The Royals announced Tuesday that they’ve requested unconditional release waivers on infielder/outfielder Chris Owings. He was designated for assignment last week and will become a free agent once he clears in 48 hours. Kansas City has also recalled third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez from Triple-A Omaha.
Owings was brought in early this winter (Dec. 5) on a one-year, $3MM contract that ultimately didn’t pay dividends for Kansas City. The longtime Diamondbacks utilityman hit just .133/.193/.222 through 145 plate appearances with his new club while playing all three outfield positions, second base, third base and shortstop. Owings’ decision to pounce on an early big league offer from the Royals proved wise even looking beyond his poor play in K.C.; several other veteran infielders and outfielders lingered on the market and eventually signed for smaller guarantees (e.g. Josh Harrison) or minor league contracts (e.g. Jose Iglesias).
The 2019 season is the second straight rough campaign for Owings, who hit .206/.272/.302 through 309 plate appearances with the Diamondbacks in 2018. Overall, he’s never matched the gaudy numbers he put up as a prospect in Triple-A, when he once won Pacific Coast League MVP honors. But, Owings does have some speed (and is quite efficient at base stealing, as evidenced by a career 84 percent success rate), some gap power and experience playing nearly everywhere on the diamond. He could latch on with a club whose infield depth has been compromised or a team looking to bolster its bench with some versatility, but Owings’ play dating back to Opening Day 2018 makes a minor league pact seem the likeliest outcome for him.
In Gutierrez, the Royals will take a second look at one of the key pieces acquired in last season’s Kelvin Herrera trade with the Nationals. The 24-year-old hit .281/.300/.386 with 18 strikeouts against just two walks through 60 trips to the plate in his first look at the big league level earlier this year. He’s hitting at a .312/.430/.403 clip in 93 Triple-A plate appearances, however, and the Royals have some additional needs around the infield with 2019 breakout slugger Hunter Dozier on the injured list.