KC Royals still looking for Frank White’s replacement
A trio of KC Royals were the most prominent candidates to fill the second base job in the 10 years before Whit Merrifield took over.
The Royals’ efforts to replace Frank White that spanned the seven year Carlos Febles-Ruben Gotay era ended with the December 2005 signing of free agent Mark Grudzielanek, a serviceable second-sacker who’d played for the Expos, Dodgers, Cubs and Cardinals before casting his lot with Kansas City.
“Grudz” was an accomplished hitter with occasional power, and hit .297, .302 and .299 (a cumulative .300) in his three Royal seasons. His defense met the club’s needs: he won his only career Gold Glove in his first season with the Royals. He split time at second with Alberto Callaspo in 2008 and departed for free agency after that campaign.
Callaspo took over second in 2009 and hit .300, but didn’t equal Grudzielanek as a fielder and was traded to the Angels in a 2010 midseason deal. Mike Aviles succeeded him until the club dealt him to Boston at the 2011 trade deadline.
Then it was Chris Getz’s turn. He was baseball savvy with heart and a good work ethic, but he wasn’t Frank White.
Getz played 110 games at second in 2011, then split time with Yuniesky Betancourt and Johnny Giavotella in 2012, and Betancourt, Giavotella and Elliot Johnson in 2013. Getz was adequate defensively but had no power and was, except for 2012 when he hit .275 in 64 games, questionable at the plate.
The Royals tried to end the revolving door that had become second base with the December 2013 signing of Omar Infante, an appealing free agent acquisition at the time as the club readied itself to contend in 2014. Infante was an established big league veteran coming off a sold season with Detroit (.318, 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 118 games), but the $30.25 million, four-year deal turned out to be a lot of money not well spent. Infante just couldn’t get it right in Kansas City. His defense was acceptable; his .238 average and .269 OBP over three seasons wasn’t.
With well over a season remaining on his overpriced contract, the KC Royals let him go before the 2016 campaign reached its midpoint.
By then, rookie Whit Merrifield was staking his claim to second.