Versatile backups can be the difference between contending teams and also-rans, and there are some among the San Francisco free agents.
With the starting rotation set, the infield completed by Carlos Santana’s acquisition, and the outfield probably improved with the signing of Michael A. Taylor, the KC Royals can spend some time perusing reserves, including Giant free agents Justin Smoak, Zack Cozart, Daniel Robertson and Chris Herrmann.
Kansas City might have taken a look at Smoak for first base after the Maikel Franco non-tender forced Hunter Dozier back to third, but signing Santana rules him out. Smoak has power, always a coveted commodity for a corner infielder, but he’s been in decline since 38 homers, 90 RBIs and .270 average justified his 2017 All-Star selection. Since then, he went 25, 77 and .242 in 2018, then 22, 61 and .208 in 2019, and finally 5, 15 and .176 in 36 games last season. Smoak might be a candidate to backup Santana, but that’s a job the Royals will probably give to Ryan O’Hearn.
Cozart can play second or third but, like Smoak, has declined since landing a 2017 All-Star berth. He hit .297 with 24 homers that season, then joined the Angels and dropped to .219 in 2018 and .124 in 2019. Los Angeles dealt him to the Giants last December, but they released him before spring training started. A string of injuries beginning in 2015 have hampered Cozart and render him risky for the Royals, and Kelvin Gutierrez is the club’s better internal alternative.
Robertson is a bit more versatile than Cozart—in addition to second and third, he can play shortstop—but his .234 four-year average and lack of power really don’t make him a better option than Gutierrez. After all, the Royals already have Gutierrez and Robertson would simply add to payroll assuming they keep Gutierrez.
Finally, there’s backup catcher Chris Herrmann, a defensively competent backstop who can gun down would-be base stealers well. But in his busiest big league season—106 games for Arizona in 2017—he slashed only .181/.273/.345. And his career .205/.282/.344 is worse than KC primary backup catcher Cam Gallagher’s .241/.308/.368.
All things considered, the Royals shouldn’t pursue Smoak, Cozart, Robertson or Herrmann.
The Giants have many free agents, but none who can provide value the KC Royals don’t already have.