Orioles agree to trade with Royals for bullpen depth

The Orioles have made another move this offseason

Mar 17, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jonathan Heasley (49) throws a pitch during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels
Mar 17, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jonathan Heasley (49) throws a pitch during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels / Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
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Pitching has been the name of the game for the Orioles this offseason, with the team looking for upgrades in the rotation and bullpen. After signing Craig Kimbrel to be their closer, the Orioles have added another reliever to the picture ahead of the 2024 season.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reported on Monday night that the Orioles acquired relief pitcher Jonathan Heasley from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Cesar Espinal, who spent 2023 in the Dominican Summer League.

Orioles acquire Jonathan Heasley from the Royals to add to bullpen mix

Last season, and Heasley's major league career, has been rocky. Converted to a relief pitcher, Heasley had a 7.20 ERA, 6.99 FIP, and 1.267 WHIP, allowing 17 hits, five home runs, and 12 earned runs in 15 innings pitched over 12 appearances.

In 2021 and 2022, Heasley made 24 starts with the Royals before going to the bullpen in 2023. In the majors, he has a 5.45 ERA, 5.86 FIP, and 1.436 WHIP, averaging 1.8 home runs per nine and 5.7 strikeouts per nine in 36 appearances and 133 2/3 innings over parts of three seasons.

Heasley has not been a good pitcher in the majors, as his stats are evidence of that. He didn't pitch in enough games to qualify for advanced metrics, so we can't see what's under the hood with him. Mike Elias and the Orioles can see under the hood, and clearly, they saw something they liked with Heasley to take a chance on him.

The 2024 season will be the last year that Heasley has a minor league option, so this trade is purely a depth move. He is a player who comes cheap, only costing a rookie league pitcher, and he's not arbitration-eligible until after the 2025 season, so there's plenty of team control.

So, this move is a low-risk, high-reward one for the Orioles. If they can develop him into a quality reliever, he's another good arm in what's already a good bullpen. If he's not good, they can part ways easily and with very little impact in doing so. Welcome to Baltimore, Jonathan!

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