Last week the Rays acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Rockies for reliever Jake McGee and two other pitchers. The move was hailed as a good value move for the cost-conscious Rays, but it also gives them a bit of a crowded outfield. Dickerson will take over in left-field, at least against right-handed pitchers, with Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier set in centerfield. Stephen Souza will get most of the time in right field, and the team will have to find playing time for Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce, both of whom can play the outfield, albeit poorly. That leaves questions marks for veteran Desmond Jennings and reserve Brandon Guyer.
Rays beat writer Mark Topkin noted that the Rays may look to move one of those outfielder now that they have multiple options.
But they could be better off also trading one of their outfielders, either Desmond Jennings (who may first have to show he is healthy in the spring) or Brandon Guyer, which would give them additional flexibility — and at-bats — to best take advantage of their additions. And to keep most of them happy. (The Angels, Cubs, Nats and Royals are among those said to be looking.)
It does not seem as if the Royals are asking about the Rays outfielders right now, but they did reportedly inquire about other outfielders in trades earlier this offseason, most notably Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox, and the Rockies outfielders before they dealt Dickerson. The Royals have since re-signed Alex Gordon, but still have a void in their third outfield spot. They may turn to Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando to fill that void, but either Desmond Jennings or Brandon Guyer could provide another option for the Royals.
The 28-year old Jennings would seem to fit the profile of a Royals outfielder with his speed and athleticism. Jennings holds his own defensively in centerfield, but has excelled in left field. He would likely have to play right field in Kansas City, where he has little experience. Has has been a solid base-stealer with 93 career stolen bases with a 77.8% success rate. Offensively, the right-handed Jennings is not quite the high-contact hitter the Royals like to employ with a career 19.9% strikeout rate, but a 9.3% walk rate. He is a lifetime .249/.327/.398 hitter but has been beset with knee injuries throughout his career.
A knee sprain in 2012 would put him on the disabled list, and he would miss the final month of the 2014 season with knee soreness. The knee would keep him out all but 28 games in 2015. When healthy, Jennings is a 3 WAR player. The problem is, he has never played in more than 139 games in a season and the health of his knee is now a serious question.
The Royals might be able to acquire Jennings cheaply if the Rays are willing to sell low after an injury-filled season. Unfortunately, the Rays are not a team likely to sell low on a player unless they are pretty certain he will not rebound. The Royals may have to wait until Jennings establishes more value, then be willing to pay a higher price in terms of prospects. Jennings is already signed to a $3.3 million contract for 2016, and would have one more year of arbitration in 2017 before being eligible for free agency.
Guyer may be a more affordable player to acquire, in terms of trade compensation. The 30-year old has played in primarily a reserve role in his two full Major League seasons, hitting .260/.338/.393. However, he could fit in perfectly as a platoon partner with Jarrod Dyson. The right-handed Guyer has hit .272/.362/.439 in his career against left-handers, the perfect compliment to the left-handed hitting Dyson. His on-base percentage is a bit inflated by his ability to get hit by pitches. He led the league by getting plunked 24 times despite just 385 plate appearances. Defensively, Guyer can play all three outfield positions adequately.
Guyer does not seem to excel at any aspect of the game, but can do lots of things well. He can draw hit for contact, draw a few walks, hit for a bit of power, play good defense, and steal a few bases. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time this year, signing a one-year contract for $1.185 million, and would not be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season. If the price is right, he might make for an upgrade over Paulo Orlando and make for a more proven player than Brett Eibner.