KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals continued building for the future, making a somewhat stunning trade Thursday night with the San Diego Padres, acquiring power-hitting outfielder Franchy Cordero and power righty Ronald Bolaños for left-hander Tim Hill.
Hill, 30, had figured to be an important element to the back end of the Royals bullpen in 2020, utilizing his submarine-style delivery. But the Royals and general manager Dayton Moore think they have enough power and depth in the bullpen to manage without Hill.
Left-handers Richard Lovelady, Gabe Speier and Randy Rosario will immediately try to step up and fill Hill’s role.
Hill’s unique submarine-style delivery often flustered opponents. He appeared in 116 games in the past two seasons, posting a 3.63 ERA in 46 games in 2019.
It wasn’t an easy decision to trade Hill, Moore said. Hill went on the 40-man roster for the first time prior to the 2018 season. Hill is a colon cancer survivor who also has Lynch syndrome, which makes him more susceptible to cancer. But Hill told MLB.com repeatedly this offseason that he had no intentions of opting out.
“We’re just so thankful we had an opportunity to work with him and be a part of his life,” Moore said. “He’s going to do a great job with San Diego. We felt we had an opportunity to have a power arm who can move very quickly to the Major Leagues. (Bolaños) can be a starter or power arm out of the bullpen in the future. All the reports on him were very consistent. Analytics (department) liked him as well.
“First and foremost, Timmy Hill is one of the most celebrated players in our organization in a long time. I remember when we first called him to the Major Leagues, our whole organization was thrilled, just because of the person he was and all he’d been through.”
Cordero, a left-handed hitter who throws right, has had huge upside, but his career has been derailed by injuries, from elbow to calf to quad injuries. He slugged .439 with the Padres in 2018 with seven home runs and five doubles in 40 games.
Three years ago at Triple-A, Cordero, 25, had 21 doubles, 18 triples and 17 home runs.
“A phenomenal athlete,” Moore said.
Both Cordero, 25, and Bolaños were immediately put on the Royals’ 40-man roster. To make room, with Hill leaving, the Royals placed third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez (sprained UCL) on the extended injured list (45 days) to create an open spot. The 40-man roster is full, with open spots likely needed for right-hander Greg Holland, super utility man Erick Mejia and possibly right-handers Tyler Zuber and Brady Singer.
Bolaños, 23, has been known to hit 100 mph on the radar gun, though he usually sits around 93-94. He was the Padres’ No. 16 prospect per MLB Pipeline. And he posted a 2.85 ERA in 10 outings last year at high Class A.
It doesn’t seem likely that either Cordero or Bolaños will factor into the Royals’ decision on the 2020 30-man roster, meaning Cordero likely isn’t a threat to replace outfielders Bubba Starling or Brett Phillips on the 40-man. Both Phillips and Starling are out of options.
“We feel we have a pretty good idea where our 30-man roster is going to be going into Cleveland (for Opening Day on July 24),” Moore said.
Moore continues to stockpile for the future, especially in the outfield, which at one point will lose Alex Gordon to retirement.
“With the pending free agents for the future,” Moore said, “and while we’re very encouraged with (prospects Seuly) Matias and Khalil Lee and (Kyle) Isbell, we felt to add a guy like Cordero for our future made a lot sense.
“Cordero is one of the most tooled players you’ll see. He has tremendous makeup. Unfortunately, the last two years he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. But he is still very young. We’re building depth for our future. To get our hands on him is great for our future.”
Giving up Hill, and his unique look as basically a submarining lefty, isn’t lost on Moore in terms of bullpen construction. But Moore thought the Royals have enough depth from the left side to cover the loss of Hill.
“The improvement we’ve made in our bullpen, the power in our bullpen, has changed things,” Moore said. “The role for Tim would have been different going forward.
“You never have enough depth. But we feel like we have some left-handed depth.”