The Royals have agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with former Diamondbacks utility player Chris Owings. The Athletic’s Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan were the first to report news of the deal on Wednesday, and it was later confirmed by the team:
#Royals in agreement with INF/OF Chris Owings, sources tell The Athletic.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) December 5, 2018
Royals are in agreement with utility man Chris Owings for one-year deal for $3 million plus $500K of performance bonuses, per source.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) December 5, 2018
Owings, 27, posted a career-worst .206/.272/.302 slash line with four homers over 309 plate appearances in 2018. Still, it was somewhat surprising to see the Diamondbacks non-tender him last week heading into his final season of arbitration eligibility. Seeing as Owings’ deal maxes out at $3.5 million if he achieves the necessary performance bonuses, it’s possible that he’ll end up receiving only $100,000 less than the $3.6 million he had been projected to earn through the arbitration process by MLB Trade Rumors.
Owings’ chief asset is his versatility, as he’s a natural shortstop but has experience at every position except first base, catcher, and pitcher. The .250/.291/.378 career hitter could be a dark horse candidate to start at second base if the Royals end up trading Whit Merrifield this offseason (and if highly-regarded prospect Nicky Lopez isn’t ready to step right into the starting role), but Owings will more than likely end up filling a more limited version of the same utility role he filled in Arizona. It’s distinctly possible that he’ll fill the “utility starter” role that Alcides Escobar occupied after being displaced from the everyday shortstop job in late June of this year; he started 32 more games at short after starting the first 74 of the season at that position, and he also received two starts at second base, 27 at third, and six in center field. With Adalberto Mondesi having established himself as the starter going forward at short and guys like Hunter Dozier, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Ryan O’Hearn factoring more prominently into the 2019 plans, Owings may not get quite the same near-everyday playing time that Escobar did, but he should still be in line for a few starts a week.