Why the KC Royals will stick with Hunter Renfroe...for now

The club isn't about to give its right fielder the boot.
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

The reaction was mixed in December when the KC Royals signed veteran outfielder Hunter Renfroe. His was a name familiar throughout the game, a proven power hitter who'd broken in and starred with San Diego before moving on and finding his way into postseason play with Tampa Bay and Boston.

But while bringing Renfroe to Kansas City gave the club a new power bat (more on that in a moment) and added to the fanbase-energizing personnel moves general manager J.J. Picollo was busy making, not everyone viewed the signing as overwhelmingly good. Some would have preferred Picollo filling the right field spot with internal talent, while others feared Renfroe's defensive shortcomings.

Unfortunately, Renfroe's spring training woes increased the misgivings. Instead of pounding Cactus League pitching, he managed only five hits in 31 at-bats for a .161 average, his one homer was also his only extra-base hit, and he struck out almost a third of the time.

Then came the regular season. It took Renfroe five games to get on base — the third-inning single he slapped through the infield off Baltimore's Corbin Burnes last Wednesday broke his campaign-opening 0-for-16 slump. And after adding only three hits since then, he's slashing .138/.167/.241.

Such are not the kind of numbers Kansas City signed Renfroe to produce; in fact, they made him this writer's recent choice for the club's most disappointing player so far.

Don't, however, look for this team to pull the plug on him any time soon.

The KC Royals will continue to play Hunter Renfroe

Despite his poor performance at the plate, Renfroe isn't going anywhere. Although the Royals two seasons ago gave Brady Singer a short stint at Triple-A Omaha, where removed from the press of big league play he worked to get himself back on track, that won't work for Renfroe because he ran out of minor league options long ago. It's too early for a trade, and the club isn't about to designate him for assignment.

No, he's here to stay, and should be. Letting Renfroe go just 10 games into a new season doesn't make sense — remember, this is a player with a few seasons left in the tank who's clubbed no fewer than 20 homers just two times during his career, first when he played only 11 times in his first big league season, and then when the pandemic shortened the 2020 campaign to just 60 games.

His is the kind of power these Royals need; although they're 6-4 heading into a three-game series with Houston at Kauffman Stadium, the 44 runs they've scored rank 18th in the majors. Scoring more would be a good thing, and the homer Renfroe belted against Chicago Sunday could be a good sign.

He also hasn't been a defensive problem.

So, Renfroe will continue to see regular action. Kansas City is a patient club not prone to react rashly or too swiftly when its players struggle; it will wait, for his hitting to come around and his production to increase. Manager Matt Quatraro isn't going to stop putting Renfroe's name on KC's lineup cards.

Not yet, that is. But things could change if Renfroe isn't looking better when April turns to May.

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