The KC Royals outfield is light years behind its infield. The infield, led by players like shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, has a solid stock of players the organization can build around for the next few years. Meanwhile, there is no outfielder that is a certainty heading into 2024. All of the Royals' rostered outfielders have intriguing qualities but severe shortcomings in other areas.
For example, Kyle Isbel is among the best defensive outfielders in all of MLB. But his bat leaves much to be desired. Meanwhile, Edward Olivares is the exact inverse. Imagine an outfielder with Olivares' bat and Isbel's glove. That sounds like a foundational player or an All-Star contender at the very least.
The KC Royals need to look at all avenues for improving the 2024 squad.
While Royals general manager J.J. Picollo gave his vote of confidence in Isbel, the Royals should look to upgrade the outfield in any way possible. The free-agent market lacks impactful corner outfielders in comparison to other years. Players like Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are available, but both are more complimentary pieces than franchise-changing players. The Royals would be wise to avoid big-money, long-term contracts with outfielders this year. But Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter proposes another notable free agent to join the Royals and start Opening Day.
"The Royals have always valued defense dating back to their back-to-back World Series appearances, so they could be a great fit for standout defensive center fielder Harrison Bader as he looks to rebuild his value following an injury-plagued contract year."- Joel Reuter, Bleacher Report
Bader is a familiar name after spending many years with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was sent to the New York Yankees in 2022 in exchange for pitcher Jordan Montogmery. Montgomery and Bader have very different free agent profiles ahead of 2024. Reuter is right, saying that Bader needs a place to rejuvenate his MLB career.
Steamer projects Bader will be worth 1.6 fWAR in 2024, a notable improvement in the Royals outfield. His bat may not be elite, but he is an above-average defender with a similar offensive ceiling. He has three seasons with an above-average wRC+ with the Cardinals, but Bader has regressed at the plate since 2021.
If the Royals are looking for talented free agents they may flip at the trade deadline, they could do worse than Bader. He will be 29 on Opening Day 2024, plus has multiple years of postseason experience. Bader has traits that would entice contenders, assuming he has a bounce-back year at the plate and in the field.