The Royals entered this offseason with vacancies in both outfield corners. As the team remains on the periphery of discussions for a reunion with free-agent outfielder Alex Gordon, general manager Dayton Moore indicated the team has found a solution for the other opening: Jarrod Dyson.
“We think it’s time for Dyson to get an opportunity to play a lot more,” Moore said inside his suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center here at the Winter Meetings.
Given the current roster construction, Dyson would serve as an every-day player, with Paulo Orlando receiving at-bats against tough left-handed pitchers. The arrangement would bolster the team’s strength as a defensive outfield and offer some financial flexibility for the rest of the winter. In his second year of arbitration eligibility, Dyson is expected to earn $1.7 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ projection system.
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By limiting their shopping to one outfielder, the Royals can marshal their resources to make a serious bid for Gordon’s services, even if rival executives view the team as unlikely to retain him. The team can also avoid clogging up their roster, as Kansas City hopes former No. 1 pick Bubba Starling can develop into a starter by 2017. Moore also mentioned the potential of minor-league prospects like Brett Eibner and Lane Adams.
The team will also enter 2016 without Ben Zobrist, who has agreed to a four-year, $56 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Zobrist starred for Kansas City after joining the team at the trade deadline. He punched up an .880 on-base plus slugging percentage as the team’s No. 2 hitter in October.
But Zobrist, a 34-year-old who underwent knee surgery earlier in 2015, sought to play primarily as a second baseman in the future. The Royals already employ Omar Infante, who is owed $17.75 million through 2017. The team has offered up Infante in trade proposals for the past two winters, but has yet to find many interested suitors, according to people familiar with the situation.
While stuck with Infante, who Moore hopes will rebound after a pitiful offensive season in 2015, the team also features a few intriguing internal options for second base. Christian Colon could receive more playing time in 2016. The team will also give top prospect Raul A. Mondesi, nominally a shortstop, a chance to play second base more often in the coming season.
The Royals reached the midway point of this four-day event with a sizable portion of their offseason to-do list completed. The team has reached agreements with starter Chris Young and reliever Joakim Soria, though Soria’s three-year, $25 million contract is still pending a physical.
There is still work to be completed, as the Royals pursue another starting pitcher. But there may be a delay between maneuvers as the market takes shape.
Dyson hit .250 with a .691 on-base plus slugging percentage in 90 games in 2015. He can handle all three outfield positions, and Moore explained Dyson’s future home would depend on who the team acquires in free agency.
The primary value of Dyson arises from his defense. He has been worth 36.2 runs above average in the outfield in limited exposure the past three seasons, according to FanGraphs.
Dyson has long been prized for his speed. He has averaged 32 stolen bases per season since 2012. He possesses a career .320 on-base percentage, which Moore believes could improve as Dyson sharpens his skills as a bunter.
“I think he’s capable of stealing 50-plus bases a year and scoring a bunch of runs,” Moore said. “When he’s on base, we score runs.”
Meanwhile, the Royals continue to wait for Gordon’s market to shape. Moore indicated there was a logjam as Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton all remain unsigned Like many in the industry, Moore hoped that would change in the coming days.