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Potential free agent target: Robbie Grossman

You want an on-base guy? Grossman could be a fit.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The Royals have had a busy off-season, but they may still be looking for a potential bat to add to the lineup. Dayton Moore has said he is looking for more “on-base guys”, is focused on a left-handed hitter, and it seems likely that any addition is more likely to be a lower-cost role player than a top tier free agent. That could make free agent outfielder Robbie Grossman a possibility for the Royals.

Grossman grew up in Texas before he was a sixth-round pick out of high school in the 2008 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He didn’t hit for much power in the minors, but he showed a terrific ability to get on base, drawing 104 walks in High-A ball as a 21-year old, and was named the #76 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus. In 2012, the Pirates traded him with two other prospects to the Houston Astros for pitcher Wandy Rodriguez. Grossman was a semi-regular in Houston, but couldn’t generate enough offense, and was released in 2015.

The Twins scooped him up after the Indians let him go in spring training, and Grossman was a league-average hitter for them the next three seasons. The Twins non-tendered him despite a 1.7 WAR season in 2018. He signed a free agent deal with the Oakland Athletics in 2019, and had his worst full season in the big leagues, hitting .240/.334/.348 with six home runs in 482 plate appearances. However, he bounced back in the shortened 2020 season with his best power numbers, hitting .241/.344/.482 with eight home runs in 192 plate appearances. Overall, in parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, he has hit .252/.350/.380, with an OPS+ of 101.

Grossman is one of the more patient hitters in baseball, despite not being a big power threat. Since 2016, he is 21st in baseball in walk rate at 13.2 percent, and in that time he has taken the bat off his shoulder just 38.8 percent of the time, the 14th-lowest rate. Despite working the count, Grossman doesn’t strike out much. He cut his strikeout rate when he came to the Twins, and over the last four seasons he has struck out just 17.9 percent of the time, with the 16th-lowest swinging strike rate over that time.

Grossman has typically not been much of a power hitter prior to 2020, although he typically squares up on the ball well and he has a fairly low soft-contact rate of 16.7 percent in his career. He added a bit of a leg kick this year to generate more power, causing more of his flyballs to go over the wall than at any point in his career. Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs notes that Grossman “swung more often at offspeed and breaking stuff this season, but he’s remained a low-ball hitter who avoids swinging at stuff at the top of the strike zone.”

A switch-hitter, Grossman has typically not had much of a career platoon split until last year. He started mostly against right-handed pitchers, and hit .260/.357/.521 against them, with all eight home runs coming from the left side of the plate.

Grossman has not been much of a base stealer in his career, but he did swipe 17 bases in 22 attempts in 189 games over the last two seasons. Defensively, Grossman was pretty rough early in his career, but has improved considerably. He was a Gold Glove finalist in 2019, and he is 16th among all outfielders in UZR in the past two years, primarily playing corner outfield positions.

Fangraphs ranked Grossman as the 48th-best free agent this off-season, with Craig Edwards projecting a one-year, $6 million deal for the 31-year old. MLB Trade Rumors did not have him in their top 50 rankings. At that price tag, Grossman could be a good fit for the Royals, giving them another hitter who can work the count, and get on base for the big boppers, while not blocking any prospects long-term.