His stay in Kansas City was brief — 18 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, to be precise— but Brett Phillips endeared himself to KC Royals fans despite that short stay. His energy and bubbly spirit so won them over that it was easy to overlook his underwhelming .226 average.
The Royals did Phillips a favor that year, shipping him to Tampa Bay for Lucius Fox in a trade deadline deal that made Phillips a member of the eventual American League champion Rays, and he became the unlikely hero of his club's thrilling walk-off victory over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series. Tampa ended up bowing to Los Angeles in six games, but the memory of Phillips racing around Arlington's Globe Life Field, the neutral site at which baseball held that season's Fall Classic, is unforgettable.
Phillips played 210 regular season games for the Rays before they sold his contract to Baltimore just before the 2022 trade deadline expired; the Orioles let him go after the season, he spent most of last year with the Angels, and hit the free agent market again this winter.
Phillips wasn't the only player with a short stop with the Kansas City who found a new baseball home Thursday. Bubba Thompson, an outfielder the Royals grabbed away from Texas via an August waiver claim and then lost to Cincinnati on another waiver transaction in October before the Reds designated him for assignment last week, is now a Yankee. New York picked him up on yet another waiver claim Thursday.
Thompson didn't play for the Royals, but hit four homers, drove in 17 runs, stole 11 bases and hit .259 in 33 games at Triple-A Omaha.
Several familiar former Royals remain on the market
While Phillips and Thompson know where they'll report for spring training, a few high-profile ex-Kansas City players don't.
Headlining that group are Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield and Zack Greinke. Soler, who hit 48 homers in 2019 to break Mike Moustakas' club single-season record, and now shares that mark with Salvador Perez, who equaled it in 2021, is still a free agent. He's been the subject of rumors linking him to several teams; most recently, MLB.com's Thomas Harrigan identified Toronto as a possible good landing spot for Soler.
Speculation about Greinke, on the other hand, has focused primarily on whether he'll return to the Royals. He still wants to pitch but hasn't been solidly connected with any club, although FanSided's Katrine Stebbins recently suggested three with which he might fit.
Merrifield's versatility and decent bat should make him attractive to any number of major league suitors. He hasn't signed yet, but it shouldn't be too long until he does.
Also still unsigned are well-known former Royals Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Adalberto Mondesi, and Brad Keller.