The 2022 Major League Baseball season may have just started but with a halted offseason due to the lockout and a shortened spring training, teams could use this time to make some transactions via trade. The Kansas City Royals have numerous players who fit the mold of a trade piece, but a lot depends on how their seasons continue to unravel.
The most common trade rumor has the Royals trading for Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Frankie Montas. He would be a tremendous addition to a rotation led by Zack Greinke. The A's are always looking to get younger and cheaper. With that being said, however, let's shake things up and mention a name that would be an excellent addition to the Royals for the future.
Nate Pearson — RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
The Royals are clearly in dire need of some young, contract-friendly starters. The historical track record indicates that the organization has had trouble developing starting pitchers since the first stint of Greinke. So, if the Royals can not produce an arm, let's trade for one. Nate Pearson is the subject here.
Pearson is 25 years old, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 255 pounds. The Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in 2017 with the 28th overall selection. The former MLB No. 6 overall prospect could be a perfect trade candidate for the Royals. He's a hard-throwing righty who has not lived up to expectations, thus putting a damper on the immense market he had before.
Pearson has pitched in 17 games, starting only five, throwing 33 innings at the major league level. He has a 5.18 ERA with 25 walks and with 36 strikeouts. Other metrics do not help his case, as he's posted a 6.03 FIP, 1.606 WHIP and 6.27 RA9. One major note is that he's dealt with some injuries. Those injuries have aided in some of the lackluster numbers he's posted to this point.
Those reading right now might say, "this sounds like pitchers already on the Royals or in the farm system, so why trade for another?" The answer is simple: low-cost probability, very high upside and major league experience. Pearson showed improvement in numerous categories from 2020 to 2021. Specifically, his fastball velocity increased from 96.3 mph to 97.8 mph; his K% went from 19.8 to 28.2; Pearson also lowered his offspeed velocity from 87.7 mph to 83.3 mph.
He throws a four-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup. In 2021, he threw his fastball 189 times (62.8%). Opponents averaged a .211 batting average with a whiff percentage of 30.7 on the pitch. The fastball is his most dominating pitch, often overpowering hitters. He touches 100 mph with ease and has even recorded a pitch at 104 mph. It's electric and headlines his complementary offerings.
Pearson threw his slider 104 times (34.6%) in 2021, posting an impressive 2585 rpm spin rate. He demonstrated a six-inch horizontal break with 36.1 inches of vertical movement and an average speed of 87 mph. Opponents whiffed on the slider 43.6% of the time and hit just .263 against it. Pearson's slider is a lethal secondary pitch that fits with his arsenal. He threw his other pitches (curveball and changeup) eight times in 2021.
What would Pearson cost in a trade, though? According to baseballtradevalues.com, the median estimated trade value for Pearson is 9.5 points. What the Blue Jays value in return is another question. Toronto could be interested in someone like Jake Brentz or Scott Barlow, but they could also look to bolster their farm system.
A figurative trade I executed was Pearson (9.5) to the Royals for prospect Nick Loftin (9.3) headed to Toronto. Depending on how elaborate this trade gets, it would be neat to see the Royals get a package deal of Pearson and Cavan Biggio, but let's save that conversation for another day. If the Royals executed this trade, the worst-case scenario is they would have acquired a hard-throwing bullpen option. The upside, though, is still legitimate.