Yesterday’s takeover of Drew Waters gives the Royals a potential near-term option to evaluate in the outfield, and general manager JJ Picollo spoke highly of Waters’ future when he chatted to the Kansas City beat after the trade (link via Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star). . Picollo called Waters a “plus defender” and a “true midfielder,” praising the switch-hitter’s speed and overall advantage — though Waters is “still honing some skills” at the plate.
That’s a fairly favorable characterization of a player who, in his third season at Triple-A level, has refereed 27.1% of his plate appearances, although to Waters’ credit, that strikeout rate is well below his 36.1- % mark in Triple-A is 2019 and up from last year’s pace of 30.9%. Struggling in the upper ranks notwithstanding, Waters is only 23 years old, has long been considered a plus runner and potential asset in the field grass, and isn’t too far from a 2019 monster to show up in Double-A. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Waters as a player, even if his potential star has waned in recent years.
The broader question for Royals fans – and for fans of teams seeking outfield upgrades in the league – is what this trade will mean for the further development of the Royals outfield. The Waters acquisition probably won’t have a big impact on that Andreas Benintendis future; A prolific and affordable prospective free agent on a last-place team, Benintendi was one of the most likely trade candidates in all of baseball with or without Waters around. (We ranked him #2 on the list of top 50 trade candidates last week.)
However, as MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald discovered last month, Benintendi isn’t the only commercial contender in the Royals’ outfield. midfield player Michael A Taylor is having the best season of his big league career and playing on an affordable two-year, $9 million contract. That makes it tempting for the Royals to keep him until 2023, but Taylor’s biggest asset is his glove at center, and Picollo made it clear the Royals also view Waters as a plus option at center. There’s plenty of room for Waters and Taylor to play in the same outfield – especially assuming an eventual Benintendi deal – but it’s still worth noting that the royals seem confident that Waters will follow in Taylor’s footsteps should a trade be made could kick. At least from a defensive point of view.
Taylor has indeed attracted interest from other clubs, with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweet last night that the Yankees are among those who have considered him in their search for outfield upgrades. Taylor, hitting .264/.340/.385 and once again playing a Gold Glove-caliber defense down center, would instantly become the top defensive outfielder on the Yankees roster (or most MLB roster). New York played Aaron Richter in midfield more than ever, but Taylor could potentially push Judge back to right field if the Yankees inevitably move on Joey Gallo.
The Yankees are also known to be interested in Benintendi, and New York Daily News’ Kristie Ackert reported Sunday night that the two sides have had “ongoing” talks over Benintendi for the past few weeks. The asking price is currently high, adds Acert. While the Yankees have now been linked with two Kansas City outfielders, the Royals will certainly receive interest in Benintendi and Taylor from other clubs, just as New York will explore outfield options with other teams.
Further trades by the royals are not necessarily a matter of course. Picollo hinted that the team “doesn’t feel an extreme need for us to change players” although it would be surprising if at least Benintendi didn’t change hands in the next three weeks. Yet even with the royals fully patrolling the rest of the way, Waters should have a serious look at the big leagues, especially with , before long Kyle Isbel fight and Edward Olivares only play a limited role this year.