The Royals needed a 40-man roster spot to add free agent signing Jason Hammel to the roster, the Cubs needed additional upper-level pitching depth. So the two teams got together to pull off a surprisingly significant trade involving a player designated for assignment. The Royals sent righthander Alec Mills to the Cubs, receiving Donnie Dewees, the Cubs’ 2015 second-round pick, in return.
Rarely have stats been less descriptive of a player than the numbers Dewees put up as a redshirt sophomore at North Florida. Dewees, the Cubs' No. 12 prospect in the Prospect Handbook, led Division I with a .749 slugging percentage as a redshirt sophomore in 2015. But he hit 13 of his 18 home runs that year at home, taking advantage of a hitter-friendly home park. He’s not a power hitter, but instead is a gap-to-gap slashing hitter who uses a line-drive swing to take advantage of his plus-plus speed. Dewees has hit only 10 home runs in roughly 800 pro at-bats and scouts project him to have below-average power. That’s somewhat of an issue as he’s a fringy center fielder despite his speed, and a well below-average arm limits him to left field if he’s not in center. Dewees’ on-base percentage is largely driven by his batting average, as he doesn’t walk all that frequently. When he does get on base, his speed plays very well on the bases—he’s 50-for-62 in his pro career as a base stealer. How Dewees fits the Royals plans is a little unclear. His hitting ability and speed do fit a club that looks for hit over power in its outfielders and loves speedy outfielders who can cover plenty of ground in the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield. But Dewees has a lot of work to do to be an average big league center fielder, and the Royals are a team that prefers their center fielders to be plus or better defenders. Dewees' speed would play well in left field, but it’s less clear that his bat will play there. With him likely headed to Double-A, the Royals have some time to figure out where he fits in their long-term plans.
Mills, who ranked 14th on the Royals' Top 30 Prospects list in the 2017 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, has gone from a walk-on at Tennessee-Martin to a big leaguer. He generates ground balls thanks to an average, low-90s fastball that has sink and boring action. He has an above-average changeup but his success is largely based on locating his four-pitch mix because none of his pitches is a true out pitch. Mills’ value to a big league roster is in his versatility (he can be a low-leverage reliever or a spot starter), his inexpensive contract (he’s making the major league minimum) and his two remaining minor league options, which means he can come up and down from the big league roster as needed. The Cubs found plenty of work for Trevor Cahill in the past two years. With Cahill now in San Diego, Mills could fill a similar, if lesser role, if he makes the big league roster in the next year or two.