Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day, I will be taking a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that makes sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's wrap things up with the American League East as I examine a possible trade involving the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles were the worst team in baseball this year alongside the Arizona Diamondbacks, as both clubs piled up 110 losses. That lack of talent renders trade options few and far between. While I would personally love to trade for Cedric Mullins and add him to the Royals' outfield, there is a bigger issue at hand.
The Orioles have one of if not the top farm systems in baseball and are probably not going to be in the cellar for very long once these promising prospects reach the big leagues. This means that the O’s aren’t letting their best player who they have under control until 2026 go for anything less than prime prospects (i.e. Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto, or MJ Melendez), so we’ll have to explore other options.
Baltimore Orioles Receive: 1B Ryan O’Hearn or 1B Ryan McBroom, RHP Ronald Bolanos and RHP Scott Blewett
Kansas City Royals Receive: 1B/DH Trey Mancini
Mancini is only under control for one more season and will likely cost around $5M after arbitration negotiations, which means that he probably won’t be around to witness the fruits of Baltimore’s labor. This, however, makes him the perfect trade candidate for the Royals, who have a major offensive hole at first base and designated hitter. This move would also take at-bats away from the duo of Carlos Santana and Hunter Dozier while shipping off some dead weight in O’Hearn or McBroom.
The main pieces of this trade are Blewett and Bolanos, who will give the Orioles something they desperately need: MLB-ready pitching. Blewett and Bolanos both impressed in limited outings with the Royals, with both pitchers putting up ERAs under two and both coming in at 25-years-old. Both could prove to be appealing to a rebuilding club like Baltimore.
Bolanos would be the focal point of this trade, as he's the No. 24-ranked Royals prospect according to MLB.com. He projects as a potential starter with his four-pitch mix and mid-90s fastball.
Bolaños has a strong starter’s build at 6-foot-2 and could still grow into his frame. He has a four-pitch mix highlighted by his fastball, which sits around 94-95 mph and has cut, sink or rise to it depending on how he throws it. Both breaking pitches are high-spin, with a biting slider that sits in the mid-to-high 80s and an 80-mph curve that drops tightly. He doesn’t use his high-80s changeup often, but it does have some cut action to it. Bolaños' delivery has quirks, and he will likely need to smooth it out to gain better control.
Bolaños’ pitch-mix, velocity and athletic build project him as a starter, and that’s what he’ll continue to develop as in the Royals system when healthy, ultimately projecting as a back-of-the-rotation arm. He could do well in a middle-relief role with an intriguing pitch mix, too.
The Royals have experience with trading two young arms for offense, as they sent Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks to the Oakland Athletics for Ben Zobrist in 2015. While Bolanos and Blewett are not on the level of Manaea, it can be argued that Mancini is clearly not on the level of where Zobrist was when the Royals acquired him.
This trade helps both organizations accomplish their goals for the upcoming season and is mutually beneficial for both as well when it comes to the future.
For Kansas City, it helps the team fill a much-needed hole in the lineup and allows them to properly develop Pratto in the minors and not rush him. If Mancini is a dud with the Royals, he’ll be gone the following year and that opens the door for Pratto to step in. If Mancini hits, it allows KC to have some options when it comes to a future 1B/DH pairing with Pratto.
In return, Baltimore gets two players that can fill Mancini’s void in the lineup and can help the franchise continue with its journey of trying to acquire top draft picks. The Orioles will also get arms that can slide into either the back of the rotation or fit into the middle of a bullpen that is in desperate need of a rebuild.