KC Royals castoff heads for MLB All-Star Game

A player who didn't last long with Kansas City is now an All-Star.
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals, sellers once again at last season's midsummer trade deadline, surely surprised more than just a smattering of observers when they dealt long-time reliable backup catcher Cam Gallagher to San Diego. A veteran of parts of six Kansas City seasons, Gallagher had proven himself a capable defensive backup to Salvador Perez; perhaps confidence in then-Triple-A backstop Freddy Fermin, now Perez's backup, spurred the club to move Gallagher.

That the Royals didn't net a big haul for Gallagher shocked no one—backup catchers aren't front-liners for a reason, and Gallagher's pedestrian bat meant the return wouldn't be great. Instead, the Padres sent Brent Rooker, an outfielder with some, but not much, big league experience, to Kansas City.

Rooker's power is what likely made Rooker attractive to the Royals. He signed soon after Minnesota picked him in the first round of the 2017 amateur draft and, before the summer ended, hit 18 homers in 62 games split between Rookie ball and High-A. He moved up to Double-A the following year and homered 22 times and drove in 79 RBIs in 130 games, then managed 14 homers in an injury-plagued, 67-game 2019 campaign.

The Twins thought enough of Rooker that they included him in their 60-man Player Pool and gave him his first taste of the majors during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season; he responded with a .316 seven-game average and his first big league homer. He returned to Minnesota for 58 games in 2022, but his weak .201/.291/.397 line far out shadowed his nine home runs, although he hit 20 homers in 62 games for Triple-A St. Paul.

The Twins shipped Rooker to San Diego in a multi-player, early-spring deal last year; called up from and optioned back to Triple-A three times, he played twice for the Padres and went 0-for-7, but hit 19 homers and slashed .272/.385/.775 in 61 games at El Paso.

Then came the trade to Kansas City.

It didn't take long for the KC Royals to move on from their new outfielder

As it turned out, Rooker's stay in Kansas City was short. He spent several days at Triple-A Omaha and hit nine homers before the club called him up; he went 4-for-25 in 14 games for KC.

But that was it for Rooker. Needing room on their 40-man roster for other players, the Royals designated him for assignment in mid-November, placed him on waivers, and Oakland snatched him up.

The waiver claim is working out for Rooker and the A's, who haven't regretted placing him on their Opening Day roster. He's played in 73 of his new team's games and leads the club with 14 home runs and 41 RBIs. His .240 average could be better, but he's a bright spot on the majors' worst team.

And that's not all. In what seems certain to become his first full big league season, Rooker is headed for Seattle and next week's 2023 All-Star Game—he was named to the American League club last week as the team's reserve designated hitter. And although he, like the Royals' Salvador Perez, is his team's only representative for the game, he could conceivably start after starting AL DH Shohei Ohtani left Sunday's Angels' game with an injury,

But whether Rooker starts or not, the player Kansas City let go is now an All-Star.

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