When it comes to deciding his bench, Royals manager Ned Yost stressed a reality that always plays a role in these decisions: Roster management. “We’ve got guys that we really like that don’t have options left,” he said.
Yost placed outfielders Jarrod Dyson, Justin Maxwell and Carlos Pequero in that category. An “option” means a minor-league option, which means the team has the ability to send the player to the minor leagues without forcing the player to clear waivers first. A team can only do this so many seasons before the options run out.
“If they had options left, it would make the decisions really easy,” Yost said. “They don’t. That’s what makes it difficult. Because you lose those guys. You’ll lose Dyson. You’ll lose Maxwell. They’re gone.”
The organization does not want this outcome, of course. Yost says he won’t be “pinned down” in terms of committing this early in camp to carrying five outfielders. But team officials concede that with the fragility of center fielder Lorenzo Cain, that extra man is necessary.
A couple notes here:
1. The Royals claimed Pedro Ciriaco off waivers last July. He batted .224 in 2013, a year after putting together a decent season (.293/.315/.390) for that miserable 2012 Red Sox club.
“A guy that’s capable of being a pretty good utility infielder,” Yost said. “A guy that can play multiple positions. A guy that’s athletic, can swing the bat, can do some things.”
The most important quality in a utility infielder is the ability to play shortstop. Ciriaco can do that. Yost says Christian Colon will play some shortstop this spring, too. He threw Johnny Giavotella into the mix, though Giavotella is primarily a second baseman.
2. Yost compared Maxwell to another famed late bloomer.
“He’s just starting to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of doing,” Yost said. “He’s farther along then Nelson Cruz was when I had Nelson Cruz in Milwaukee.”
Cruz was also a bit younger then as compared to Maxwell now. Maxwell just finished his Age 29 season, with a .252/.328/.436 slash line in 75 games. In his Age 29 season, Cruz hit .318/.374/.576 in 108 games for Texas.
Yost’s point was more that Maxwell still hasn’t tapped his potential.
“He’s got tremendous strength, tremendous power,” Yost said. “And he’s become a better outfielder and a better hitter each year. And that’s exactly what you want him to do. Dyson is the same thing. He’s just now starting to figure out what his game is.”