With the Padres looking to cut payroll, who could the KC Royals target via trade?

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There may be no clearer seller this offseason than the San Diego Padres. The team, after several aggressive moves in recent years, is becoming more cash-conscious and looking to shed payroll. Trading away Juan Soto and Matt Carpenter and letting several starting pitchers walk this offseason is a clear indication of their intention to cut costs and retool their roster. It feels like any sizeable contract in San Diego is now on the chopping block. If the Royals wanted to add yet another Padres pitcher to the 2024 staff, they should target reliever Robert Suárez.

The KC Royals trading for Robert Suárez is a beneficial move for Kansas City.

The Royals front office has transformed the team's bullpen this offseason after the unit's abysmal 2023 performance. Adding Suárez to the fold may be an overcorrection, but it would flip the bullpen from the worst to possibly above average.

Suárez made his MLB debut in 2022 with the Padres after seven seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). He was very successful for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Hanshin Tigers, being an NPB All-Star in 2021 and leading the Central League in saves in 2020 and 2021. He continued that dominance for the Padres in 2022 across 45 games. He pitched 47⅔ innings with an 11.52 K/9 and one save. He did miss some time following knee surgery but came back in the season.

The Venezuelan cashed in on his strong debut with a five-year deal worth $46 million, returning to San Diego. The move was not shocking at the time, as the Padres added more and more talent in an aggressive offseason. But Suárez certainly had a sophomore slump. He did not make his 2023 debut until late July after some stubborn inflammation arose in spring training. By then, the Padres were far from the dominant team many expected, and the San Diego bullpen was not helping matters. He played in 26 games with very different results. His ERA worsened to 4.23, while the strikeouts dipped to 7.81 K/9. His pitch values did not change much, but the results did not reflect that of a bullpen anchor.

The Padres owe Suárez $10 million in 2024 and 2025, after which he can opt out. If he opts to continue the contract, he will earn $8 million in 2026 and 2027. That does not break the bank for the Padres, especially for a player first in line for closing duties. But it all depends on how far San Diego wants to go with shedding payroll. They have more players to move, especially infielders Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim. But they already took a gamble on Suárez, with a mixed return on their investment.

What Kansas City would move for Suárez could fill any one of San Diego's sizeable needs. A left-handed bat, a low-level starting pitcher, more controllable talent, any of that could entice the Padres to trade Suárez. Kansas City could swoop in, adding a reliever under contract beyond 2024. It is yet another acquisition, but the Royals have been anything but inactive this offseason.

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