Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
I love the idea of Lorenzo Cain, starting center fielder. Cain hits with occasional pop, runs the bags hard, and may be the best defensive outfielder in the game. At his best, he’s a poor man’s Amos Otis. Not bad. Thing is, he’s rarely at his best.
Cain just can’t stay on the filed, and there is no reason to expect change. After coming to grips with this fact, where are the Royals left? Jarrod Dyson is a fine weapon off the bench, but would be exposed as an everyday starter. Justin Maxwell doesn’t slug enough to justify any starting role, and is not an acceptable every day guy in center due to his defensive inadequacies,. Nori Aoki is a fine right fielder, a below average center fielder, and only on a one year deal. The Royals are looking very talent thin in the outfield now, and will be downright anorexic next season.
The Royals only have two outfielders among their top ten prospects. Neither presents an upgrade over the collection of fourth outfielders now on the big league club. Bubba Starling is still only in Hi-A Ball, and yet to put up anything resembling impressive numbers. He may “click” in a couple of years, but that does nothing for the Royals this season or next.
Jorge Bonifacio, the other ranked outfielder, is in his second year of AA Ball. He may be closer to making the bigs, but he’s shown nothing that suggests he’ll be a starting center fielder. Right now, he is a no power hitting guy with a low on base percentage.
This year, the Royals need Cain to play in more games than he misses, and pray the Dyson-Maxwell platoon goes well. How’s that feel? Long-term, the Royals need a new center fielder, preferably one that can hit the ball over the fence.
The Dodgers have two guys that can play center, with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Not so long ago, the Pre-Magic Dodgers had Kemp as the face of the franchise. He was one of the best players in the game in 2009 and 2011. He got paid too. Kemp is signed through 2019. That would be a fourth outfielder for 8 years / $160M. Only in Hollywood. He saw just 290 at bats in 2013, and is now part of a crowded, and expensive outfield. Kemp, now 29, is looking to prove he can still be an All-Star level player. He needs to be moved.
The steady Ethier, 32, has a nice thing going as well. He is signed through 2017 for 6 years / $95.9M. Ethier’s career OPS of .828 is very strong, but he still seems horribly overpaid for what he provides. That said, Ethier’s lighter contract and better health makes him an attractive keeper for LA.
Obviously, the Royals can’t trade for either of those contracts. Would the Dodgers eat a large portion of one of these contracts for the right trade? Even if that answer is yes, what do the Royals have that the Dodgers don’t? No way Yordano Ventura or Salvador Perez can be dealt for Kemp. The Dodgers have the unmovable contract that is Adrian Gonzalez at first base, so Hosmer is likely out. The Dodgers may have the inventory the Royals need, but the Royals can’t likely deal with them.
This issue is not critical to this season right now. This issue quickly becomes a very large priority if the team falls out of contention at any point this season. Royals fans, pay close attention to center fielders around the league this season, and hope the Royals are as well.