KC Royals: If this is it, Lorenzo Cain had a great career

(Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports) /

A few memorable images among many stand out when looking back at the KC Royals’ 2014-2015 teams, both of which made it to the World Series.

Alex Gordon’s arm raised in triumph as he rounded first base after hitting his game-tying home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series comes quickly to mind. So does Eric Hosmer’s historic dash to the plate in Game 5 that helped fuel the club’s title-clinching win.

Jarrod Dyson revving his imaginary motorcycle after a stolen base in the 2014 playoff chase was memorable, then became legendary when Billy Butler copied it.

And Lorenzo Cain left his mark with his giant smile, his joking around with Salvador Perez and, of course, his familiar lean back after making particularly solid contact at the plate.

Now, however, Cain may have reached the end of his baseball road.

Milwaukee has designated former KC Royals star Lorenzo Cain for assignment.

Saturday, just as he reached 10 years of major league service time to nail down a full big league pension, Cain was DFA’d by the Brewers, the club he broke in with and that could be the last team he plays for. Milwaukee has seven days from Saturday to trade him, place him on waivers (in which case any other team can claim him), release him or, if he clears waivers, outright him to the minors, which is highly unlikely because Cain can refuse the move.

Cain’s .179 average and just one home run this season mean the Brewers are unlikely to find a trade partner. And it sounds like he might be ready for some time off (and to perhaps retire?)—mlb.com’s Adam McCalvy reports Cain said this:

"“It’s been a great ride for me, a fun ride. I put a lot of work in. I put this body through a lot through the years. At the same time, I think the body is ready to rest a little bit, for sure.”"

Lorenzo Cain came to the KC Royals after a half-season with Milwaukee.

Drafted in the 17th round by the Brewers in the 2004 amateur draft, Cain began his long journey through their organization the following year and finally reached the big leagues July 16, 2010. In 43 games the rest of that season, Cain hit .306, stole seven bases and smacked his first career home run in September.

The experience made Cain valuable enough to be packaged with pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi, and young shortstop Alcides Escobar, in a postseason trade with Kansas City for Yuniesky Betancourt and future Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.

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Lorenzo Cain initially found playing time hard to come by with the KC Royals.

Kansas City boasted an excellent 2011 outfield. Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, all of whom played at least 151 games, batted .285 or better and hit at least 18 home runs that season. With Dyson and Mitch Maier as reserves, Kansas City was well-stocked with outfielders, so Cain spent the season primarily at Triple-A Omaha, but a .312 average, 16 homers and 16 steals earned him a September promotion to the Royals. He hit .273 in 22 at-bats.

Cain began 2012 in KC’s starting lineup, but a 1-for-14 start and an early injury slowed him down; he returned to Omaha before making it back to the Royals in July. He ended 2012 with a .266 average and seven homers in 61 games and was a perfect 10-for-10 stealing bases.

Lorenzo Cain became an established star in the KC Royals’ World Series years.

After hitting .251 in 2013, Cain came into his own when Kansas City returned to prominence in 2014 and 2015—he hit .301 in 2014 and .307 in 2015 and became one of the faces of the team. He was named the 2014 American league Championship Series MVP and was a 2015 American League All-Star.

And although he didn’t win a Rawlings Gold Glove until 2019 in the National League, the man known as “LoCain” won three straight (2012, 2013 and 2014) Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards for center field and added a fourth in 2019.

Cain ended his seven-year Kansas City career with a .289 average, .342 OBP and 120 stolen bases when he signed a five-year contract to return to the Brewers following the 2017 season. Kansas City fans still cherish him and, when Milwaukee played the Royals in Kansas City last year, Cain was greeted warmly by the Kauffman Stadium faithful.

In 2018, Cain was again an All-Star on his way to a career-high .308 average and career-best 30 stolen bases. He dropped off to .260 in 2019, and five games was enough for Cain to decide against playing any more in the 2020 pandemic-shortened season.

Cain hit .257 in 2021 before his 2022 struggles. But he had three hits, including a home run, and three RBIs against St. Louis May 29.

If this is the end of the line for Cain, he went out in style by singling in his final at-bat Thursday against the Mets, and will finish with a career .283/.343/.407 line and 225 doubles. 24 triples, 87 homers and 190 steals.

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Go get that rest your body needs, LoCain. It’s been a great ride for us as well.