The Kansas City Royals have at least one outfield position to fill this offseason. Could Jarrod Dyson help fix the hole in right?
While there is still a chance Alex Gordon can be resigned, it’s pretty unlikely. With all of the ridiculous money being thrown around this year, there will probably be a team willing to make Gordon an offer he can’t refuse, leaving a massive hole in left field. If the team is unable or unwilling to commit enough money to Alex Gordon, Ben Zobrist will most likely be too expensive as well. Either way, an inexpensive option for right field is a necessity moving forward.
Right field is a position currently unfilled as the team elected to decline their option on Alex Rios after a disappointing 2015 campaign. To have a chance at extending their young stars, the Royals will have to continue to save money where they can. Faced with the possibility of losing a franchise player, and the reality of payroll limitations, the Royals should look to an internal option. It is time to make Jarrod Dyson a full-time player. Dyson is undervalued and I believe he is a better, more cost-effective option than any other realistic addition.
Dyson is widely regarded as a pretty good outfielder, he doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves. Over the past 3 seasons Dyson has a cumulative fWAR of 7.4, good for 34th overall for outfielders across MLB. He ranks ahead of dozens of notable stars, as well as nearly every realistic outfield option the Royals have been linked to. What’s most impressive is the fact that he’s done it as a part-time player, appearing in only 297 games and accumulating just 754 plate appearances. Alex Gordon, for the sake of comparison, ranks 10th on that list and has a cumulative fWAR of 13.1 over 416 games and 1765 plate appearances.
UZR uses several metrics to quantify the number of runs a defender saves or gives up. Dyson’s 36.4 UZR definitely qualifies as elite. This is no doubt where most of his overall value comes from, and should be seriously considered when comparing Dyson to other options.
It’s no secret that Jarrod Dyson isn’t exactly a huge threat at the plate, and that has certainly been a key factor in keeping him from a starting role in the past. His career line of .255/.320/.343 is below league average, but mostly due to the lack of power. However, his above average contact rate (85% compared to league average of 79%) and excellent speed are a great combination to have in place of power. Although the on base percentage is just about league average, bunt hits and beating out ground balls allow Dyson to get on base enough to even further utilize that elite speed. By far his best offensive weapon, speed, allowed him 96 steals over the last 3 years. That’s good for 8th over that period, and again, he accomplished it as a part-time player.
We’ve seen plenty of others get a chance as the starting right fielder and none have been good enough to keep the job. The Kansas City Royals opted to give Nori Aoki the starting right field job in 2014 and Alex Rios got the gig for the 2015 season. Both were nowhere near the level of Dyson defensively, and were debatably worse offensively. In 2014, Aoki slashed .285/.349/.360 and Rios managed just a .255/.287/.353 line in 2015.
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Paulo Orlando provided the most power of any recent KC right fielder last year, posting a healthy .444 slugging percentage. However, his OBP was a mere .269. For some reason, Yost favored Orlando as a defensive replacement over Dyson for most of the year, but he really doesn’t compare. The advantage Orlando has in the power department just doesn’t justify ignoring the all-around game of Dyson, not to mention we have no idea if the journeyman minor leaguer can even sustain the moderate success he was able to achieve in 2015.
There are several potential minor league options the Royals can, and will consider, but Dyson has been consistent and is less of a risk than an unproven minor leaguer.
Whether the Royals are looking for a new left fielder or an upgrade in right, there are very few reasonably affordable players out there. I really don’t see any low risk high reward type players available. Granted, Dayton Moore certainly has a knack for finding low-cost players with upside, but is there really anyone out there that fits that profile? No, not really. Not this year.
None of the free agent outfield options really have enough upside to be worth the risk. Chris Young, at best a replacement level player, received a two year deal from Boston at about 7 million per year. If the going price for replacement level is 7 million, who in the world is going to provide more value than that at a lower cost? Dyson made just over 1.2 million in 2015, and while he will make more this year, it won’t be close to the 7 million dollars Young got.
Perhaps the Kansas City Royals could sign Gerardo Parra? Well, Parra was below replacement level last year and wants an expensive multi-year deal. Rajai Davis could be somewhat affordable but still more expensive than, and not as good as Dyson. Sorry, but I don’t think any of us want another multi-year contract for a player who’s ceiling is just league average, especially considering the internal option is far cheaper. Those are the Omar Infante and Jeremy Guthrie type contracts that create problems down the road.
Of course, the team may be forced to turn to one of the free agent options should Gordon sign elsewhere. The farm system has taken been depleted of many top prospects over the last few years, so making a trade really isn’t optimal, and there probably isn’t a player available in a trade that is worth further damaging the farm system. There are players who can help as early as 2017, including Bubba Starling. Until that time, Dyson will be more than adequate.
For now, we cross our fingers and hope Gordon returns. If he does not, an outfield including Cain and Dyson is still pretty respectable and the Royals might just be ok.