A challenging offseason awaits the KC Royals. Even after last winter’s uncharacteristic flurry of activity that added promising pieces to the roster, and despite the Royals already having won more games than in any season since 2017, rethinking the club’s composition is in order.
The team could use another reliable starting pitcher and some outfield stability. Three of the Royals’ most important offseason acquisitions have unexpired contracts or are otherwise under team control—the two-year free agent deals Mike Minor and Carlos Santana signed run through 2022, and although Andrew Benintendi’s two-year contract is up after this season, he’s arbitration-eligible and isn’t going anywhere unless Kansas City trades or non-tenders him.
None of those three have been completely satisfying (although Benintendi’s bat has been ablaze all month), meaning they’re not locks to return next season. And the Royals need to decide whether Michael A. Taylor’s stellar center field defense warrants re-signing him.
And three non-pitchers’ KC futures should be in doubt. Who are they?
Is it time for the KC Royals to move on from an adequate backup catcher?
Cam Gallagher has carved out his niche as Salvador Perez’s primary backup. Only in 2019, when Perez missed the entire season and KC had to find a more offensively suitable everyday catcher, and times when his own injuries forced the club to resort to another backup, have the Royals not relied on Gallagher.
His Kansas City time may, however, be nearing an end, and it has nothing to do with the knee inflammation that currently has Gallagher on the Injured List. Instead, younger backstops (Gallagher turns 29 this winter) with better bats may force KC’s hand.
Take, for example, Sebastian Rivero, 22, who in Gallagher’s absence is Perez’s present backup. Rivero was hitting .260 with 26 RBIs in 42 games for Triple-A Omaha before KC called him up when Gallagher went on the IL, and has a four-plus season minor league .251 average. He won’t be an everyday big league starter, but he’s a capable backup. And he’s been catching some of the club’s hottest prospects.
Meibrys Viloria, 24, who’s served as Gallagher’s backup before, is another possibility, but his .215 average in 181 big league at-bats isn’t as good as Gallagher’s career .231. But he’s a .276 career minor league hitter with a .356 OBP. The fact he, like Rivero, has experience with several of the franchise’s best prospects doesn’t hurt.
MJ Melendez, 22, is another possibility, but his big bat (37 homers, 84 RBIs and a .279/.380/.621 minor league line this year) and Perez’s multi-year contract extension make it more likely the Royals will work hard to find another position for him (he’s played third a few times at Omaha) or trade him for prospects.
Moving Gallagher isn’t a foregone conclusion. But don’t be surprised if it happens.