KC Royals could market these 4 as NL DH candidates

(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Ryan O'Hearn
(Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports) /

Like it or not, extension of the designated hitter to the National League is no longer a matter of “if,” but of “when.” The notion that the DH is a meaningful bargaining chip in baseball’s current labor negotiations is illusory only—little serious belief remains that the owners, including the KC Royals, or the players will resist making the DH universal.

Timing, however, might be an issue. Nothing prevents implementing the DH in 2022, but some clubs might prefer waiting until 2023 because time to acquire new players will be short when the MLB lockout ends. But the deal deadtime doesn’t prevent NL teams from planning, so most will be ready to chase DH candidates the minute the transaction freeze disappears.

Kansas City must split up its DH duties; due primarily to the needs to occasionally DH Salvador Perez to relieve him from the rigors of catching every day, to use Hunter Dozier somewhere, and to give Adalberto Mondesi time in the role next season to protect his health, the Royals have no primary DH. Considering the resulting moderate DH logjam, should the club offer up some Royals as National League DH candidates if 2022 is the implementation year?

Yes, and here are four possibilities.

It’s a long shot, but the KC Royals might be able to move this player.

The argument for keeping Ryan O’Hearn could rage on if there was one, but there isn’t. Kansas City, too often too late to pull plugs on non-performing players, needs to cut ties with O’Hearn, and sooner rather than later.

The once-promising 2014 eighth-round draft pick injected some much-needed excitement into the Royals’ awful 2018 season by hitting 12 homers and driving in 30 runs in 44 games after a late July call-up. But he’s provided little since—he hit .195 in both 2019 and 2020 and .225 last year. His four-season OBP is .294. He strikes out too frequently.

Playing in Triple-A is probably O’Hearn’s best and highest use, but he still has some power an NL team or two might try to develop. He also has two years of team control left (under baseball’s present system, at least), and will come cheap to any club willing to take the risk. The return for the Royals won’t be much—a lower tier prospect at best—but they should try to shop him.