Royals showed interest in All-Star infielder before trade to Padres
San Diego Padres designated hitter Luis Arraez. Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins got a surprisingly early jump on the trade market this offseason, hammering out a rare May trade of significance when they shipped infielder Luis Arraez to San Diego last Friday in exchange for a package of four players. 

It’s not entirely shocking given both the Marlins’ awful start to the season and that their trade partner was the hyper-aggressive Padres, whose president of baseball operations, A.J. Preller, leaves no stone unturned when a big-name player is even remotely available. However, it seems the Padres weren’t the only club sniffing around Arraez despite the early nature of his entry to the trade market. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Royals also showed interest in Arraez before the Padres pulled off that swap.

Rosenthal emphasizes that talks with the Kansas City were preliminary and did not advance far. Still, the mere interest from Kansas City is telling. The Royals had an aggressive winter that saw them spend $109M across several free agent signings, and now that they’re out to a 20-15 start to the season, it seems they’re interested in further bolstering the club.

Arraez is a limited defender who’s below-average at second base, solid enough at first base and of course has the bat to handle designated hitter duties. The Royals presumably wouldn’t have used Arraez at first base much, thanks to the presence of Vinnie Pasquantino. In all likelihood, Kansas City would’ve given Arraez the bulk of his playing time at second base and designated hitter.

Instead, the Royals will hope for 26-year-old second baseman Michael Massey to continue his recent hot streak and look to get DH/outfielder Nelson Velazquez back to his 2023 form. Velazquez bashed 14 homers in 147 plate appearances for the Royals last year after being acquired in a deadline swap with the Cubs, but he’s hitting just .215/.284/.344 with a 30.4% strikeout rate this season as the team’s primary designated hitter.

Even looking beyond Arraez specifically, the mere fact that Kansas City was poking around the market for one of the presumably few players genuinely available on the trade market at such an early stage in the season signals that the Royals won’t necessarily be content with their offseason additions and any in-house reinforcements that might surface. It also likely signals a willingness to deal from the top end of their farm system. The Royals’ system isn’t viewed as particularly strong, so they’d have had to expend some of their most notable prospects in order to pique Miami’s interest.

Ultimately, news of interest from a team that didn’t wind up trading for a player only carries so much weight. The Royals’ interest in Arraez will be little more than a footnote that’s perhaps worth keeping in mind when he reaches free agency. But it’s also a portent for how the Royals could operate in the weeks and months ahead, and it gives some credence to the idea that they’ll be in the mix when other high-profile bats become available this summer. Whether it was expressed to the Royals that the Marlins would be willing to pay down the remainder of Arraez’s contract isn’t clear. Kansas City opened the season with a roughly $116M payroll, per RosterResource, and has previously run its payroll as high as $143M (under the previous ownership regime).

The Royals’ offseason activity already pointed to a win-now mindset, and so long as they remain in or on the periphery of postseason contention, it seems they’ll continue to keep their foot on the gas.

This article first appeared on MLB Trade Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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