The KC Royals decreased their bullpen numbers a bit Wednesday when they traded reliever Tim Hill. In return, the club received an outfielder with some power and a starting pitcher.
The last time the KC Royals dealt significantly with the San Diego Padres didn’t work out so well, at least for Kansas City. It was July 2017 when general manager Dayton Moore, committed to making one last run for the postseason with Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar, sent promising pitcher Matt Strahm and two others to the Padres for Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Trevor Cahill in an ill-conceived move to bolster pitching.
Buchter pitched fairly for KC in 29 games and Cahill didn’t do much harm in 10 appearances, but Maurer was a disaster that season and in 2018, so much so that the trade approached status as one of the worst in club history.
The deal Moore completed and the Royals announced late Thursday has a chance to be much better. The club sent left-handed reliever Tim Hill, prominently known for his sidearm and occasional submarine deliveries, to San Diego for outfielder Franchy Cordero and starting pitcher Ronald Bolanos.
While the trade of Hill may have surprised some, it wasn’t entirely unforeseeable. He was certainly serviceable out of the KC Royals’ bullpen last season, posting a 2-0 record with a 3.63 ERA (131 ERA+), 1.109 WHIP and 3.0 strikeout-walk ratio, but he was 1-4 with a shaky relief ERA of 4.53 over 70 games in his debut 2018 campaign. He struggled in spring training (10 runs in 3.2 innings, a 24.55 ERA), suddenly calling into question his spot on the roster. There were additional rough spots in Summer Camp.
The deal depletes by one the club’s low numbers of lefty relievers, but may have improved Gabe Speier‘s chances to make the 30-man Opening Day roster (Richard Lovelady and Randy Rosario look like locks). Speier has impressed in camp and is already on the 40-man.
Cordero is probably the more recognizable of the two players Kansas City received for Hill. He’s played in 79 big league games, all for the Padres, since breaking into The Show in 2017. Although he hasn’t made a splash at the plate–he hit .228 in 92 at-bats in 2017, .237 in 139 in ’18, and .333 in 15 last season (he was injured most of the campaign), Cordero has some power. He clubbed 17 home runs in 93 Triple A games in 2017 and 11 across stops at High A, Double A and Triple A the season before.
The 25-year old left-handed hitter (he throws right) is also fast, something the KC Royals historically and correctly covet for their ballpark. He’s swiped 104 bases in eight minor league seasons. He’s also adequate defensively.
Cordero’s acquisition could spell trouble for Brett Phillips, who may end up an odd man out when the Royals set their 30-man roster, or when they pare down to 28 players after two weeks and 26 two weeks after that. Cordero would give the club another left-handed bat off the bench; Phillips, like most of KC’s available outfielders, bats from the right side and is likely more expendable than any of promising young prospects Nick Heath, Khalil Lee, Kyle Isbel or Seuly Matias. And the Royals don’t have with Phillips the kind of investment they have with Bubba Starling.
Bolanos also has major league experience, but less than Cordero. The 23-year old righty pitched five times for San Diego last season, took two losses, but came close to striking out a batter an inning. He has a three-season 24-18 minor league record, including 13-7 between High A and Double A last year.
Baseball America (subscription required) describes Bolanos as reaching the high 90’s with his moving fastball, throwing high-spinning curves and sliders, and as the Padres’ 13th ranked prospect heading into this year. He may have a hard time making KC’s active roster this season, but anything can happen under the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2020 campaign.
The KC Royals traded a left-handed reliever for a young outfielder and young starter Thursday. Hopefully, this deal with the Padres will be better than the last.