KC Royals: The worst free agent deals in club history

KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

Despite having baseball’s best utility-type player in Whit Merrifield, the KC Royals signed career utility man Chris Owings as a free agent for 2019. He didn’t last the season.

For several seasons, Chris Owings made his name and living as an effective utility player for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He played six positions and hit .250, an average certainly passable for a part-time player with his versatility. He had a bit of pop, hitting 12 homers in 2017 in 97 games.

Owings was valuable to the Diamondbacks, but value has its limits and Owings’ reached his after the 2018 season. Facing arbitration with their jack-of-all-trades and staring a projected $3.6 million salary in the face, the D-backs non-tendered him, making him an immediate free agent.

Kansas City had Whit Merrifield, the best utility-type player in the business, but that didn’t stop the Royals from pursuing Owings. Planning to use him anywhere they might need him, they signed Owings to a $3 million deal, together with performance-based incentives, and put him to work.

Unfortunately, Owings didn’t make it through the first week of June. Although he was still versatile (he played seven positions), his .133 average and .193 OBP were too little for the lineup and too much for the club to tolerate. He appeared in 40 games and was released on June 4.

Negative fan and media reaction to Owings made this deal even less tolerable. His signing triggered criticism and disbelief; his poor play, and the club’s inexplicable determination to play him frequently, merely compounded the problems surrounding the deal. Critics were relentless until the club mercifully released Owings. Although it didn’t last long, the Owings deal was bad.

But it wasn’t among the three worst.