KC Royals Trades: Another disappointment heads for Baltimore

A former top prospect makes room for Michael Wacha.
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A little more than a year ago, just after 2022 became 2023, the KC Royals traded a disappointing player to Baltimore for cash. Ryan O'Hearn left for the Orioles January 3, found Oriole Park at Camden Yards much to his liking and, hitting .289 with 14 homers and 60 RBI in 112 games, helped his new club reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

And although O'Hearn's first trip to the postseason ended when eventual World Series champion Texas swept the Orioles out of the American League Division Series, he's a solid bet to play another big role for them next season.

Monday night, another Royal disappointment must be counting on a move to Baltimore to change his baseball fortunes.

Kansas City has traded pitcher Jonathan Heasley to Baltimore

The Royals announced late Monday the shipment of Heasley, a member of the Kansas City organization since 2018 when he was one of several hot pitchers the Royals swooped up in the amateur draft, to the Orioles for young hurler Cesar Espinal.

The Royals cutting ties with Heasley comes as no real surprise. The club needed to remove someone from its 40-man roster to make room for recently acquired pitcher Michael Wacha, and Heasley's 5-11, 5.45 ERA KC career made him a logical choice.

Unfortunately, and as his 36-game performance with Kansas City proves, Heasley just wasn't what the Royals envisioned when they drafted him. Yes, he pitched decently in the minors, especially in 2019 when he was 8-5, 3.12 at Single-A Lexington, and going 7-3, 3.33 for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2021 earned him a mid-September promotion to Kansas City where he went 1-1 and surrendered eight runs in 14.2 innings.

Heasley spent most of 2022 with the Royals but struggled — although he was a regular member of former manager Mike Matheny's rotation, he went 4-10 and gave up too many runs (67 in 104 innings) and too many walks (4.1 BB9),

New manager Matt Quatraro relied on him less this season: Heasley pitched only 12 times for the Royals, all in relief, yielded 13 runs (12 earned) in only 15 innings, and didn't earn a decision or a save; his 2023 performance prompted Kings of Kauffman's Patrick Glancy to give Heasley a D- for the season. And in Omaha, where he started and relieved, he posted an unsightly 6.85 ERA and went 2-5.

Simply put, Heasley made himself expendable.

Who is the pitcher the Royals received for Jonathan Heasley?

Cesar Espinal, 18, comes to the Kansas City organization having pitched professionally only 20 times. A righthander, he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and was 2-3 with a 5.49 ERA in the Dominican Summer League two seasons ago; he walked 14 and struck out 16 in 19.2 innings, and posted a 1.678 WHIP.

But he improved significantly in the DOSL this year — in eight starts and one relief appearance, he went 2-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.18, his WHIP to 1.176, and his BB9 from 6.4 to 2.9. He fanned 34 in 34 innings.

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