5 ex-KC Royals who may be a bit too close to home

(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

Pressed into service after a 2016 injury to Mike Moustakas, a young infielder did a good job for the KC Royals. But after that, he couldn’t land a permanent job. He’ll try to make it back to the big leagues with another Central Division club.

The KC Royals made Cheslor Cuthbert a teenage millionaire in 2009–they were so impressed with the 16-year old infielder’s potential that they signed him to a $1.35 million international free agent deal. But with the exception of one shining season that unexpectedly thrust Cuthbert into a starting role, his time with the Royals ultimately fell short of expectations.

Cuthbert was enjoying an excellent start to the 2016 season with AAA Omaha, hitting .333 with seven home runs and 28 RBI’s in 24 games–and riding an OPS of 1.026–when a May on-field collision with teammate Alex Gordon abruptly ended Mike Moustakas‘ season and just as suddenly forced Cuthbert onto the Royals’ major league stage.

Tested in only 19 previous major league games, Cuthbert took over at third base for the rest of the season; by the campaign’s end, he seemed to have established serviceable big-league credentials…at least at the plate. His .274/.318/.413 slash and 12 homers in 128 games were sufficient considering the circumstances, but the 16 errors he committed raised concerns about his defense.

Moustakas’ 2017 return meant a brief visit to Omaha and a reserve role in Kansas City for Cuthbert. For that and the next two seasons, Cuthbert struggled at the plate and in the field–he hit.231 in 2017, .194 in ’18 and .246 in ’19 (including a horrendous 0-40 slump in August) and posted glaringly low OPS+ numbers in each campaign, and his trend as a negative defender continued unabated. The club also gave him time at first base and second to no avail.

Apparently satisfied by early December that he no longer fit in their plans, the Royals didn’t tender Cuthbert a 2020 contract and their subsequent signing of third baseman Maikel Franco signaled the club’s infield needs were met without reconsidering Cuthbert. Clearly, his declining hitting and shaky defense rendered him dispensable.

Cuthbert, however, didn’t remain unemployed for long. The White Sox signed him to a minor league contract; that, and an invitation to Spring Training, provide him with another shot at the majors. Should he make the big league club out of spring camp, or at some point during the season, Cuthbert may see action against the Royals.

Cuthbert’s chances to play regularly for the Sox are slim, so KC isn’t likely to see much of him. He’s never played against the Royals, but his below-average offensive and defensive skills suggest he won’t be a significant threat if he does.