KC Royals: Kansas City’s biggest mistakes of 2019

KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
5 of 6
KC Royals, Chris Owings
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals have probably the major leagues’ best utility-type player. But that didn’t stop them from signing another utility man for 2019. His Royals’ career was short-lived and the deal turned out to be a mistake.

The KC Royals spent $3 million to sign a free agent on December 5, 2018. That the cost-conscious Royals spent such a comparatively low amount on a free agent wasn’t surprising; it was who they spent it on that was. The club really had no need for Chris Owings.

As evidenced by his six-year career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Owings’ value was as an unusually versatile player. Owings played six positions well for Arizona until, on the verge of arbitration with him, he was non-tendered following the 2018 season. KC picked him up.

It was Owings’ greatest asset–versatility–that called into serious question his signing with the Royals. Simply put, the Royals didn’t need him. They already had Whit Merrifield, a utility man in his own right and probably the best in the game. And the club desperately needed pitching help; another utility player was not a pressing need.

But consistent with their recent trend of head-scratching free agent signings, the Royals gave Owings his $3 million, together with some performance-based incentives. It didn’t take long for the folly of the deal to reveal itself.

Owings was an offensive disaster from the start. He just couldn’t hit. In 40 games, he hit .133 with two home runs and nine RBI’s; even the fact he played seven positions (he even pitched once) couldn’t justify keeping him. As discussed previously in this space, the negative reaction his signing and poor bat triggered made things worse and ranks among the worst free agent deals in Royals’ history. Keeping him as long as it did was one of the club’s biggest mistakes of 2019.