Royals deal Homer Bailey to Athletics for prospect Kevin Merrell

Homer Bailey posted a 4.80 ERA over 18 starts in a Royals uniform.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals traded Homer Bailey to the Oakland Athletics for minor league infielder Kevin Merrell on Sunday after scratching the veteran right-hander about 45 minutes before his scheduled start of their series finale against Detroit.

The 33-year-old Bailey has rebounded this season with the Royals after signing a minor league deal in February. He is 7-6 with a 4.80 ERA, but he’s been especially good over his past seven starts, and the A’s hope he’ll give them some additional help as they seek a playoff run in the second half.

The A’s began the day six back in the AL West and just ahead of Cleveland for a wild-card spot.

“Homer did a tremendous job of fitting in and doing what he needed to do to become a more consistent pitcher again,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “This is a good baseball deal for everybody.”

The rebuilding Royals signed Bailey with the intention of flipping him ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, and this move is almost certainly the start of several transactions that Kansas City will make this month. First baseman Lucas Duda, right fielder Jorge Soler and closer Ian Kennedy are among the veterans potentially on the block.

Bailey, who is making just $550,000 this season, dealt with a rash of injuries from 2015-17 and was just 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA a year ago to wrap up his tenure with the Cincinnati Reds.

The former first-round pick was traded to the Dodgers as part of a seven-player deal that included Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in December, which means Los Angeles was paying the majority of the $23 million that remained on the $105 million, six-year contract he signed with the Reds in 2014.

Bailey struggled through the first six weeks of the season, but he’s 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA and 37 strikeouts over his past eight starts. He also has shown that the health issues that plagued him for a long stretch in Cincinnati are firmly behind him — he was due to make his 19th start on Sunday.

“You’re looking for bounce-back guys,” Royals manager Ned Yost said during spring training. “You’re looking for the next (Joe) Blanton, the next (Ryan) Madson, you know those guys? The J.D. Martinezes that they gave up on them and then boom, look where he is.”

Left-hander Brian Flynn was given the assignment against Detroit in place of Bailey, and he was battered in two-plus innings. He allowed seven runs and eight hits with three strikeouts.

The 23-year-old Merrell was the 33rd overall pick out of South Florida by the A’s in the 2017 first-year player draft. The speedy, defensive-minded infielder shot through three levels of the minors last season, and was hitting .246 with two homers and 34 RBIs in 82 games at Double-A Midland.

“We liked him a great deal out of the draft. He’s the type of player we like, a speed player, loves the game,” Moore said. “Oakland selected him rather high and we never got a chance to select him.”

The left-handed hitter will not join the Royals’ 40-man roster, instead going to their own affiliate at Northwest Arkansas. That leaves Kansas City with 39 players on their big league reserve list.

“He’s still adjusting to pro baseball. He’s in his second full year and he’s already at Double-A,” Moore said. “We’ve seen him in Double-A and our coaches are very pleased.”