The Royals are officially in conquer mode, and they're not afraid to sacrifice long-term assets in the effort.
Kansas City continued to improve its Major League roster Tuesday, acquiring versatile Ben Zobrist from Oakland in exchange for left-hander Sean Manaea and right-hander Aaron Brooks. The deal comes two days after the Royals sent three Minor League left-handers to the Reds in exchange for Johnny Cueto.
In Manaea, the A's pick up a former first-round pick (34th overall in 2013) who has been dominant when healthy in his Minor League career. In 32 career starts -- including 29 with Class A Advanced Wilmington -- The Royals' No. 4 prospect is 8-9 with a 3.23 ERA and 185 strikeouts over 153 1/3 innings. He's allowed just seven home runs and induced more groundouts than flyouts in that time.
He made his Double-A debut July 20, and in two starts with Northwest Arkansas, he has a 5.14 ERA with 11 punchouts in seven frames.
The left-hander was considered among the top talents in the 2013 Draft but fell to the supplemental portion of the first round due to a hip injury that required surgery. The procedure kept him out of action for the rest of the 2013 season.
He made 25 starts with the Blue Rocks in 2014, posting a 3.11 ERA with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. But the injury bug has bitten him again in 2015, as he's missed time with abdominal and groin injuries. He's been back in action since late June, pitching in the Rookie-level Arizona League and with Wilmington before moving to the Texas League last week. If the Athletics keep Manaea in Double-A, he'll remain in the Texas League and report to Midland.
Brooks was acquired by the Royals as a ninth-round pick in 2011 and has split the past two seasons between Triple-A and the Majors. In 18 appearances (17 starts) with the StormChasers this year, he's 6-5 with a 3.71 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 106 2/3 frames. He's also made two relief appearances in the Majors, allowing three earned runs over 4 1/3 innings.
The 25-year-old has four career MLB appearances. In his lone start, he allowed seven earned runs in two-thirds of an inning at Toronto on May 31, 2014.
Brooks' best asset is his control -- he's walked just 1.7 batters per nine innings in 43 Triple-A appearances (40 starts) over the last two years.
The Athletics acquired Zobrist -- a free agent at the end of the season -- from the Rays in January along with Yunel Escobar. In exchange, the Rays received big league catcher John Jaso and prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell. Robertson is a shortstop who ranks 93rd among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects and four in the Rays' system. Powell, an outfielder, is 13th on Tampa Bay's list but figures to rise after posting a .799 OPS with 16 steals across Double-A and Triple-A this season.