ANSAS CITY — The Royals were busy revamping their roster on Saturday, trading left-hander Jake Diekman to the A’s, designating for assignment first baseman Lucas Duda, and recalling first baseman Ryan O’Hearn and right-hander Kyle Zimmer from Triple-A Omaha.
In return from Oakland, Kansas City received prospects Ismael Aquino, a right-hander, and outfielder Dairon Blanco.
Here are five things you need to know about the transactions:
- The prospects
MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo graded Blanco, a 26-year-old former Cuban star, and it’s obvious he fits the Royals’ profile of speed and athleticism. Blanco has been assigned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 35 | Run: 80 | Arm: 45 | Field: 55 | Overall: 40
From Mayo: “When Blanco made his A’s debut in the California League in 2018, it had been nearly two years since he had played competitively in Cuba. At the outset, it was all about his speed, an 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, and defense. But he quickly shook the rust off and showed more offensive acumen than anticipated. There wasn’t as much swing and miss as some expected to see and he often showed a solid approach at the plate, with some signs of potential extra-base ability. His physicality and speed could add up to an average hitter.”
Aquino, 20, has been assigned to Rookie ball in Arizona. He is a fastball-changeup-slider pitcher signed out of the Dominican Republic who can bring his four-seamer into the mid-90s and can touch 98 mph. In the Arizona Rookie League for the A’s this season, he appeared in 10 games (one start) and had a 4.58 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings.
- How does O’Hearn mix in?
Royals manager Ned Yost said O’Hearn will play regularly. That will push corner infielder Cheslor Cuthbert to more time at third base, and third baseman Hunter Dozier to more time in right field. In the domino effect, that will push Whit Merrifield to more time at second base, especially until Adalberto Mondesi (left shoulder subluxation) returns, which could be awhile. Jorge Soler primarily will DH, though Yost said he still wants to work Soler into right field when he can.
Yost said his main objective is to keep Dozier’s bat in the lineup.
“I really don’t anticipate any growing pains with Hunter in the outfield,” Yost said. “He’ll still play some infield, some third, some first.”
- The bullpen makeup
Yost will have a late-inning void to fill with the departure of Diekman, who had been the club’s primary eighth-inning guy.
Yost reminisced about his early days as Royals manager at the beginning of this decade when he had to scramble relievers in many ways just to get to closer Joakim Soria.
“Now I’m going to have to scramble for ways to get to Ian [Kennedy],” Yost said.
The recent additions of left-hander Richard Lovelady and Zimmer will add to a youthful mix that includes right-handers Josh Staumont, Jorge Lopez, Kevin McCarthy and Scott Barlow, along with lefty Tim Hill.
“These last two months, we just have to see what we have moving forward into the winter and then next spring,” Yost said.
- Diekman’s departure (and return?)
Yost and the players in the clubhouse all will miss Diekman, who was a solid teammate. Diekman was busy hugging several players before he spoke to the media.
“Loved it here,” Diekman said. “Loved the organization. Everyone from the front office, the coaches, the training staff, the players, were all stand-up guys. I loved it.”
It’s also not unthinkable that Diekman could be back next season. Diekman, whom the Royals signed to a one-year, $2.75 million deal, will be a free agent this offseason and the Royals might be interested in a reunion at the right price.
- What’s next before the Deadline?
The Royals, after designating Duda for assignment, have one player with an expiring contract they still need to move: Outfielder Billy Hamilton’s one-year deal worth $5.25 million.
The case to move Hamilton has been strengthened with the emergence of Bubba Starling in center field.
Once Hamilton is moved, the Royals can bring up outfielder Brett Phillips, a strong defender who has been surging offensively at Omaha. Since June 4, Phillips has a 1.039 OPS with eight triples and seven home runs.