Considering and answering some first of February KC Royals questions while remaining highly cynical that much will come from today’s scheduled meeting between the owners and players:
Is KC Royals backup catcher Cam Gallagher’s job in jeopardy this season?
Definitely. Although he’s been an excellent backup to seven-time All-Star Salvador Perez, Gallagher may get nudged aside this year by heavy-hitting MJ Melendez, whose remarkable 2021 minor league performance makes it difficult for the Royals to keep him down on the farm any longer.
Melendez began last season in Double-A and was hitting .285 with 28 home runs and a .372 OBP when the Royals moved him up to Triple-A Omaha in early August. He clubbed 13 homers and slashed .293/.413/.620 in the Storm Chasers’ final 44 games and his 41 total homers ended up leading the minors.
Those numbers mean Melendez has little time left before Kansas City gives him his first big league chance. But because he’s not ready to replace Perez, and Perez isn’t ready to be replaced, the club must find a spot for him. Gallagher’s job is the first choice—expect Melendez to catch when Perez doesn’t.
Playing once or twice a week, and perhaps more if the Royals do as they should and DH Perez more frequently in 2022, won’t be enough, however. Melendez and his bat are too good to deploy sporadically, so Manager Mike Matheny’s best move is to add some turns at DH, right field (it’s worth a try considering his athleticism and strong arm) and maybe even third base when whoever plays there needs a rest—Omaha tried him at third nine times last season.
To be sure, a Melendez promotion puts Gallagher in a tough spot. Melendez needs to play to develop as a major league catcher, something he can do only if he’s Perez’s primary backup.
Will KC Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol ever land a big league managing job?
I hadn’t given this issue much thought lately, but did so after perusing Noah Yingling’s recent piece at our FanSided sister site Call to the Pen; Yingling’s is by far the most comprehensive and useful compendium of managing candidates I’ve ever seen. (Yingling writes of Grifol, KC third base coach Vance Wilson, and former Royals coach Dale Sveum in his 100-candidate analysis).
Grifol skippering a major league club isn’t a novel idea. He’s interviewed for a few positions in the past, including the Kansas City opening after Ned Yost retired. Matheny got the job and retained Grifol on is staff.
Grifol leaving Kansas City would be a loss, but necessary for him considering President of Baseball Operations Dayton Moore probably views Matheny as a long-term employee. That other clubs have shown interest in Grifol, and his solid baseball background and acumen, tend to suggest he’ll get a chance to lead his own team.
Should the KC Royals take a run at free agent reliever Trevor Rosenthal?
Although he’s on the free agent market and ready to be signed whenever the MLB lockout ends, there’s no need for a Rosenthal-Royals reunion.
We touched on this subject in the briefest of terms when we analyzed Oakland’s free agents a couple of months ago, but a more in-depth answer is warranted here. Rosenthal came to Kansas City via free agency two winters ago and became one of Dayton Moore’s most successful reclamation projects—so good, in fact that San Diego came calling at the 2020 trade deadline and the Royals shipped him to the Padres for Edward Olivares and Dylan Coleman.
Rosenthal pitched well and helped San Diego to the playoffs, then signed with Oakland after the season, undoubtedly a disappointing move to some Royals’ fans because he helped the club when it needed it.
Unfortunately, thoracic outlet syndrome and hip surgeries prevented Rosenthal from playing at all for the A’s. Much of the $11 million he signed with Oakland for is deferred, meaning another club could conceivably get him on the cheap.
But that team shouldn’t be Kansas City. Rosenthal is a closer or set-up man, and the Royals already have Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont. And Rosenthal’s health makes him too big a question mark.
February is here, and with it Royal questions and answers.