Royals sign speedy utilityman Hampson to 1-year deal

November 30th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- In an effort to address their on-base needs and bring in depth, the Royals signed utilityman Garrett Hampson to a one-year contract, the team announced on Wednesday.

Hampson’s deal is worth $2 million, a source told

Hampson, who spent last season with the Marlins, became a target for the Royals this offseason because of his versatility in the field, his on-base ability and his speed. He’s ranked in the 96th percentile or higher in sprint speed in each of his six Major League seasons. Hampson also gives them a right-handed bat in a lineup heavy with lefties.

“He’s a player we’ve had a lot of interest in over the last couple of years, and when we thought about the offseason, we were thinking about how we need to put a team together and what we need,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “And that’s a full roster, a deep roster. The more versatility you can get, the better off you’re going to be. … With Garrett, we’re getting somebody [who] can play the infield, somebody who can play the outfield, obviously fits the right-handed piece for us. 

“There’s a speed element to his game, got on base at a high-percentage last year. These are all things that we were targeting through the offseason.”

Hampson, 29, spent the first five seasons of his career with Colorado, which selected him in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft. But he played 98 games in 2023 with Miami, where he shuffled between the infield and outfield. Hampson played all three spots in the outfield -- 26 in center, 21 in right and 10 in left -- and mostly shortstop (30 games) when he was on the dirt, although he logged 13 games at second base and five at third.

A similar role awaits him in Kansas City.

“That versatility is going to come into play quite a bit,” Picollo said.

The change of scenery from Colorado to Miami largely helped Hampson, even as he got away from hitter-friendly Coors Field. In 2023, Hampson hit a career-best .276 and posted a career-high .729 OPS.

And Hampson got on base at a .349 clip, which piqued the Royals’ interest, given that their .303 team on-base percentage was third worst in the Majors last season.

Hampson said he was able to get back to who he feels he is as a player in ‘23, and that profile fits the Royals’ style.

“It was more of a shift for me from searching mechanically throughout my time in Colorado to getting me back to where I was in the Minor Leagues as I started to adjust to Major League pitching,” Hampson said.

“And then going completely away from the mechanics and really going to the approach side of it, and game-planning against these pitchers. I think the staff with the Marlins did a really good job of helping me realize what I’m trying to accomplish each at-bat.”

The Royals are set at shortstop with Bobby Witt Jr. as their franchise player, but Hampson will likely serve as veteran depth in the infield -- similar to Matt Duffy’s role last season, but with the ability to play the outfield, including center field.

For example, Hampson can be viewed as a right-handed option to second baseman Michael Massey or center fielder Kyle Isbel.

Hampson’s 76.6% career contact rate is solid, but the Royals believe there’s more to tap in there, too.

“I learned a lot about myself as a player [in Miami], grew a lot in one year,” Hampson said. “Things weren’t as great in Colorado for me. I didn’t feel like I was doing what I was capable of. And last year was a big step forward for me, so I feel really good going into this offseason. …

“I’m really excited to be here. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the stadium and the city itself. And I think it’s a great fit.”

Hampson doesn’t fix the Royals’ need for more power in the middle of the lineup, but his deal is low-risk and still with upside given the changes he made offensively in 2023. With depth on the bench, Kansas City can still target an impact bat -- but pitching remains the priority.

And as baseball’s annual Winter Meetings approach next week in Nashville, the pitching market is starting to move. Per sources, the Royals have been in on a few pitchers who have signed already with other teams and Kansas City remains in touch with several on the market who fit its profile.

“[The pitching market is] something we’re involved with,” Picollo said. “How quickly those dominoes start to fall -- we’ve seen a few sign, but there’s still a lot out there. Addressing the pitching is at the top of our list.”