The KC Royals signing a 27-year-old with solid tools to a one-year contract isn’t a bad move, but it creates more questions than answers.
It’s been a relatively quiet offseason for the KC Royals. Things got a little interesting on Monday afternoon when the club signed infielder Maikel Franco to a one-year deal, though:
Laying the foundation for Passan’s report, Sanchez has indicated the deal is worth $2.95 million in salary and up to $1.05M in incentives. Franco, a lifetime member of the Philadelphia Phillies before hitting the free agent market, is a career .249 hitter. He burst on the scene as a rookie in 2015, but hasn’t been the same player since. Formerly a highly-touted prospect, the hope has been that he could regain that once-terrific form at the plate.
With that being said, it’s not like Franco is a very poor hitter. He’s clubbed at least 20 home runs in three of his past four seasons and posted an OPS+ of 106 as recently as 2018. He is a negative defender for his career, but shouldn’t decline much over the next couple of years as he’s still just 27.
On the surface, this is a solid move by the Royals. Nothing about Franco is eye-popping, but he has the tools to be an average hitter with some pop. His defense at the hot corner will always be a concern but nonetheless, a replacement-level third baseman for $3-4 million could be worse — especially considering the “bargain bin” signings Kansas City has made in recent years.
So… the KC Royals have an everyday third baseman under contract for the 2020 season. Cool. The issue here is that they already had an everyday third baseman under contract for the 2020 season. Hunter Dozier was stellar last season at the plate, although he’s also a very poor defender at third. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports that Dozier will move to right field, with super-utility man Whit Merrifield shifting to center field (!!!):
This raises several questions, but let’s start with the outfield picture. With Merrifield and Dozier slated to take up spots in center and right, this leaves Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling to compete for the left field job. Oh yeah: Alex Gordon still hasn’t announced whether he plans to retire or return for a last hurrah, either. Should Gordon return, would that lead to a three-man platoon? Could it simply mean the end of the road for one or both of Starling/Phillips?
On top of that, some minor questions arise in regards to first and second base. It’s been assumed that Ryan McBroom and Ryan O’Hearn will battle for the first base job. Initially, the following questions came to mind:
- Could Dozier rotate in the 1B picture periodically as needed to give Phillips and/or Starling some at-bats?
- What about Nicky Lopez‘s future at second base? Should he struggle, could Whit Merrifield shift back to his more natural position and do the same for the aforementioned duo?
Flanagan’s tweet early in the evening answered them a bit:
At the end of the day, there are simply a ton of questions that need to be answered as a result of this transaction. The main moves to be considered, though, are Dozier going to RF and Merrifield going to CF. Merrifield will certainly be able to hold his own, and Dozier has all of the tools to be a more than capable defender in a corner outfield spot. Maybe this move is for the best.
Once all of the dust settles, we’ll have a much clearer picture of the direction the Kansas City Royals organization is going in. Gordon’s return (or retirement) will dictate the outfield situation. Lopez/McBroom/O’Hearn’s numbers could make or break their futures with the team. 2020 is all about figuring out who belongs with the club long-term.
What do you think about the Maikel Franco signing, Royals fans? Let us know in the comments below!