The new year seems to have brought renewed activty by a dormant Royals front office. Having already acquired outfielder Peter O’Brien and pitcher Nate Karns this week, they have also been the subject of a few rumors including reports linking them to designated hitter Pedro Alvarez and free agent starting pitching. The Royals have been rumored to be looking for a utility infielder, perhaps as insurance in case Whit Merrifield struggles at second base next season and the Cheslor Cuthbert conversion to second base experiment doesn’t take. According to Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, the Royals are interested in veteran infielder Aaron Hill.
Hill is a 34-year old right-handed hitter who Cafardo says was “well-received” after he was traded to the Red Sox from the Brewers last summer. Hill is a former All-Star second baseman who once hit 36 home runs in a season, but those days are well past him now. After some declining seasons in Arizona, he revived his career last year, performing well in a utility role in Milwaukee and Boston, hitting .262/.336/.378 with 10 home runs in 429 plate appearances.
The former LSU Tiger was drafted in the first round by the Blue Jays in 2003 and spent seven seasons in Toronto, winning a Silver Slugger Award. Overall, he has hit .267/.324/.420 with 161 career home runs in 12 Major League seasons with the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Brewers, and Red Sox.
Hill is capable of playing either second or third base, although he shouldn’t be asked to play the corner too often with Mike Moustakas and Cheslor Cuthbert on the roster. He has shown good power for an infielder, although he has definitely declined the last few seasons. He has shown greater plate discipline as he has gotten older, with a walk rate of 9.2% the last two seasons combined.
Cafardo also writes the Royals could be interested in former Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe, “if they’re thinking about moving Mike Moustakas.” However this makes little sense since the Royals have Cheslor Cuthbert as an alternative at third base (as well as top hitting prospect Hunter Dozier). Plouffe has some experience playing other infield positions, but not since 2012, and it is very limited experience.
If the Royals are looking for a veteran utility infielder, that could spell trouble for Royals infielder Christian Colon, who could be the odd man out. Colon is out of options and is coming off a very disappointing season where he hit .231/.294/.293 in 161 plate appearances. Despite being the #4 overall pick in 2010, the Royals have never seemed comfortable giving Colon an extended look in the infield, perhaps because of defensive concerns.
Cafardo also writes it is “hard to tell if the Royals would talk about any of their top would-be free agents — Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, or Mike Moustakas — but they may part with one of them before the season starts because they can’t afford to keep all three.”