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Trading Jackson Kowar May Help Bolster the Royals’ Bullpen

We've finally reached our last American League club, and this trade is perhaps one that could help reshape the Royals bullpen into its old form.

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 American League Central as I examine a possible trade involving the Cleveland... Guardians? 

What better way to end the American League side of this series than with a trade for a player that could get the Royals closer to replicating the H-D-H (Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, Greg Holland) bullpen formula that helped guide them to back-to-back World Series appearances. The key in this trade is offering one player who may not have quite the amount of current value as the one being acquired, but the potential value will help carry this deal over the line.

The Cleveland Guardians (still weird) are in an interesting spot. Their offense, while not atrocious, was not great for them. This, however, seems to be only a temporary setback — they have four top 100 prospects all set to make their debuts within the next two seasons. But when I think of what has made Cleveland successful over these past few years, the one thing that jumps out to me is starting pitching.

This is unsurprisingly where the strength of this Cleveland team lies, with pitchers like Aaron Civale, Shane Bieber, and Cal Quantrill forming a rock-solid top three. Triston McKenzie and Zach Plesac have done a quality job filling out the rotation as well. This is an organization that values young starting pitching above all else, which means they might be willing to part with a good player if you give them what their heart desires most.

The Trade:

Cleveland Guardians Receive: RHP Josh Staumont, RHP Jackson Kowar

Royals Receive: RHP Emmanuel Clase

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Clase was arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball last year, posting a 1.29 ERA in 71 games and nailing down 24 saves in the process with a fantastic WHIP and K/9 ratio of 9.6. He is a closer that rarely allows a baserunner and strikes out a decent chunk of the batters he faces. This should come as no surprise, as he fires a cut fastball that reaches over 100 MPH and backs that up with a wipeout slider that acts as a pseudo-changeup to keep batters honest.

When you add in the fact that he’s only 23 years old, you have yourself a future All-Star nominee. However, this means that to acquire the services of Clase from Cleveland, the price will be steep.

Like I hinted at before, the Royals don’t have a pitcher who matches up with Clase for a simple one-for-one swap, but they do have something that does appeal to Cleveland: young starting pitching.

Kowar, despite his early results, was viewed as a top 100 prospect before the start of this season and in Triple-A this year, it was easy to see why he was held in such high regard. When it comes to pure stuff, Kowar has that it factor. The question is whether he can put everything together. If the Guardians feel they can put the missing pieces together with Kowar, they might be willing to accept a bullpen downgrade in Josh Staumont.

This isn’t to slight Staumont in any way, as he has long been many Royals fans' choice as the heir apparent to the closer role. Unfortunately, fans don’t have control over the bullpen: the manager does. Through three MLB seasons, Staumont has a total of five saves. Why he hasn’t been given more save opportunities is a mystery to me and many others, but he's still a quality relief pitcher. If Cleveland would prefer Scott Barlow be included in this deal instead of Staumont, that would work as well. With that said, I think Cleveland would want to replace a fireballer with another fireballer.

This trade all hinges upon whether the Indians feel like they can get a middle-of-the-rotation guy out of Jackson Kowar. If they don’t feel like Kowar is that player, other options like Daniel Lynch and Carlos Hernandez exist to perhaps tickle their fancy. If this trade were to happen, a backline three of Clase, Barlow, and Tapia could help the Royals achieve the type of bullpen dominance they’ve been missing since 2015.

This concludes the American League side of the 29 Trades in 29 Days series. Next, we’ll be switching sides but will be staying in the Midwest as I'll start going around the National League Central. 

Read More: Proposing a Hypothetical Blockbuster Trade With the Astros