KC Royals: How club and old core are 4 years later

(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals, Lorenzo Cain
(Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

The center fielder left the KC Royals to return to his baseball roots.

Lorenzo Cain, whose defense, speed, clutch play and effervescence made him one of the most popular players in Kansas City history, wasn’t always a Royal. Picked by Milwaukee in the 17th round of the 2004 amateur draft, Cain didn’t join Kansas City until the Brewers packaged him with Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress to get Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt after the 2010 season.

Panned by many at the time for giving up Greinke, the deal turned out to be one of the keys to Kansas City’s 2014 and 2015 World Series appearances, and enabled Cain to establish himself as a legitimate big league center fielder. He hit .289 with a .342 OBP and 120 steals in his seven Royal years and is batting .279 with a .355 OBP since returning to the Brewers after the 2017 campaign.

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And Cain won his first Gold Glove in 2019.

Cain’s departure made Milwaukee better, but left a gaping hole in the Royals’ outfield. Can’t-miss prospect Bubba Starling couldn’t fill it; nor could Brett Phillips, Brian Goodwin, Billy Hamilton, Paulo Orlando or Abraham Almonte. Not until last season, when Michael A. Taylor claimed the position with the sparkling defense that earned him his first Gold Glove, have the Royals been comfortable in center—so comfortable, in fact, that they signed Taylor to a two-year extension before the season ended.