Padres acquire LH reliever Hill from Royals

Kansas City receives OF Cordero, RHP Bolaños

July 17th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- In need of immediate bullpen help, the Padres swung a trade with the Royals on Thursday night, sending outfielder and righty prospect to Kansas City for left-hander .

Cordero's tools remain as tantalizing as ever, and he's still an intriguing piece. But in their loaded farm system, the Padres felt they had better options in the outfield, so Cordero became expendable.

“I'm not saying it was easy to move Franchy,” general manager A.J. Preller said. “But we have some other options and some guys playing well for us right now in these scrimmages. We factored everything in, and it was mainly about getting another quality reliever.”

Hill, meanwhile, fills a void in the San Diego bullpen, with left-hander José Castillo expected to miss the first month of the season and potentially more as he works his way back from a lat strain.

Padres get: LHP Tim Hill
Royals get: OF Franchy Cordero, RHP Ronald Bolaños

What they got

The moment the Padres got word of Castillo's injury, Preller hit the market in search of a left-handed relief arm. The lefty depth in the Padres' bullpen was practically nonexistent beyond Drew Pomeranz and Matt Strahm.

That's where the 30-year-old Hill comes in. He's worked 85 1/3 big league innings over two seasons with a 4.11 ERA. Hill notched a 3.63 mark in 46 games a season ago.

More importantly, lefties hit .186/.262/.203 against Hill last season. In a division loaded with strong left-handed hitters, the Padres think Hill might prove very valuable -- particularly against Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Corey Seager and the Dodgers.

“With the Castillo injury, from our standpoint, it's just adding another quality reliever and somebody especially from the left side that could complement the guys that we currently have,” Preller said. “It's somebody we've had our eyes on and ultimately lined up for.”

What they gave up

It pained Preller a bit to part with Cordero.

 “He's somebody that signed with the Padres organization, somebody developed through the Padres organization, just an A+ person, first-class individual,” Preller said. “Having those conversations is never easy.”

When healthy, Cordero was a certifiable power threat and a weapon against right-handed pitching. But he whiffed at a 43-percent clip and spent most of the past two seasons battling injuries to his elbow, calf and quadriceps, playing only 49 games in that span.

In parts of three seasons with the Padres, Cordero batted .240/.306/.431 with 10 homers. He entered the season with a legitimate shot at a bench place in the outfield. But Cordero struggled in both Spring Training and Summer Camp and found himself on the outside of the team's roster picture.

Preller specifically mentioned the emergence of prospects Edward Olivares and Taylor Trammell as part of the reason Cordero became expendable.

As for Bolaños, his departure follows a similar script. Bolaños’ upside intrigued the Padres. But there was no room for him in the rotation this season, and with top prospects MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño on the way, Bolaños didn't fit as a long-term starter either.

How Hill fits

Strahm and Pomeranz are both multi-inning weapons who have had success against lefties and righties. Hill is definitively not that kind of reliever.

He averaged less than an inning per outing last season, and his funky sidearm delivery makes Hill especially effective against left-handed hitters. Even though Major League Baseball has implemented a three-batter minimum for relievers this season, Preller thinks there's still plenty of value in a lefty who gets lefties out.

“We feel like he's going to be a guy that can get both lefties and righties out,” Preller said. “But I think with the rules being what they are, we'll make sure we use him in the right spots and in the right way.”

Hill joins a Padres bullpen that was already considered one of the best in baseball, with Kirby Yates, Emilio Pagán, Craig Stammen, Pomeranz and Strahm at the back end.

What's next?

Before joining the Padres, Hill needs to self-isolate after he is tested for the coronavirus upon his arrival in San Diego. If he clears that screening, it's possible he will be available on Opening Day July 24.

The Padres have yet to decide how many relievers they'll carry this season. But with rosters expanding to 30 players for the first two weeks, it will almost certainly be at least nine -- and probably more.

“That’ll be the conversation for the next week,” Preller said. “… We’ll start getting into the numbers of who we want to carry, how we want to break camp.”

As for the outfield picture, things got a bit clearer on Thursday night. With Tommy Pham, Wil Myers and Trent Grisham as the projected starters, that leaves either one or two places available for Olivares, Trammell and Josh Naylor.