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Royals trade Jake Diekman to A’s amid flurry of roster moves

UPDATED: Sat., July 27, 2019

In this July 20, 2019 photo, Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Jake Diekman delivers in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak / Associated Press)
In this July 20, 2019 photo, Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Jake Diekman delivers in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak / Associated Press)
By Dave Skretta Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Royals traded left-handed reliever Jake Diekman to the Oakland Athletics for two minor league prospects amid of flurry of moves before Saturday night’s game against Cleveland.

Kansas City also recalled oft-injured pitcher Kyle Zimmer and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn from Triple-A Omaha. Struggling first baseman Lucas Duda was designated for assignment.

Diekman is 0-6 with a 4.75 ERA in 48 relief appearances this season, but he has allowed just one run in his last six outings. He isn’t signed beyond this year, making him an obvious trade candidate, and the Athletics snapped him up just days before the trade deadline.

“I played against that team basically for three years,” said Diekman, who has spent a large part of his career with Texas. “I know the division really well. I know how good that team is. I’ll just go there and hopefully continue the success they’ve had there and see where we end up at the end of the year.”

The trade is the second this month between the two clubs. Kansas City shipped veteran right-hander Homer Bailey to the A’s on July 14 for minor league infielder Kevin Merrell.

“We’ve talked for a while about wanting to add to the bullpen. Jake was someone that we had engaged with in the offseason as a free agent and has pitched really well for Kansas City,” A’s general manager David Forst said Saturday. “… We’ve been talking to Kansas City for a while, back when we started talking about Homer. Jake was also part of those discussions and we ended up separating them. This time of year just about everybody’s going to be looking to add to their bullpen so you’re always competing with other teams. I thought we did a good job of staying pretty patient with Kansas City over the last week and we’re happy to get the right package for them.”

The Royals are in sell-off mode as they look toward the future, while the A’s began the day eight games back of Houston in the AL West but just a half-game out of the second wild card.

In return, the Royals got 26-year-old outfielder Dairon Blanco and 20-year-old right-hander Ismael Aquino from Oakland. Blanco is hitting .276 for Double-A Midland while Aquino is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in 10 appearances for Oakland’s team in the Arizona Fall League.

“There’s a lot of shake-up the last couple of days,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Our plan all along was to get close to the trade deadline and maybe get O’Hearn back up here, maybe get Zimmer back up here. For sure get (pitcher Richard) Lovelady back up here. All those things have happened.

“The trade of Diekman gives him the chance to be part of a pennant race, as it did Homer. It was just time for O’Hearn. He’s been playing well down there. We wanted to make sure we gave Lucas Duda the chance to get into an organization. He may have a chance to be playoff-bound. We made that move three or four days before the trade deadline so he could hook on with a team.”

Duda was hitting just .171 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 39 games this season.

Zimmer, the fifth overall pick of the 2012 draft, has struggled through injuries for most of his career. He pitched well in spring training and earned a spot on the big league roster, but he was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in three relief outings before he was sent back to the minors.

O’Hearn has had brief stints with the Royals each of the past two seasons. But with Duda gone and Cheslor Cuthbert primarily at third base, he hopes to stick at first base this time.

“It was tough. No doubt. There was a two-week period where I woke up every day frustrated with it,” O’Hearn said of the minor league stint. “At the same time you have to understand that it’s part of the game. I’m not the first guy this has happened to. I just had to understand that it was for the better. I worked on stuff every day and I think I got a lot better.”

The Royals wound up juggling most of their lineup because of the moves, sending third baseman Hunter Dozier to right field for Saturday night’s game. Jorge Soler moved from right to DH.

“This is more of the team we envisioned going forward with,” Yost said. “We have been talking for a while about putting Dozier in right. Cuthbert’s re-emergence has made us feel more comfortable about him playing third base. It was time to start moving forward with the guys we envisioned.”

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, California, contributed to this report.

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