Royals must get creative to find ways to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.
The American League Central figures to again be a dogfight in 2017.
In addition to signing slugger Edwin Encarnacion, the AL pennant-winning Cleveland Indians (94-67 in 2016) look to get back Michael Brantley, one of the game’s best all-around outfielders when healthy.
Detroit (86-75) never went into rebuild mode and may have discovered an ace to eventually succeed Justin Verlander in AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer.
Kansas City (81-81) has made several moves of note – see Jorge Soler and Nate Karns – but is it enough to make up the 13 1/2 games the Royals finished behind Cleveland?
Here’s four outside-the-box ideas Kansas City should consider heading into the season:
Sign former Astros infielder Luis Valbuena to play second
Yes, the 31-year-old Valbuena has spent most of his big league career at third and first. But he came up as a middle infielder and has played 209 games in the majors at second. Maybe the most underrated player still on the open market, Valbuena hit .260 with 13 home runs and a .341 OBP in 90 games last year. (He had season-ending hamstring surgery in August.) In 2015, he hit .224 – but with a .310 OBP – and 25 homers in 132 games.
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Over the past two years, Valbuena has been worth 4.7 bWAR. He’s still on the market because no one needs a third baseman. Ideally, the Royals could convince Valbuena to switch positions and come to Kansas City on a deal a shade under the two-year, $14 million that Major League Trade Rumors predicted at the start of the offseason.
Accelerate Josh Staumont‘s MLB arrival and put him in the bullpen
Arguably the Royals prospect with the highest upside, Staumont is a 23-year-old right-hander who routinely hits triple digits on the radar gun. But he’s also just two years removed from pitching at NAIA Azusa Pacific, he’s never thrown above Double A and last year he walked 104 batters in 123 1/3 innings.
But he also struck out 167 hitters in those same 123 1/3 frames. No it’s not ideal, but Staumount could be a valuable bullpen piece for the Royals in 2017, helping bridge the gap between Kansas City starters and new closer Kelvin Herrera.
Put Lorenzo Cain at the leadoff spot
This really isn’t that outlandish of an idea. Despite a bit of an off year from Cain last season, he still posted an on-base percentage of .339, the best mark on the team behind Jarrod Dyson’s .340 mark.
Cain’s never been a classic No. 3 hitter, but he’s easily the Royals’ best all-around bat. So why not get him as many at-bats as possible?
Sign Brandon Moss to platoon at DH
In just 128 games last year, the left-handed hitting Moss clubbed 28 home runs for the Cardinals. He’s currently unemployed as the glut of sluggers on the free agent market has worked against him.
Moss did almost all of his damage against right-handed pitching in 2016, hitting 25 of his 28 homers against righties. If the Royals could sign him to an incentive-laden deal, Moss might make the person platoon buddy with newly acquired Pete O’Brien, who hits from the right side of the plate.