Royals acquire OF Justin Maxwell for minor league pitcher
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Royals acquired outfielder Justin Maxwell from the Houston Astros for minor league pitcher Kyle Smith on Wednesday in an attempt to upgrade their depth for the stretch run.
The speedy Maxwell was expected to join the Royals in time for the series finale Thursday in Minnesota. Kansas City will have to make a corresponding roster move.
The Royals were seeking a right-handed outfielder prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, and at least on paper achieved their goal. Maxwell is hitting just .214 with two homers and eight RBIs in 40 games this season, but he's hitting .302 against left-handed pitchers.
Kansas City had won seven straight entering Wednesday night's game at Minnesota, climbing above .500 and positioning itself to play meaningful baseball in August for the first time since 2003, when the club finished 83-79 for its only winning season since 1993.
Still, the Royals were 7 1/2 games out of first place, so there was just as much speculation that they'd be sellers at the trade deadline as chatter about picking up some help.
Right-hander Ervin Santana was the name brought up most often in trade rumors. He's in the final year of his contract and could be too costly for the Royals in free agency, especially after a resurgent season. Santana is 7-6 with a career-best 3.03 ERA.
Santana had made it clear that he wanted to remain with the Royals, though, and even counted down the minutes on Twitter until the 4 p.m. EDT trade deadline had passed.
"Yessssssss!!!!!!," Santana tweeted afterward. "Lets go get em!!!!!"
Well, the Royals will go get 'em with a new outfielder to help out.
Along with upgrading at second base, where options in the trade market were limited, the Royals were hoping to get a right-handed bat to balance out their lefty-heavy lineup.
Maxwell fits the bill for relatively cheap: He's making $492,500 if he spends the entire season in the majors, and the Royals will have him under control through 2016.
Maxwell's career has so far been filled with more downs than ups.
He broke into the big leagues as a 23-year-old with the Nationals in 2007, but played in only 108 games over the next three seasons. He was traded to the Yankees in 2011 and then claimed off waivers by Houston, where he has spent the past two seasons.
Maxwell hit 18 homers and 53 RBIs last season, and the Astros were hopeful of a late-career breakout this season. But he broke his hand while getting hit by a pitch in late April, and then sustained a concussion in late June while trying to make a diving catch.
While he's expected to share time with David Lough in right field, Maxwell could become even more valuable if the Royals are without center fielder Lorenzo Cain for an extended period of time. Cain hurt his left groin Saturday.
In return for Maxwell, the Astros picked up 20-year-old Smith, a fourth-round pick of Kansas City in the 2011 amateur draft. He's 5-4 with a 2.85 ERA at Class-A Wilmington this season.