The KC Royals, conspicuously but characteristically all but inactive so far this offseason, made two moves Wednesday afternoon. With just hours left before clubs are expected to lockout the players and impose a freeze on big league player moves, Kansas City signed an outfielder and brought a pitcher back who hadn’t been gone long (Twitter link).
First, the pitcher. Less than 24 hours after the club non-tendered Richard Lovelady, it signed him to a minor league deal. Had the Royals not declined to offer the then-arbitration eligible reliever a major league contract, they would have had to pay him much more than he’ll make on his new minor league deal.
Lovelady returning to the KC organization is beneficial for both player and club. As a minor leaguer, Lovelady, who’s rehabilitating from late season Tommy John Surgery, can have contact with the Royals and use the organization’s facilities during the lockout that now seems certain to occur, and the Royals avoid paying him big league money while he works his way back.
While the club welcoming Lovelady back into the fold isn’t surprising, its signing of free agent JaCoby Jones to a minor league contract is. Although he’s only 29, Jones slashed a dismal .170/.210/.250 before Detroit outrighted him to their Triple-A Toledo affiliate in June. He hit .230 there with seven homers in 73 games.
Jones had been primarily a part-timer for the Tigers and is an outfielder who doesn’t completely fit the typical Kansas City outfield mold. Although he’s an above average defender (.992 fielding percentage), he has a career OBP of .275, a .212 career average, and rarely steals bases.
Those numbers suggest Jones won’t be considered for the uncertain right field position; instead, he’s a better candidate for some farm system depth, and has a remote chance to join the major league club at some point as a backup.
It’s those factors, together with Jones’ weak hitting, that make his acquisition curious. He might not be around long. The franchise isn’t short on serviceable minor league outfielders and, presuming the Royals might find a veteran to play right, Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares are better backup choices than Jones.
But this certainly isn’t the first time Kansas City has made seemingly unnecessary moves. Don’t look for the Jones signing to be the last.
The Royals signed two players Wednesday. One acquisition was predictable, the other wasn’t.