Several former KC Royals are making best of roster chances

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

While the KC Royals continue to make roster moves and consider whether to keep veteran center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., several former Royals, including some fan favorites, have clinched, or are close to clinching, roster spots with new clubs.

Headlining that group is Mike Moustakas, who signed a minor league deal with Colorado after spring training began, then wasted no time pushing his way to the forefront of the Rockies' roster battles. In fact, so good has his bat been—he was slashing .333/.353/.636 with two homers and nine RBIs in 11 games heading into Sunday's action—that the club let him know Saturday he'll be on its Opening Day roster.

Staying healthy is the key for Moustakas. Injuries derailed his quest to make good on the four-year, $64 million contract he signed with Cincinnati before the 2020 season, leading the Reds to let him go in early January.

Two former KC Royals are vying for Baltimore's Opening Day roster

Ryan O'Hearn, so often criticized for poor hitting during his last four seasons in Kansas City, is probably quite close to making the Orioles' roster after following a curious path to the team's spring camp.

The Royals sent O'Hearn to the O's in a January cash-for-player deal, but his new club DFA'd him just two days later, then outrighted him to Triple-A. An early February non-roster invitation to spring training, and success at the plate, followed. O'Hearn has played 16 times for Baltimore this spring and is hitting .378 with a .452 OBP and a pair of home runs through Saturday.

Also reported as a possible candidate for the Opening Day roster is Franchy Cordero, the promising outfield prospect Kansas City traded to Boston in the three-team deal that brought Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in 2021. Cordero struggled with the Red Sox, but his Grapefruit League performance this spring has been stellar: he's slashing .432/.432/.705 with four doubles, a triple, two homers and nine RBIs in 16 games.

If the KC Royals want a third catcher, it won't be either of these two

Their recent option to Omaha of Freddy Fermin, which left the Royals with two catchers (Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez), hasn't stopped chatter suggesting the club will still carry three backstops. And although such a move might make sense because they're so familiar with Kansas City's pitchers, don't look for general manager J.J. Picollo to bring back former KC backups Cam Gallagher or Meibrys Viloria.

That's because Gallagher and Viloria already appear secure with Cleveland. Although he isn't hitting (5-for-24 in 12 games), it looks like Gallagher will be Mike Zunino's prime backup and Viloria will be the Guardians' third major league catcher.

A former KC Royals slugger will start the season in the National League

Looking to rebound from a disappointing 2022 season in Miami is Jorge Soler, the power-hitting designated hitter and occasional outfielder who set Kansas City's single-season home run record with 48 in 2019 only to see Salvador Perez tie it two years later. The Royals traded Soler to Atlanta in 2021 and he helped the Braves to the National League pennant and a World Series title before signing a free agent deal with Miami, where injuries hobbled him and he managed only 13 homers and a .207 average last season.

He hasn't done much better this spring, hitting only .214 with one homer in 16 games, but he'll be the Marlins' DH when the season begins Thursday.

Jobs for these ex-KC Royals were never in doubt

Several former Kansas City fan favorites definitely have big league jobs for the 2023 season.

Eric Hosmer came cheap to the Cubs in mid-January—Chicago plucked him off the free agent market after Boston released him, and is obligated to pay him only the major league minimum salary while the Padres, who shipped him to the Red Sox at last year's trade deadline, remain on the hook for the final three seasons of the eight-year, $144 million mega-deal he inked with San Diego after leaving the Royals for free agency following the 2017 season.

Hosmer, hitting .275 through Saturday, is a lock to make Chicago's roster.

The North Side doesn't have the only claim to a formidable former Royal. New White Sox manager and former Kansas City bench coach Pedro has Andrew Benintendi, who won his first Gold Glove and All-Star berth and hit .294 with 20 homers in a season-and-a-half with the Royals.

And don't be surprised to see former Royals Hanser Alberto, Jake Diekman and Billy Hamilton join Benintendi on the Opening Day roster.

Those aren't the only ex-Royals who'll probably make big league rosters this week. Watch this space for more old friend updates.

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