By Dave Skretta
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals traded first baseman Carlos Santana and nearly $4.3 million to the Seattle Mariners for right-handers Wyatt Mills and William Fleming on Monday, clearing the way for Kansas City to bring up hot prospect Vinnie Pasquantino.
Pasquantino was not in the starting lineup against Texas on Monday night because of tight travel schedules, but Royals general manager J.J. Picollo and manager Mike Matheny expect his big bat to be in the lineup regularly.
“When I was growing up, I had a dream of playing professional baseball. But I just enjoy playing the game,” said Pasquantino, who was doing his laundry when he learned of his big league call-up. “I still do now, and I’m going to continue to try to do that as we move forward. I just love playing the game.”
The Royals optioned Mills, a 27-year-old relief pitcher, to Triple-A Omaha while designating right-hander Ronald Bolaños for assignment. Fleming, a 23-year-old with starting potential, was assigned to Class-A Quad Cities.
“We’ve been talking with teams the last couple of weeks getting into the middle of June and starting to get into that trade deadline. Carlos’ name was coming up pretty frequently,” Picollo said. “Over the weekend a couple of teams picked up their interest. Last night we thought we had a deal in place. It was just a matter of dotting T’s and crossing I’s today.”
This is the second time Santana has been with Seattle, though the first lasted a mere 10 days. He was acquired along with J.P. Crawford from Philadelphia for infielder Jean Segura, right-hander Juan Nicasio, and left-hander James Pazos on Dec. 3, 2018; the Mariners then traded him away as part of a three-team deal with Cleveland and Tampa Bay.
This time should be different for the 36-yeart-old Santana, who hit 19 homers in 158 games for Kansas City last season but was hitting just .216 with four homers through 52 games this season. The Mariners were in search of a switch-hitter and an option at first base with leading hitter Ty France on the injured list with an elbow injury.
Santana has been better at the plate over the last month, hitting .357 with a 1.032 OPS in June, and that made him enticing to the Mariners, who will pay $1.5 million of the remainder of his salary in the second year of a two-year, $17.5 million deal. Kansas City will pay Seattle $4,269,231.
“We had Carlos. He was a Mariner. Every time I see Carlos, I joke with him about that,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I said, ‘You’re the favorite player I’ve ever managed.’ So he likes it and we have a good time with it. But obviously, he’s a tremendous clubhouse guy, really good teammate. Switch hitter. He gets on base as well as he ever has.”
Servais said the move doesn’t necessarily mean that the injury to France is more severe than first thought.
“He’s in the batting cage today, swung a little with the right hand, and then a go to feel what it would feel like to extend with his left and we’re three or four days into this,” Servais said. “He knows what he means to our team and our lineup and all these other things. So we’ll just have to wait and see, but all indications are right now that I’m optimistic maybe he can be back at the end of the 10 days. But we’ll see.”
With the Royals last in the AL Central at 26-45 heading into Monday night’s game against Texas, and Santana nearing the end of his contract, it was prudent for Kansas City to clear the way for Pasquantino to begin his big league career.
The 24-year-old was picked in the 11th round of the 2019 first-year player draft out of Old Dominion and was generally one of the Royals’ overlooked prospects until the past couple of seasons. Dubbed the “Italian Nightmare” by Hall of Famer George Brett in spring training, Pasquantino was hitting .280 with 18 homers this season at Omaha, and he was among the Triple-A leaders in extra-base hits, runs, homers and slugging percentage.
“I’m excited to be in the clubhouse every day and see what everybody’s about,” said Pasquantino, who joins top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. and catcher MJ Melendez among a wave of rookie position players in Kansas City.
“I’m coming into a clubhouse with some established veterans and I’m excited to learn from those guys,” he said.
Mills had a 4.15 ERA in eight appearances for Seattle this season, along with going 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings for Triple-A Tacoma. Fleming was picked in the 11th round of last year’s first-year player draft out of Wake Forest and was 6-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 14 starts for Class-A Modesto this season.
Bolaños had a 4.42 ERA in eight appearances for Kansas City this season.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle and AP freelancer David Smale contributed.