The Royals have two outfield spots to fill in left- and right-field heading into this off-season. While they are still players to re-sign All-Star left-fielder Alex Gordon, the team is not expected to retain right-fielder Alex Rios. The outfield market has been slow to develop, but the Royals are reported to have some interest in Denard Span and Gerardo Parra. The price tag, however, may be more than they are willing to spend.
KC has some hesitancy with SP Doug Fister & OF Denard Span due to health, but still a possibility. #Royals— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) December 7, 2015
Source: Gerardo Parra hopeful for 4-year deal at this point. Market strong with KC, others in.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 8, 2015
At the Winter Meetings, General Manager Dayton Moore asserted that the Royals may instead seek to fill one of the open spots internally, saying Jarrod Dyson was likely to get one of the starting corner outfield spots.
Dayton Moore: "Yeah, we feel as a group that it’s time to let Dyson play a lot more. He's going to get that opportunity..." #Royals— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) December 8, 2015
Moore on Dyson: "I think he’s capable of stealing 50-plus bases a year and scoring a bunch of runs. When he's on base, we score runs."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) December 8, 2015
The team feels minor league outfielder Bubba Starling is a year away from being a Major League starter, so the team is wary of committing multiple years with both corner outfield positions. The club could pursue an outfielder willing to sign a one-year deal, but those players tend to be injury risks or not very good anymore.
Jarrod Dyson has been a useful and underrated fourth outfielder for the Royals the last few seasons. In 1,202 career plate appearances, he has hit .255/.320/.343 with 146 stolen bases. Last year he slugged a career high .380, although his on-base percentage tumbled to .311. But Dyson's value comes largely through his defense and baserunning. Dyson was ninth in all of baseball last year in Baserunning Runs and 19th among all outfielders in Defensive Runs Above Average. Despite being just a part-timer, Dyson has averaged 2.5 fWAR over the last three seasons.
The concerns with Dyson are that he will be exposed as a regular player, and that he cannot hit left-handed pitching. Dyson has a pretty extreme platoon split in his career, hitting .266/.329/.367 against right-handers, but just .211/.288/.249 against left-handers. It is possible Ned Yost could employ a platoon with Paulo Orlando or Brett Eibner, who hit .308/.372/.556 against left-handers in AAA last season. Ned Yost, however, has not typically employed many platoons, instead preferring set lineups.
We shouldn't read too much into comments made four months before Opening Day. Just a year ago, the team was touting the possibility of Carlos Peguero being in the starting lineup last year, only to waive him a few weeks later. These comments could very well be posturing in negotiations with free agents seeking too many years or too much money. But perhaps the Royals have recognized the 31-year old Dyson is a valuable player who could help the team with an expanded role.