Starling may be in Royals' center-field mix

December 13th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the Royals' front office ponders position scenarios for 2018, it knows replacing free-agent outfielder will be a tall order.

"It's an important position, especially in our ballpark," general manager Dayton Moore said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. "We always want to build as much depth as we can there. We have . We have Billy Burns.

"And Bubba Starling, we believe in his ability to stay positive. He'll start the season in Triple-A. But we wouldn't hesitate [to bring him up] if he got off to a good start. Depending on what's going on, he's an option as well."

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Starling, 25, was a first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, but he has struggled mightily offensively in the Minors. He has a career .690 OPS in six seasons. He hit a combined .183 in '16 and then .248 last season at Triple-A Omaha.

But Moore said he still envisions Starling as a future Major Leaguer.

"We do," Moore said. "We're not going to rush this process. We haven't thus far. We will continue to stay patient. We know he can play a terrific center field. We've seen other players like who came up and took their lumps offensively, but played great defense. We've got our own players who did that.

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"He's still a player we see as part of our future."

The Royals also will use Gold Glove left fielder in center field at times as well, Moore said.

"We'll mix and match," Moore said.

But while Moore said they could sign a bargain free-agent outfielder for depth, it likely won't be former Royal .

"Not at this point," Moore said.