The Nicky Lopez era is over: the Royals have traded Lopez to the Atlanta Braves for Taylor Hearn, a 28-year-old left-handed reliever.
We have traded INF Nicky Lopez to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for LHP Taylor Hearn.— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) July 30, 2023
Hearn, a 40-man roster player, has been optioned to Omaha (AAA).
Lopez first debuted in 2019 after fans clamored for the intriguing prospect to be given playing time. He struggled mightily at the plate in his first two seasons until he had a breakout third season at the age of 26 when Lopez put up 6 Wins Above Replacement per Fangraphs on the back of great baserunning, excellent defense, and slightly above average offense.
A fan favorite, Lopez stepped up as a leader when he needed to, most notably in the infamous Toronto Blue Jays series last year where he was the eldest player of the team after Salvador Perez. As a Royal, he put up a triple slash of .248/.311/.317, stole 40 bases, and assembled a collection of highlight defensive plays throughout the infield. Since Michael Massey’s emergence, Lopez gracefully transitioned into a utility role.
Though the Giants had interest in Lopez, the Royals ultimately made a deal with Atlanta. Coming over from Atlanta is Hearn, who turns 29 in a month. Hearn also debuted in 2019 and sports a 5.26 ERA in 229.1 career innings, most of which have come out of the bullpen. Curiously, the Braves acquired Hearn from the Texas Rangers just a week ago, making Kansas City Hearn’s third team this year.
Thank you, Nicky, for your hard work, your leadership, and all of your contributions to our organization and our city.— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) July 30, 2023
We wish you and your family all the best as your career continues. pic.twitter.com/CN319EtGZx
Though Kansas City did trade Aroldis Chapman a month ago, Lopez’s trade represents the first of what is likely to be more than one trade deadline moves. This year is the second year under the new CBA in which no deals can be made after the July 31 deadline, a break from previous years wherein teams could make trades through August.