The Royals have been an oasis of activity in a slow off-season around baseball, having already added free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, outfielder Michael Taylor, starting pitcher Mike Minor, and re-signing reliever Greg Holland. But in case you thought the Royals are done, Dayton Moore’s recent comments to MLB Network radio this week suggest there still could be work for him to do.
In the interview, Moore cited the versatility of Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield as reasons why the Royals could be flexible with who they continue to pursue. But he adds that if they were to add another position player, it would “ideally” be a left-handed bat that could play at either third base or outfield - or perhaps both.
Moore also talks about wanting to get a good look at young outfielder Franchy Cordero, although he notes Cordero’s injury past, and the possibility that young infielder Bobby Witt, Jr. could be ready soon. So an addition to the lineup may be a short-term option, someone that can add depth and wouldn’t be blocking a young player.
This may put them out of the market for some top left-handed hitters available like Kyle Schwarber, Michael Brantley, or Jackie Bradley, Jr., and opinion shared by columnist Sam Mellinger.
Writing more about the Royals this week, but I can tell you now that Kyle Schwarber and Jackie Bradley are not walking through that door.— Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) December 17, 2020
What would that leave them on the free agent market? Here are a few possibilities.
Daniel Descalso - Descalso has a history with manager Mike Matheny, having played for him in St. Louis in 2012 and 2013. The 34-year old veteran is capable of playing all over the field and could be the “on-base guy” Dayton Moore has been seeking. Since 2017, he is 23rd in all of baseball in walk rate, and he had a line of .238/.353/.436 in 423 plate appearances in 2018. His hitting fell sharply in 2019 and he missed all of the 2020 season with an ankle injury, so it is unclear how much he has left in the tank.
Marwin Gonzalez - He will turn 32 in March and is technically a switch-hitter, with very similar numbers from both sides of the plate (he gets on base a bit and homers a better from the left side, has hit more doubles from the right side). He was a valuable member of the Astros’ championship club, playing all over the field, but his numbers have fallen the last two seasons, and he is coming off a .211/.286/.320 season with the Twins.
Brock Holt - Ned Yost used to sing the praises of Holt, a versatile utility player and former All-Star. The 32-year old doesn’t have much power, but he has an 8.7 percent career walk rate, and hit .297/.369/.402 in 87 games with Boston in 2019. He is coming off a poor season that saw him released by the Brewers in August.
Tommy La Stella - One of the best free agents available at getting on base, La Stella boasts a career .356 on-base percentage. He was an All-Star with the Angels in 2019, hitting .295/.346/.486 with 16 home runs in 80 games. La Stella has a very low strikeout rate as well, whiffing just 10 percent of the time, and he has the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball since 2017. He has typically played second base, but has spent time at third base. He could be in demand, and it may require a multi-year deal to sign the 31-year old.
Brad Miller - The 31-year old utility player has bounced around a lot in his career with the Mariners, Rays, Brewers, Indians, and Phillies. But he settled in with St. Louis last year and had one of his better offensive seasons, hitting .232/.357/.451 with seven home runs in 48 games. Miller is capable of playing all over the field and has more pop than you would typically see from a utility player. He also has a 9.7 percent career walk rate and while he will swing and miss on occasion, he isn’t a big whiffer.
Travis Shaw - Shaw enjoyed back-to-back 30+ home run seasons in 2017 and 2018, but his numbers have fallen sharply in the last two seasons. He rebounded a bit in 2020 with the Blue Jays, hitting .239/.306/.411 with six home runs in 50 games. Shaw has a 10 percent walk rate and can play a little second base and left field if needed.
Others: Derek Dietrich, Jake Lamb, Joe Panik, Jace Peterson
Brett Gardner - Gardner is an intense 13-year veteran with the Yankees who was a very capable lead-off man for years. He has a career on-base percentage of .343, and put up a solid line of .223/.354/.392 in 2020. A former Gold Glover, Gardner can still play solid defense in left field. The Yankees have expressed interest in bringing back the 37-year old outfielder but only on a cheap, short-term deal.
Brian Goodwin - The Royals released Goodwin at the end of spring training in 2019 and he went on to hit .258/.327/.469 over the next two seasons with the Angels and Reds. The 30-year old has decent power and an 8.5 percent walk rate and he is capable of playing all three outfield positions. He was just non-tendered by the Reds and may be available on a cheap one-year deal to split time with a younger player.
Robbie Grossman - Grossman is also a switch-hitter, but a patient hitter as well, posting the 27th-best walk rate in baseball since 2017. He only has modest power, but he won’t strike out a ton. Grossman is capable of playing all three outfield positions, although his defense has been a mixed bag.
Nick Markakis - Markakis faced off against the Royals in the 2014 ALCS, and the former All-Star has enjoyed a terrific 15-year career. He has long been one of the most difficult hitters to strike out, and has a career .357 on-base percentage with a 9.6 percent walk rate. He doesn’t provide much power or speed, and his defense has fallen off, but the 37-year old may be a good fit to provide veteran leadership and split time in the outfield.
Nomar Mazara - The youngest player on this list at age 25, Mazara was once a promising prospect who has been a mixed bag in the big leagues. He flashes good power, but not enough to overcome his defensive liabilities. Mazara put up 20 home runs in each of his first three seasons (then 19 in 2019), but his overall line of .258/.318/.426 is below league-average. With his age, there may still be talent left to unlock.
Tyler Naquin - The former first-round pick was non-tendered by the Indians after a disappointing five seasons with them in which he hit .274/.323/.443. Injuries have held him back from his potential, including this year when a toe fracture contributed to his line of .218/.248/.383 in 40 games. Naquin profiles as a fourth outfielder, but he likely won’t cost much to acquire.
Joc Pederson - The 28-year old is coming off a championship season with the Dodgers, but it was also his worst offensive season with a line of .190/.285/.397. He has tremendous power, smacking 36 home runs in 2019, and has a strong 12 percent career walk rate that has translated into a .336 career on-base percentage despite a low batting average. Pederson has been awful against lefties and would be limited to mostly platoon duties, but his age and power may be enticing enough that he may be out of the Royals’ price range.
Jurickson Profar - Once heralded as one of the top prospects in baseball, Profar underwhelmed in his first few seasons with the Rangers. In San Diego, he became more of a utility player, spending most of his time in left field, and enjoyed his best offensive season this year, hitting .278/.343./428 with seven home runs in 56 games. A switch-hitter without much of a split, Profar could play all over the field and while he doesn’t hit for average, he doesn’t strike out much for a player with decent power. As a 27-year old, he could be one of the more sought-after free agents and is likely to require a multi-year deal.
Josh Reddick - The Ryals pursued Reddick after the 2016 season, but he ended up going to Houston, where he has seen his offensive numbers decline each season. He hit just .245/.316/.378 in 56 games last year, and was a below replacement level player, according to Baseball Reference. Reddick has modest power and doesn’t strike out much. He was a Gold Glover earlier in his career, and while his defense has fallen off, he doesn’t seem to be a huge liability.
Eddie Rosario - He was a bit of a surprise non-tender by the Twins, after finishing with MVP votes and a line of .257/.316/.476 this year. Rosario doesn’t walk much, but he has hit for average, doesn’t strike out that much, and has solid 25-30 home run power. His defense has been up and down in his career, and he has just modest speed.
Others: Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Jarrod Dyson, Matt Joyce