Image credit: Jon Jay (photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
The D-backs are trying to fortify their sagging offense. The Royals are seeking to trade the few veteran assets they have with an eye on the future.
On Wednesday night, those two teams’ interests converged for the first significant trade of June.
The D-backs acquired veteran outfielder Jon Jay from the Royals in exchange for minor league pitchers Gabe Speier and Elvis Luciano. In a corresponding move, Arizona designated outfielder Kristopher Negron for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Jay.
Jay joins a D-backs offense that ranks last in the majors in batting average (.218) and 29th in on-base percentage (.296). He is expected to join the club Thursday.
Elvis Luciano, RHP
Luciano ranked as the D-backs’ No. 28 prospect entering the season as a promising teenager with a heavy fastball. Signed for $85,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, Luciano shows all the ingredients of a high-upside pitcher. He has an athletic delivery, a loose arm, a good feel for pitching and a mature mound presence. His fastball sits in the low 90s at present but has a chance to reach the mid-90s as he gets older and stronger. Luciano’s changeup is his best secondary offering with a chance to be plus, and he shows feel to spin a curveball, though it is currently more of a slurvy offering. Luciano’s three-pitch mix and intriguing physical traits give him a chance to be starter long-term. He has spent the spring in extended spring training and will begin his Royals career at Rookie-level Burlington.
Gabe Speier, LHP
This is the fourth time Speier has been traded as a prospect in his five-year professional career. He was sent from the Red Sox to the Tigers as part of the Yoenis Cespedes–Rick Porcello deal in 2014, was traded by the Tigers to the Braves in a deal for Cameron Maybin deal in Nov. 2015, and was sent from the Braves to the D-backs as part of the Dansby Swanson–Shelby Miller trade in Dec. 2015. Speier is the nephew of former big leaguer Chris Speier. He’s a lefthanded relief prospect who works with a low-90s fastball and an average changeup that actually makes him more effective against righthanded batters (.439 OPS) than lefties (.755 OPS). Speier struggles with his control at times but is a good competitor who finds a way to limit damage. He begin his Royals career at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Jon Jay, OF
The Royals signed Jay to a one-year, $3 million contract last winter for the express purpose of adding another player they could flip for prospects at the deadline. Jay obliged by hitting .307 with a .363 on-base percentage as the Royals’ leadoff hitter to make himself an attractive trade chip. Jay is exactly what the D-backs need as an excellent contact hitter who has hit .297 with a .350 on-base percentage the last three seasons. Though he offers little in the way of power, his ability to consistently put the bat on the ball and drive it makes him a boon to the top of any lineup. Jay is an above-average defender in all three outfield spots, primarily left and center, and provides needed outfield depth in Arizona with A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza both on the disabled list. He will be a free agent after the season.