Jarrod Dyson is back with the KC Royals, but how long will his return last?
Between now and Opening Day, the Kings of Kauffman writers are analyzing how various KC Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is outfielder Jarrod Dyson.
Of all the team-building moves they made this winter, the KC Royals’ recent acquisition of Jarrod Dyson might be the most surprising and interesting.
Most of the club’s roster additions were designed to plug critical, immediate needs. The Royals first signed Mike Minor, another former Royal, to hopefully complete its starting rotation. They added Carlos Santana to fill a long-standing hole at first base, Michael A. Taylor to stabilize center field, and Andrew Benintendi to replace Alex Gordon in left. Even the signings of ex-Royals Wade Davis and Ervin Santana, both trying to reclaim their careers, are intended to bolster the pitching.
Bringing Dyson back, however, came a bit out of the blue. That Kansas City was done after trading for Benintendi was reasonable to assume, and the club had its pick of fleet young outfielders from which to choose a backup to him, Taylor and Whit Merrifield, who’ll play right. Signing a 36-year old 11-year veteran who hasn’t produced much at the plate since 2016 wasn’t even a blip on the radar.
Nevertheless, Dyson is a Royal again. He left not by choice, but as the cost the Royals paid to acquire Nate Karns from Seattle when they needed starting pitching after the ’16 season. Dyson was apparently the most expendable of the six core players eligible for free agency after 2017; Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Danny Duffy (who signed a mega-extension just days after the Dyson trade) were the others.
Dyson was hot at the time: 2016 was and remains arguably his best year at the plate. He posted full-season bests in average (.278), OBP (.340), slugging (.388) and OPS (.728). But he stayed just a year with the Mariners and hit .251, then moved on to Arizona where he hit .216 in two seasons but established a career-high with seven home runs in 2019. Dyson split 2020 between Pittsburgh and the White Sox and managed only .180 in 32 games.
Whether reacquiring Dyson proves to be wise remains to be seen, but the reasons are obvious. The Royals wanted a swift backup outfielder with a good glove, the speed Dyson still has fits manager Mike Matheny’s offensive style well, and he’ll team with Salvador Perez, Greg Holland and Davis to supply the championship example and aura they created in the 2014 and ’15 World Series seasons.
But how long will his Kansas City stay last, and how will he do while he’s there?
Baseball Reference and FanGraphs projections for Dyson’s KC Royals season
Baseball Reference and FanGraphs seem to agree Dyson will have the kind of 2021 expected of part-time outfielders approaching their late ’30’s. Baseball Reference foresees Dyson slashing .214/.296/.308 with six homers and 25 RBIs in 295 at-bats; FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) predicts three home runs, 31 RBIs and .224/.299/.311 in 224 at-bats.
What kind of 2021 campaign will Dyson actually have for the KC Royals?
Dyson will be in Kansas City for Opening Day—the Royals didn’t give him a major league contract thinking they might cut him during spring training. But unless Michael A. Taylor fails to hit or suffers a serious injury, don’t expect to see Dyson in other than late-inning defensive, pinch running, or fill-in roles. He’ll steal his share of bases and handle the expansive Kauffman Stadium outfield well when he plays, and move runners along with a bunt or two, but he won’t add much more at the plate.
Chances are good, though, that he won’t last the season. Playing well at midseason may put him on the trade block, especially if contenders need some speed. The Royals may decide to promote one of their hot outfield prospects, like Nick Heath or Kyle Isbel, especially if the club isn’t in contention, and Dyson would be the most likely to go to make room.
Jarrod Dyson has returned to the Royals. Whether he’s around at the end of the year or not, he’ll provide some excitement on the base paths. Let’s enjoy it while we can.