With the abbreviated 2020 season a week away, the San Diego Padres made a deal to fortify a bullpen that has been hit by injuries. The club traded outfielder Franchy Cordero and right-handed pitcher Ronald Bolaños to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for left-handed reliever Tim Hill. The deal was announced by the club Thursday evening.
Cordero, 25, signed with the Padres as an international free agent in the winter of 2011. He was originally signed as an infielder, but struggled defensively and was moved to the outfield permanently in 2016. The left-handed swinging Cordero has flashed impressive raw power and premium athleticism throughout his time in the organization. However, he has had issues staying healthy in the past few years.
Last season, Cordero missed most of the season with an elbow injury. He also suffered a hamstring injury while on a rehab assignment with Triple-A El Paso. He played in just nine games for the big league club in 2019.
He made his big league debut in 2017, hitting .228/.276/.424 in 99 plate appearances towards the end of the season.
“It’s difficult dealing Franchy for a lot of reasons,” said San Diego general manager A.J. Preller in a Zoom meeting with the media. “He’s someone who signed with the Padres organization, someone developed by the Padres organization and just an A+ person; a first-class individual. Having those conversations is never easy.
“We’ve had a lot of guys performing well — you don’t want to read too much into the last couple of weeks performance but the continued development of Edward Olivares, obviously Tommy Pham coming back from the corona-positive, with Josh Naylor who is versatile and can play some different spots, plus Taylor Trammell and some other young outfield bats. I am not saying that it is easy to move Franchy but we have some other options and some guys playing well for us right now in these scrimmages and we factored everything in and it [was] mainly about getting another quality reliever in and Franchy was a guy that they continued to push on.”
Also going to Kansas City in the deal is 23-year-old RHP Ronald Bolaños, who was a long-shot to make the opening day roster. The Cuban-born righty was part of the Padres 2016 international spending spree, signing for $2 million.
Bolaños started 2019 in the Lake Elsinore rotation with top prospects MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño and he more than held his own. In 53.2 innings, Bolaños pitched to a 2.85 ERA, although his FIP and XFIP were both over four, perhaps indicating that he was a bit lucky.
Bolaños ranked #15 on our preseason top-20 list and was one of the biggest risers coming into the 2020 season. This was our assessment of him back in March:
“The righty throws a pretty good curveball that can dance to the plate in the low-70s and a changeup. While neither pitch has shown to be elite, his curveball is his best secondary. He could use a little more refinement in the minors but there’s no reason why Bolaños can’t develop into a viable starter.”
“At his best, Bolaños is dominant,” said Amarillo Sod Poodles broadcaster Sam Levitt in our MadFriars Announcer Series last winter. “His fastball ranged from the low 90’s to 100 mph. His slider and changeup are solid. He would drop in this super-slow curveball in for strikes, too.
The Padres received LHP Tim Hill in the deal and he should immediately slot into the big league bullpen. Hill, 30, was drafted by the Royals in the 32nd round in 2014 out of Bacone College, an NAIA program in Oklahoma and also attended Palomar Junior College in San Marcos, California – just north of San Diego.
He made his big league debut on 2018, pitching to a 4.53 ERA in 70 appearances. Last season Hill pitched a 3.63 ERA in 46 games with Kansas City and 27 more in Triple-A Omaha, where he posted a 2.12 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL.
The side-winding lefty dominated left-handed hitters, holding them to just a .186/.262/.203 batting line. Righties faired much better against him, hitting .238/.326/.429 but with relievers required to face a minimum of three batters in, the club feels confident he will be able to pitch full innings,
“We’re confident that Jayce [Tingler] and Larry [Rothschild] and the staff will find the best ways to utilize him,” said Preller. “Obviously, with the three-batter minimum rule, we feel like he’s a guy that can pitch full innings – pitch a complete inning. He struck out one per inning [in 2019] and overall the numbers against lefties have been dominant. We feel like he is going to be able to lefties and righties out and with the rules the way they are we will make sure we use him in the right spots.”
Hill won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2021 and will come with five years of control.
Conclusion: The Padres bullpen depth has been tested a bit with the injury to Jose Castillo. Hill gives the Padres a third lefty, to go with off-season acquisition Drew Pomeranz and Matt Strahm. The move has a bit of a “win-now” feel to it, as they moved two promising young players for a reliever.
The move also signifies that Edward Olivares and Taylor Trammell have surpassed Cordero on the organizational depth chart with their play this spring and during Summer Camp. San Diego also has plenty of starting pitching depth in the minors, so Bolaños was expendable, in order for the club to add to their ‘pen for 2020 and beyond. Hill comes with plenty of control so he could be a piece in the bullpen for a long time.