Royals make another big move, get Ben Zobrist from A’s

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Not satisfied with acquiring Reds ace Johnny Cueto for three minor leaguers, now the Royals have pulled off another major trade for an impending free agent.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the A’s have traded 34-year-old infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist to the Royals in exchange for pitching prospects Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks.

Zobrist has played just about everywhere defensively during his career, but the A’s mostly used him at second base and in left field. Those two spots are areas of need for the Royals too, as left fielder Alex Gordon is out until September with a groin injury and second baseman Omar Infante has struggled offensively all year.

In addition to the defensive versatility Zobrist brings to the Royals he’s also a switch-hitter with a lifetime .784 OPS, including hitting .268 with six homers, 20 doubles, more walks (33) than strikeouts (26), and an .801 OPS in 67 games this season.

Kansas City has the AL’s best record and now the Royals have added a top-of-the-rotation, Cy Young-caliber ace and an .800 OPS switch-hitter who can play anywhere. General manager Dayton Moore is not messing around.

Manaea was a Royals first-round draft pick in 2013 and the 23-year-old left-hander ranked as a consensus top-100 prospect coming into the season. He’s been limited to just 32 innings due to injuries and has a history of health problems, but Manaea has top-of-the-rotation upside and 185 strikeouts in 153 pro innings.

Brooks had brief stints with the Royals in 2013 and 2014 as a reliever, but the 25-year-old right-hander has been a starter in the minors with a 3.81 ERA and 189/46 K/BB ratio in 246 total innings at Triple-A. He lacks big upside, but should find a role with the A’s soon.

There is a “one million percent” chance Aroldis Champan will opt-out of his deal

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that there is a “one million percent” chance Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will opt out once the season ends.

Just going by the math this makes perfect sense, of course.

Chapman signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the Yankees before the 2017 season. Pursuant to the terms of the deal he’ll make $15 million a year in 2020 and 2021 (he was given an $11 million signing bonus that was finished being paid out last year). This past season the qualifying offer was $17.9 million. Craig Kimbrel of the Cubs just signed a deal that will pay him $16 million in 2020, 2021, and 2022 (he’s making a prorated $16 million this year). Other top closer salaries at the moment include Kenley Jansen ($19,333,334); and Wade Davis ($18 million).

It’s fair to say that Chapman fits into that group and, I think it’s safe to say, more teams would take him than those guys if they were all freely available. As such, Chapman opting out to get more money makes all kinds of sense. Heck, opting out, getting slapped with a qualifying offer, accepting it and then hitting the market unencumbered after the 2020 season would stand him in better financial stead than if he didn’t opt-out in the first place.

The question is whether the Yankees will let it get that far or whether they’ll approach him to renegotiate the final couple of years on the deal or to add some years onto the back of it. If they’re smart they will.