A Rehashed Rumor
I guess we should be surprised that it took this long.
Thanks to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, the trade rumors involving Cincinnati Reds outfielder Austin Kearns have started again and, as usual, the Royals are named as a potential suitor for the 25-year-old. According to Rosenthal's report, the Royals have not been willing to include Zack Greinke in any deal (and rightfully so), but may be willing to move Mike MacDougal or Jeremy Affeldt.
A large part of Rosenthal's report is just speculation based Cincinnati's new owner wanting changes made and Kearns being the player who'll likely net the Reds the most talent in a trade. Additionally, the outfield logjam that included Kearns, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Wily Mo Pena was solved when former GM Dan O'Brien opened up first base for Dunn by trading Sean Casey to Pittsburgh, but for the sake of discussion, I'll assume that the story has some merit beyond the reasonable assumptions it makes.
I've long been a fan of Kearns, whose combination of on-base skills and mammoth home run power have been rather prevalent throughout his professional career. The phrase, "he's hit everywhere he's been" definitely applies to him, as the lowest OPS he's posted at any level including the Majors is .812, which he accomplished in 125 at-bats in Rookie ball. Statistically, Kearns' power is matched by few, as his slugging percentage in the minor leagues is a healthy 229 points higher than his batting average. From a visual standpoint, the 6-3, 245-lb. former first-rounder can hit a pitched baseball a country mile, making him a likely fan favorite.
Generally speaking, players with Kearns' hitting skills aren't dangled from a hook as trade bait in consecutive seasons, leaving us with the reason he's apparently still available to any team willing to ship the Reds some pitching help in return: injuries. Kearns has only gotten in 365 games over his four seasons for reasons varying from frequent hamstring pulls to scar tissue in his right thumb.
Since Kearns is still young, it's difficult to say if his issues with staying on the field are a result of his build, bad luck, bad conditioning, or a combination of the three. Regardless, it raises a red flag, and is definitely why no team to date has been willing to meet the Reds' asking price.
Ultimately, whether or not the Royals believe they can solve Kearns' injury problems may be the determining factor in whether or not they choose to seriously pursue a trade. If acquired and healthy, Kearns would presumably take over the left field duties from Emil Brown, who would likely become the team's fourth outfielder and play against left-handed pitchers.
If he could remain injury-free for 130+ games a season, Kearns would be a very nice addition to a potent lineup that'll include David DeJesus, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Justin Huber very, very soon.