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 continue our run with the National League West as I examine a possible trade involving the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers have endless amounts of cash to spend every offseason, so replacing players has never really been a problem for them. However, this year is a little bit different. The Dodgers chose not to offer Clayton Kershaw a qualifying offer, Max Scherzer is gone and Trevor Bauer's future remains unclear. That’s three starting pitchers they are going to have to replace this offseason and while Dustin May could fill one of those spots eventually, he’s going to be out most of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
While this is most certainly a pitching-rich free-agent class this year, the Dodgers can’t count on signing everybody. The Royals are anything but rich in pitching, but there is perhaps a piece that could be moved at the peak of his value for a player that at once would’ve been perceived as untouchable.
Los Angeles Dodgers Receive: SP Carlos Hernandez and SP Mike Minor
Kansas City Royals Receive: OF/IF Cody Bellinger
The Dodgers value experience when it comes to starting pitching, as five pitchers this year that made a start for them were over the age of 30. This means that Minor should fall right into their wheelhouse. When the Dodgers traded for Danny Duffy this year, they wanted him to be a left-handed pitcher that could float between the rotation and the pen. Minor can fill that same role. While his contract might be a bit inflated at $10M this coming season, the Dodgers are more than capable of absorbing that blow.
Hernandez, despite the lack of name value, would be the main player going to the Dodgers. He impressed this year, putting up an ERA of 3.68 in 24 appearances. Hernandez is a power righty with a fastball that sits around 97 MPH, with four other pitches that are pretty evenly used as well. However, his walk rate was a bit concerning at just over four per nine innings and despite possessing power stuff, he didn’t rack up elite strikeout numbers.
Hernandez’s value may never be higher than it is right now, and the Dodgers could be interested in a pitcher that possesses the type of power stuff they crave and a player who also would be making under $1M in 2022.
In return for these two, the Royals would be getting a former MVP in Cody Bellinger who is coming off the worst season in his professional career by miles, slashing .165/.240/.302. This was on the heels of a rather unspectacular 2020 in which he slashed .239/.333/.455. So the question becomes who is the real Bellinger: the one who in his first three seasons won Rookie of the Year, MVP, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger, or the current version we see now?
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle and if his postseason was anything to go by, there should still be plenty enough left in the tank for Bellinger. The question is whether or not the Dodgers will be patient enough to see if he can recover. With Starling Marte being available this offseason and Max Muncy holding down first base, his everyday spot on the roster is far from guaranteed.
The Royals were the beneficiaries of giving Andrew Benintendi a chance to play for them every day after he struggled in his last two seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Kansas City should give the same type of chance to Bellinger — whether it’s as an outfielder, first baseman or designated hitter. There is simply too much potential to pass on here.
While most of the trades I propose are to make the Royals better immediately, this is a trade that might take a couple of years before its impact is truly felt. How you feel about Hernandez’s potential will probably shape how you feel about this trade. If the Royals can flip a surprise breakout player for a former MVP, this could end up being a trade that has both immediate and long-lasting impact as a downright steal.