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KC Royals trade Ryan O'Hearn to Baltimore Orioles for cash

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The Kansas City Royals needed Ryan O’Hearn’s spot for veteran pitcher and free agent Jordan Lyles, so they designated O’Hearn for an assignment last week.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Royals traded left-handed slugger O’Hearn to Lyles’ former club, the Baltimore Orioles, in a trade for cash.

On November 15, O’Hearn agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.4 million with an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses to avoid salary arbitration.

The elimination of defensive changes on the field played a role in the Royals’ decision to retain O’Hearn when there appeared at least one possible candidate not to bid due to the presence of left-handed first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto on the 40-Man List.

The idea at the time was that O’Hearn, who has always had tough contacts and above-average power, could see a significant improvement in his offensive output in 2023.

O’Hearn was one of four players who remained on the active roster for the entire 2022 season, despite seeing relatively minimal playing time.

He played 67 games and made 28 starts. He led the club with 32 plate appearances, and he cut .367/.406/.567 (11 for 30) and led MLB in hits. He also reduced .321 / .367 / .411 (18 for 56) after the all-star break.

During MLB’s winter meetings in early December, new Royals manager Matt Quatraro expressed optimism that O’Hearn would play a bigger role for the club in 2023.

“I expect him to get more bats than he probably had last year,” Quatraro said in response to a question from The Star. “And being a big part of the team, whether it’s off the bench or advantage matchups on any given night.”

However, the Royals designated the first baseman/outfielder for assignment on Dec. 28, once Lyles’ signing became official.

Lyles, who signed a two-year contract, will be seen as a mainstay in the Royals’ starting pitching rotation.

“Those decisions are always tough, managing our 40 men,” Royals executive vice-president and general manager JJ Picollo said last week. “Especially (since) we feel like it’s a young 40-man squad, so we know every move we make is going to create a tough decision.

“The decision to pre-submit and sign Ryan O’Hearn was a decision at some point in the offseason, not knowing what was going to evolve throughout the offseason. But with that, you have to make a decision. strategic when signing the next player, so strategically we thought it was the best decision.

O’Hearn, 29, had spent his entire professional career in the Royals organization. An eighth-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, O’Hearn made his major league debut in July 2018.

He started his major league career with great success and showed great potential as a powerful left-handed first baseman.

He hit a two-run homer in his opener against the Chicago White Sox and joined Clint Hurdle and Mark Quinn as the Royals for a homer in their opener.

O’Hearn went on to hit a total of 12 home runs and 24 extra hits in his first 44 major league games. It was the most by a Royal through 44 career games, and his 30 RBI during that span ranked third behind Quinn (32) and Bob Hamelin (31).

However, he struggled to build on this initial success. In 231 games in the majors from 2019-21, he reduced 0.205/0.280/0.358.

He will likely get a fresh start with an Orioles team that has an equally young core and finished with an 83-79 record in 2022 after making a late unsuccessful playoff push.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. Hailing from the Northeast, he has covered school, college and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He has won awards for sports reporting and sports columns.

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