting started in his career,” Royals assistant general manager of baseball operations Scott Sharp said in a conference call. “We had a lot of people see him prior to him signing with Arizona.”
Speier, a 23-year-old left-hander, will report to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Speier was 1-1 with a 3.03 ERA for Double-A Jackson. He originally was drafted by Boston in 2013. Since then he has been traded to Detroit, Atlanta and Arizona.
“Gabe is a Double-A pitcher, but still really young,” Sharp said. “He just turned 23. He’s got some power from the left side and gets a lot of ground balls. We feel like when you can add a left-hander who is young and has had some success, that helps your system.”
Sharp said the Royals debated whether to wait on dealing Jay closer to next month’s Trade Deadline.
“I think, primarily, you have to weigh the deals in front of you vs. the unknown,” Sharp said. “Arizona sought out Jon, and they wanted Jon. We felt like if we could put a deal together that had some impact and some long-range ceiling to go ahead and do it, rather than wait for something to come along. We felt we should execute this and get more pitching into the system.”
Jay, who hit .307 with one home run and 18 RBIs for the Royals, was signed during Spring Training primarily to replace Jorge Bonifacio, who was suspended for the first 80 games this season by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Bonifacio will come off the suspended list June 27.
But Sharp said the Jay trade wasn’t necessarily connected to making room on the 25-man roster for Bonifacio.
“I don’t think it really is,” Sharp said. “Three weeks is an eternity in this league. Injuries, roster decisions are so unpredictable over three weeks. … I don’t think Bonifacio was an overwhelming thought in this because so many things can happen between now and the end of June.”
Royals manager Ned Yost was a fan of Jay’s from the time he showed up in Spring Training.
“I’m glad that he gets to go to a contender,” Yost said. “He gets to go to a team that’s in first place in their division right now and help them compete.”
The Royals are expected to recall an outfielder from Triple-A Omaha to replace Jay in time for Thursday’s game in Oakland.
Arizona will pick up the remainder of what is owed on Jay’s $3 million contract.