After just one full week of spring training, the Royals have already been hit hard with injuries to their outfield. Drew Waters suffered an oblique injury on the first day of full squad workouts, an injury that will keep him out for six weeks. Brewer Hicklen suffered an elbow injury that will keep him out eight weeks, and 21-year-old Diego Hernandez landed awkwardly diving for a fly ball over the weekend, dislocating his shoulder, and keeping him out of action for four months.
The Royals weren’t particularly deep in the outfield before these injuries, looking to provide opportunities to young players. They may try to move some players to the outfield, like Nick Loftin or veterans Matt Beaty or Johan Camargo. General Manager J.J. Picollo also said that Maikel Garcia could get some looks in the outfield.
But the club may also be looking outside the organization for some help.
JJ Piccolo said they are actively looking to add to their outfield depth after the Waters and Hernandez injuries and are hopeful maybe something could happen there the next couple of days— Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) March 1, 2023
The club could be on the lookout for trades, although they’re not likely to want to give up anything more than cash considerations to make a depth move.
If they go the free agent route, who are the outfielders that are available?
Jackie Bradley Jr. has been coveted by the Royals before, but the 32-year-old is well past his prime at this point. The former All-Star and Gold Glove winner has seen his performance fall off a cliff the last two seasons, with a line of .182/.245/.285 in 265 games. He was still a terrific defender over that time, so perhaps he can be a ballhawk that helps out the pitching staff. But he would would really need to bounce back with the bat, because his offense is unplayable at this point.
Lorenzo Cain has been sitting at home since the Brewers let him go last summer, and it is not entirely clear he is still up for playing this year. But he was a fan favorite, and was still a good defender the last few seasons, albeit not quite the Gold Glover he was before. Cain hit just .179/.231/.234 in 43 games with the Brewers, but was close to league average the year before. If the 36-year-old wants to come back and mentor the youngsters, it might be fun as a nostalgia trip, but he may not have anything left in the tank as far as production.
Delino DeShields was once a top prospect with plus speed, stealing 101 bases in 2012 as a 19-year old in the minors. But he has been just a .246/.327/.343 hitter in 603 big league games. He didn’t make the Marlins roster last year, and ended up playing for the Braves’ top affiliate, although he didn’t hit well there. The right-hander is still just 30 years old, can draw some walks, and still has good speed, swiping 35 bases in Triple-A last year.
Alex Dickerson joined the Giants in 2020 and the journeyman figured something out there, hitting .256/.328/.475 with 23 home runs over 163 games in 2020 and 2021 combined. But he couldn’t get going with the Braves last year and was demoted after just 13 games. Dickerson is left-handed, and the Royals already have lefties MJ Melendez and Kyle Isbel in their outfield. But the 32-year-old has hit right-handers well in the past, and he is a competent corner outfielder defensively.
Odúbel Herrera is a toolsy outfielder who was an All-Star in 2016, but also ran into clashes with Phillies managers over his lack of effort at times. Herrera exhibited a patient eye early in his career, but has become much more of a free-swinger recently. He hit .254/.301/.405 with 18 home runs in 186 games over the last two seasons, missing time last year with an oblique injury. He was also missed time in 2020 on administrative leave for an investigation over an alleged domestic violence incident.
Jurickson Profar is the best free agent remaining, and he would check a lot of boxes the Royals might be looking for. The switch-hitter is not particularly old - he just turned 30 last month - and should still have some productive years left. He hit .243/.331/.391 with 15 home runs and 73 walks last year, with 3.1 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Profar played only left field last year, but has been an infielder in the past, and could possibly slide into a utility role when Waters returns. The Royals could face some competition for his services from the Dodgers, who just lost infielder Gavin Lux and could move outfielder Chris Taylor to the infield. But it shouldn’t take more than a one-year deal worth around the $8 million he made last year with the Padres.