On Monday, the Philadelphia Phillies announced they had reinstated utility player Scott Kingery from the injured list and outrighted him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, to "outright" someone means to remove them from the 40-player roster. That process entails the player "clearing" waivers, or going unclaimed.
The rest of the league's apparent disinterest in Kingery is unsurprising, and can be credited to a combination of his poor play and a now-regrettable extension on the Phillies' part.
Kingery, who has dealt with various physical ailments over the last two years (including COVID-19 and a concussion), went 1 for 19 with 12 strikeouts during his time in the majors this season. Dating back to last year, he's hit .144/.204/.250 in 143 plate appearances.
Kingery's issues extend beyond the pandemic era. For his career, he's hit .229/.280/.387 with 30 homers and 25 steals (on 32 tries). His 75 OPS+ is the fifth-worst among the 198 batters with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2018, ahead of the likes of Martín Maldonado, Elvis Andrus, Orlando Arcia, and Billy Hamilton.
Kingery might've found a suitor anyway, the way those other four laggards have, were it not for the six-year extension worth $24 million that he signed prior to debuting in the Show. That contract will pay Kingery $4 million this season and then an additional $15 million over the next two years, assuming the Phillies decline a club option for 2024.
Plenty of ink will be spilled on what Kingery's failure to launch says about the risk-reward of long-term extensions for premiering players, but there's something else worth noting about his predicament: how he's going to occupy a weird space in the baseball landscape, serving as (presumably) the highest-paid minor-league player.
Such a status leaves Kingery with two paths forward: play well enough to earn a big-league spot, or languish in the minors. That may sound similar to what every player faces, but there is a difference. Kingery's contract, no doubt a blessing, means no other club will claim him off waivers or make a trade for him. Additionally, he cannot reject an outright assignment and seek out a better opportunity on his own without forfeiting what is rightfully his.
Kingery and the Phillies, then, are to remain married at the hip for the foreseeable future. It's just not what they imagined when they agreed to the extension.