The Royals have designated utility player Chris Owings for assignment and have called up third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert from AAA Omaha. The 27-year old Owings was hitting just .133/.193/.222 in 145 plate appearances, having struck out 38 percent of the time.
The Royals had signed Owings to a one-year, $3 million deal after he was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks last fall. The former first-round pick has had some decent seasons in the big leagues, but he hit just .206/.272/.302 in 309 plate apparances with Arizona last season. Injuries have hurt his career, and the Royals were hoping he could bounce back and fill a super-utility role. Early on in the season he was a fixture in the starting lineup, filling in all over the diamond defensively. The team stood by him despite an early slump.
“All of our baseball operations people and our analytics department were in consensus that he was a great fit for us,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore told MLB.com. “And they still believe, as we do, that Chris will come around offensively.”
But his offensive woes caused the Royals to begin limiting his playing time, particularly once the team promoted Nicky Lopez to the big leagues. After a 0-for-4, four strikeout performance against the Rangers on Thursday, the Royals finally pulled the plug on the Chris Owings era altogether.
Cheslor Cuthbert returns after being jettisoned from the 40-man roster last year. He returned as a minor league free agent and was hitting .310/.370/.528 with eight home runs in 51 games for Omaha. In 235 MLB games, Cuthbert has hit .252/.303/.378. The 26-year old right-handed hitter will likely fill in at third ith third baseman Hunter Dozier exiting last night’s game with a thorax tightness, and Kelvin Gutierrez on the injured list for Omaha.
It is hard to overstate just how bad Chris Owings was with the Royals. He had a Weighted Runs Created Plus of 7, worst among all MLB hitters with at least 140 plate appearances. His strikeout rate was the second-highest in baseball behind only Chris Davis, despite the fact that Owings is not much of a power hitter. He has the second-worst career OPS+ in Royals history (not counting pitchers, although longtime pitcher Paul Splittorff out-hit Owings) at 11, right behind Donnie Sadler. It was really hard to be this bad, but Owings was just awful.
It is really too bad things didn’t work out, and Owings was seemingly a nice guy trying as hard as he could. The signing was ultimately a bad one, but at least the Royals realized it by June instead of stubbornly playing him past the All-Star break.