While announcing that Whit Merrifield will move to the outfield on a full-time basis, the Royals reiterated their desire for Jorge Soler to be more than an everyday designated hitter. General manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost each doubled down on that sentiment this week.
A cynical view would probably assume that the club wants to maximize Soler’s value as a player other teams might have interest in acquiring. Limiting Soler to DH only doesn’t help in that regard.
There’s also certainly benefit to maintaining flexibility by not having one player locked into that role and being able to use the designated hitter spot on various players depending on the day.
The other factor in making sure Soler remains a viable outfield option is that he’s a potential replacement for the club’s 35-year-old left fielder Alex Gordon, who is in the final year of his contract (there’s a mutual option worth $23 million after this season).
“I don’t want to lose his development because somewhere down the road he’s probably going to move to left field,” Yost said. “Two years maybe, three years maybe. You want to continue to develop him as an outfielder.
“He’s been working hard and has been growing. He’s grown — I wouldn’t say leaps and bounds — but a little bit less than leaps and bounds in the outfield the past three years. He’s gone from dropping balls in the outfield to playing a pretty darn good outfield out there.”
On top of that, Yost acknowledged that he wants to be able, at least in theory, to rotate the DH to give players like Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi and Gordon a half day once a week to keep them fresh and still in the lineup.
“He’s got to play,” Yost said of Soler. “You can’t just say I’m going to totally DH you and let everybody else get withered down to nothing.”
Yost has had full-time DHs with the Royals, but that’s been in large part because of those players being defensive liabilities.
Yost doesn’t think anyone on the current roster falls into that category, and rotating the DH spot potentially also allows players such as Kelvin Gutierrez more opportunities despite primarily playing the same position (third base) as Hunter Dozier.
Duda making progress: First baseman Lucas Duda has progressed to the point where he’s taking ground balls and batting practice. Duda has been on the injured list since April 24 with a lumbar strain. The Royals have not acknowledged a timetable on Duda, but Yost said Duda is “closer” to going on a rehab assignment.
Man down: The Rangers placed shortstop Elvis Andrus on the injured list and recalled outfielder Willie Calhoun and left-handed pitcher Jeffrey Springs prior to Wednesday’s game. Andrus, who is batting .325 with six home runs and 26 RBIs, suffered a hamstring injury in Tuesday night’s game. He’d started a team-high 38 games this season.
1. Whit Merrifield, rf
2. Nicky Lopez, 2b
3. Adalberto Mondesi, ss
4. Alex Gordon, lf
5. Hunter Dozier, 1b
6. Jorge Soler, dh
7. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3b
8. Martin Maldonado, c
9. Billy Hamilton, cf
Starting pitcher: Jorge Lopez (rh, 0-4, 6.07)