Author’s Note: This was written prior to the Royals decision to DFA Omar Infante at about 4 pm on June 15. I think it’s safe to say that it now becomes quite unlikely he will be DFA’d again this season. At least not by the Royals.
I hope the Royals have tested their roster move sirens because based on a couple players getting healthy, they’re going to have to use it a fair amount in the next couple weeks. Brett Eibner has been on a rehab assignment in Omaha over the last few days and is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday. Whether he will remains to be seen, but his time is coming. And of course Alex Gordon will be back with the Royals soon enough as well. He was hitting off a tee this week, which means he’s probably on track to come back around June 27 or so.
This is where it gets interesting. What happens when these guys come back? Let’s go through the scenarios for each. The likelihood of each move happening is ranked on a 1-5 crown scale.
This one is far less exciting because the likely options are boring ones, but there are basically three possibilities here.
Demote Reymond Fuentes
Fuentes has performed well with 13 hits in 37 at bats and a .400 OBP in 12 games this season. He may have been the original choice over Eibner to be called up when Eibner was, but at the time he was dealing with a bit of an injury. Since he did come up, though, he’s hit .500/.556/.563 in 18 plate appearances over six games. Not bad at all. Still, I’m not sure he ranks ahead of anyone on the current roster on the depth chart, though it’s hard to say these days. Also, he’s had some defensive adventures in right field, including a play on Monday night where he dropped a ball that would have been a nice catch, but still probably needed to be made.
Demote Brett Eibner
Wait what? Yes, you read that correctly. Eibner went 6 for 13 with a walk, a sacrifice bunt and won that game against the White Sox with a great at bat in the bottom of the ninth. But he’s also played four big league games and, as I said above, probably wasn’t the first choice to be called up when he made his debut. I know a lot of people are clamoring for him to come back because he was fun to watch in his brief time on the roster, but this is certainly a possibility, especially given how well Fuentes is hitting. Personally, I’d love to see Eibner because he gives the Royals a dimension they don’t have much of, but you never know.
DFA Omar Infante Now we’re into the good stuff, aren’t we? Infante hasn’t started since June 2 and hasn’t played in a game since June 6 when he was forced into the game because Jonathan Schoop spiked a baseball off Cheslor Cuthbert’s elbow in one of the weirdest plays I think I’ve ever seen. That’s what it takes for Infante to get on the field these days. His time is almost up with the Royals, that much is evident. When the Royals played Merrifield in left field for all three games in Chicago, Christian Colon played every game at second. That’s telling. But still, the Royals love their inventory and they don’t need to DFA Infante just yet.
Yes, the Royals could conceivably DFA Kendrys Moralres, I guess. The big DH is owed a bit less than $7 million between the remainder of his 2016 salary and the $1.5 million buyout he has on the mutual option for next season. That’s more money than the Royals have eaten before, but less than DFAing Infante would cost. The difference is that I don’t think the Royals see Morales as a sunk cost just yet. He’s hit better (not well, though) since he took some time off with that finger injury, so I would doubt Morales gets the heave ho at this point. They could also make some kind of trade to open up spots on the roster, but given how far down the depth chart they are at some positions, I’m not sure who they could really trade that would make sense.
See, here’s where the juicy stuff gets going. Once Eibner is back and they’ve likely demoted Fuentes, there are really four main options for the roster spot Gordon takes.
DFA Omar Infante With Eibner in the fold, the Royals will have four outfielders and Whit Merrifield on the roster. That’s five guys who can play outfield, but they have a history of carrying five true outfielders as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they want to settle Merrifield into an every day role at second base. So when Gordon comes back, that would be the fifth outfielder. This makes sense that Infante is the one to go when Gordon returns. It allows Jarrod Dyson to return to sharing the pinch runner/fourth outfielder role with Paulo Orlando and really makes sense for the way the team is built.
Demote a Reliever (Brian Flynn or Peter Moylan Most Likely)
Now that Infante has been DFA’d, this seems like the most likely outcome for when Gordon returns. Of course, the Royals are loving their 13-man pitching staff these days and having Merrifield makes it a little easier to roll with that, so you never know.
Demote Christian Colon
Would it really surprise you? Colon is hitting .291/.350/.327 this year in 60 plate appearances, which isn’t great, but it’s in line with what he’s done in his brief big league career (.300/.358/.367 in 228 plate appearances). He’s played better defense than I think the Royals expected and has provided a clear upgrade to Infante. Still, the Royals love their inventory and Colon is just that, as is Infante. Demoting Colon still allows them to get Merrifield daily reps at second and gives them five outfielders. I wouldn’t choose this, but it’s possible.
Demote Brett Eibner
Okay, now I must have gone nuts. Demote the guy who everyone made such a big deal about coming back? Well yeah, maybe. We still have to remember that he has all of 15 big league plate appearances and, I believe I’ve mentioned this, he likely wasn’t even the first choice to come up when he did anyway. I’m not saying I don’t believe in Eibner because I’ve been clamoring for him for awhile, but he’s a 27-year old rookie for a reason. It’s not inconceivable to think he could come back and struggle for the week-plus that he plays before Gordon comes off the DL and the Royals could thank him for his time and send him back to Omaha.
DFA Kendrys Morales
Okay, I still don’t think so, but the more time between now and then, the more possible it is, so he actually gets his own section this time. He’s had a bad year. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. If he has another stretch like he did from May 8 to May 30 when he hit .143/.260/.254, I think it’s possible. This would allow the Royals to have a lot of flexibility with the DH spot and give guys half days off all the time. Think about it. You could DH Gordon once or twice a week, DH Cain once or twice a week, throw Eibner in there, throw Perez in there, etc. It might be appealing to have that kind of flexibility, especially given that you’d have four guys who could play center field in your outfield. I wouldn’t predict it, but you know, it could theoretically happen.
So that’s it. Sure, there could be trades and other injuries that complete derail this thought process, but that’s kind of what I see as the possibilities for the Royals getting their outfielders back and healthy over the next couple weeks.