The Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets have checked in on free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain, according to a report from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The Royals are monitoring the market for their long-time center fielder as well, though they’re preparing to move on to other alternatives.
“We’ll see where the market is and where it goes,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Tuesday. “It’s just hard to predict. It really is.”
The Royals extended a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer to Cain earlier this month. He is expected to turn down the offer before this week’s deadline and seek a multiyear deal. He will likely draw interest from a handful of clubs looking for an outfield upgrade.
Cain is coming off a season in which he batted .300 with a .363 on-base percentage and 86 runs scored, cementing his status as perhaps the top free agent outfielder on the market. He led all eligible free agents in wins above replacement across the last two seasons, according to both the FanGraphs and Baseball Reference versions of the stat.
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In September, Cain indicated a willingness and desire to return to Kansas City, telling The Star: “I would love to come back here.”
He also recognized the realities of the free-agent market.
“Everyone has to do what’s best for themselves,” he said. “No one knows what’s going to happen.”
Acquired in a deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers before the 2011 season, Cain has arguably been the Royals’ most valuable player over the last four seasons, packaging premium defense in center field with an ability to get on base and hit near the top of a lineup.
Cain is expected to command a deal that could approach four seasons, and the Royals will likely be hesitant to sign another outfielder in his early 30s after watching Alex Gordon decline over the last two years. In addition, the Royals are set to enter a rebuilding phase that could limit the need for an outfielder on a deal that could last just three to four seasons.
For now, Paulo Orlando is positioned as an internal replacement in center field. The club could also pursue a short-term stopgap at the spot.