The Astros have called up no. 3 prospect Yordan Alvarez in advance of Sunday’s series finale against the Orioles, per an official team announcement. The versatile infielder/outfielder is slated to fill in at DH for his debut and will bat fifth.
The addition of 21-year-old Alvarez may be just the thing to reinvigorate an injury-plagued lineup, especially as Houston is currently missing the talents of top hitters like José Altuve (hamstring strain), George Springer (hamstring strain), and Carlos Correa (rib fracture), with no plans for immediate reinstatement. So far this season, the highly-touted prospect has done his best to solidify a no. 3 ranking in the Astros’ system (and no. 23 ranking overall) with an electric .343/.443/.742 batting line, 23 home runs, and a 1.184 OPS over 253 plate appearances in Triple-A.
While Alvarez’s skillset lies primarily in his ability to hit for both average and power, his apparent lack of defensive prowess likely won’t be an issue for the Astros. Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports that the rookie is expected to see many of his starts at DH, with limited appearances in left field as necessary.
In corresponding moves, the club transferred Lance McCullers (Tommy John surgery) from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day IL and optioned lefty reliever Reymin Guduan to clear a roster spot for Alvarez. It was a short stay in the majors for Guduan, who stumbled to an unsightly 14.54 ERA, 8.3 BB/9, and 10.4 SO/9 in six outings this year.
Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.
The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.
Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.
While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.
Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?