KC Royals: The important question of the 26th Royal

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

The new 26th man spot gives teams the opportunity to add a “specialist” to their rosters, a player whose superior skill in a single area outweighs shortcomings in others and makes them big league worthy. Is there a need for that in KC?

Inevitably, any discussion about adding a specialist to the KC Royals turns to former Royal Terrance Gore, a speedy talent far more a runner than the outfielder rosters always claim him to be. He is the quintessential base-stealing specialist, a non-pitcher whose value is doing one particular thing very well. The Royals paid him to run, not hit or field and, except for last season, put him on the regular roster only when it really counted.

Gore broke in with KC in 2014 and played in a few games and the World Series; he was back long enough the next season to win a World Series ring. He returned briefly in 2016 and 2017, the last two times the club had the potential to make any kind of run at the playoffs. He returned to KC in 2019 after a season with the Cubs and actually hit .275 in 51 at-bats, an average that may well prove years from now to be an outlier. He was really back to steal bases, and he swiped 13.

The Royals, though, were a bad team without an immediate need for a specialist and, requiring roster room for others, shipped him to the Yankees in July. The proposition of bringing Gore back to Kansas City was a subject addressed and essentially rejected before in this space. If the club had wanted a base-stealing specialist, they had all winter to sign Gore; that they didn’t suggests a specialist isn’t in their plans. (Even if they were considering Gore, the Dodgers beat them to him Monday).

Ultimately, the KC Royals don’t need a base running specialist. Unlikely to contend until next season or even later, KC shouldn’t devote a roster spot to a player whose only job is to steal bases when critical games are on the line. The club’s resources could be better expended on an extra outfielder (more on this later) or a proven left-handed bat off the bench. The time for a one-dimensional speedster may come, but it isn’t now. (And when the time comes, Terrance Gore might be available).