Late in the 2019 season, struggling and heading painfully toward another 100-plus loss campaign, the KC Royals acquired a player from the Yankees who quickly provided a glimmer of hope that, nearing the end of their second year without Eric Hosmer, things might actually get better at first base.
Only a month had passed since Kansas City released the man they signed the year before to replace Hosmer, then traded, then signed again; Lucas Duda failed in both his stints with the club to fill Hosmer’s shoes. Ryan O’Hearn’s power made him a promising possibility at first, but his .181 average when KC purchased McBroom certainly had something to do with turning to the Yankee farmhand.
McBroom, who hit 32 home runs for Triple-A Omaha this season (more on that later), didn’t homer in the 23 games he played down the 2019 stretch, but his .293 average and .361 OBP made him an instant candidate for first base in 2020.
But the much-anticipated Ryan vs. Ryan battle for first base yielded nothing positive. O’Hearn hit .195, and McBroom .247, causing the KC Royals to sign Carlos Santana last winter. As Santana took over at first this year, O’Hearn’s struggles at the plate continued, and McBroom spent almost the entire season at Omaha and led Triple-A with those 32 homers.
But now, circumstances, one within and others beyond, his control have combined to move McBroom in a new direction:
Seeking “unconditional release” waivers has essentially the same effect as immediately releasing him–if no big league team claims McBroom by Wednesday, he’ll become a free agent. He can also reject any claims with the same outcome. Such offseason claims are, however, extremely rare.
The KC Royals are doing the right thing by letting Ryan McBroom go now.
By announcing the specific reason it’s asking for waivers on McBroom, Kansas City put other teams on notice that they’re cutting him loose to accommodate his efforts to play professionally in Japan or South Korea. Knowing he apparently wants to take his talent overseas minimizes the chances of claims being made.
And pursuing overseas possibilities is certainly within McBroom’s control.
What isn’t, of course, is what might be driving his desire to play elsewhere. Despite his excellent Triple-A season—he also hit a serviceable .261 with a .337 OBP, and drove in 88 runs—Nick Pratto’s 15 homers, 43 RBIs, .271 average and .404 OBP at Double-A Northwest Arkansas gave the Royals no choice but to promote him to Omaha in late July. Pratto played first base most of the rest of the campaign and clubbed 21 homers, drove in 55 runs, hit .259 and posted a .367 OBP and 1.001 OPS.
Pratto’s resurgence from an ugly 2019 season (he spent 2020 working on his hitting as a member of the KC Royals’ 60-man Player Pool) dim McBroom’s prospects with the franchise, as does the stellar season Vinnie Pasquantino, another first baseman, had across High-A and Double-A: he slashed .300/.394/.563 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 116 games.
Pratto and Pasquantino, then, put the writing on McBroom’s wall. Their respective futures with the KC Royals are more secure, and more promising, than his.
So, the Royals have accomplished at least three things by letting McBroom go. The line from their minor league system to first base in Kansas City is now more clear, McBroom is free to ply his trade elsewhere, and the team cleared another spot on its 40-man roster with the Nov. 19 deadline to establish that roster for Rule 5 Draft purposes less than three weeks away.
The McBroom move will likely work out best for everyone.
Ryan McBroom didn’t work out as well with the Royals as the club hoped. Now, he’ll get a new chance elsewhere.