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Deconstructing The Process

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With Sal Perez and Manny Pina both having knee surgery this spring, the Royals found themselves in the market for a catcher. Starter, backup… didn’t matter. They needed a catcher.

And by now we should all know how General Manager Dayton Moore operates. He sees a hole in his roster; he immediately tries to fill it. The dude doesn’t wait around. In recent days we’ve heard the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays are in the market for a backup backstop as well. That only accelerates the fire of impatience that burns within the Royals GM. He wasn’t going to let another team steal his thunder backup catcher.

So Tuesday afternoon he dealt Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL in exchange for catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois.

Let’s deal with the target man first…

Quintero is probably what you would look for in a backup catcher. Backup. Basically, the guy plays really good defense. With a cannon for an arm, he’s the kind of catcher who can alter the opposition’s running game. We know the Royals place an enormous amount of emphasis on defense behind the plate and that’s just good baseball sense. Which is why losing Perez for any length of time really hurts this team… Because there’s nobody on this roster who can call and catch a decent defensive game on a nightly basis. Sorry, Brayan Pena fans. I’m nice when I call his defense atrocious. And Max Ramirez fans… He’s worse behind the dish than Pena.

Offensively, however, Quintero a train wreck. He has a career .269 OBP in over 1,100 plate appearances.

(I’ll give you a second to process that.)

I kid you not… Among major league players with more than 1,100 plate appearances since 2000, Quintero has the second worst on base percentage. Second worst. He beats only Jeff Mathis! How about this… His career OPS+ is 58. 58! This time, he’s only the third worst since 2000. He laps Peter Bergeron and the aforementioned Mathis. Yippee. Basically, Quintero hacks at everything. He swung at 60% of all pitches he saw last year – an insanely high rate.

Seriously, how does Dayton do it? It is a gift.

Fortunately, Quintero’s defense makes up for most of those offensive shortcomings. He’s been between 0.8 and 0.5 fWAR the last three seasons on the power of his glove. I could live with that once a week. Twice may be pushing things. We’re talking about backup material.

Look, this is a short-term deal. Duct tape meant to hold until Perez comes back. Quintero is beyond awful with the bat, but the defense will help for the time being. You just aren’t going to find a catcher you’re happy with at this point of the spring.

Now, let’s look at Bourgeois…

My first reaction…

GMDM just can’t help himself. He just freaking can’t resist speedy outfielders who can’t hit a lick.

Bourgeois is another in the mold of Gathright, Dyson and Freel. The guy can’t drive the ball, doesn’t take a walk (which, you know, might be useful given the fact speed is his only tool) and basically makes a bunch of outs. He’s good with the glove and uses that speed to cover a ton of ground in the outfield.

And here’s the best part… With Maier and Dyson already in the fold, the Royals don’t need an outfielder like Bourgeois. Why was he even included in this deal?

Was this some sort of an impulse buy? Did new Houston GM Jeff Luhnow look at the “Dayton Moore Profile” and try to convince him he needed Bourgeois?

“Say, while you’re here shopping for a backup catcher, why don’t you take a look at this speedy outfielder?”

“No, we just need a catcher and… Speedy? Did you say speedy outfielder?”

“Uh-huh. Speedy. Very fast. Like the Road Runner.”

Well played, Luhnow. Well played.

With Maier positioned as the fourth outfielder and Dyson cast as the late inning “game-changing” speed guy, it would seem the backup cast for the Royals was set. Bourgeois makes sense only if you’re going to lop both Maier and Dyson off the major league roster. Strange.

But wait… There’s more!

It seems that Bourgeois was drafted as a middle infielder and has played a whopping 13 innings at second base in his major league career.

Of course he has. GMDM is already talking up his versatility.

And all this for the low price of Kevin Chapman. The guys at Pine Tar Press are high on Chapman, listing him as the Royals top left-handed reliever. He lives in the mid-90s with a decent slider and just murders left handed batting. He punched out 90 in 62 innings last year, split between High-A and Double-A. He owns a career 1.6 ground out to air out ratio. So the guy misses bats and gets ground ball outs. Strong. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus says his fastball can get “straight” at times which probably explains why he allowed so many baserunners, but if you’re looking at a LOOGY, Chapman seems a solid candidate.

Hey, I like the thought process… If you’re going to swing a deal for a backup catcher, minor league relief pitching is a decent place to start. We all know about the volatility of the bullpen and the Royals certainly have a plethora of young arms. This is how you use guys who aren’t exactly top tier prospects. Deal them to fill a need. In this case, it’s the execution that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It just seems like a classic Dayton Moore overreach… for a temporary catcher and an outfielder you don’t need.

And I’m not finished. Shortly after the deal was announced, Houston beat writer Brian McTaggart sent this Tweet

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said PTBNL will be “key component” of trade.

We can infer two things from this statement. One, the player to be named later has already been agreed upon. This leads to inference number two, which is the PTBNL is a member of the 2011 draft class. Rules say a draftee has to be with the organization for a year before he can be packaged in a trade. If this is what is going down, we can expect the deal to be “officially” completed in mid-June.

And a “key component.” Does that mean this deal could get worse?

Oh, Dayton…

The Royals’ big move of the winter meetings thus far has turned out to be trading Yamaico Navarro to the Pirates for two low minors prospects:  Brooks Pounders and Deigo Goris.  Both players have some intrigue to them and both are years away from the majors.  The haul was very similar to that extracted from Detroit in the Wilson Betemit deal last summer.

The interesting thing about this trade is that is was made primarily to clear space for a possible Rule 5 draft pick.   There is speculation that this pick might be used on a utility middle infielder:  you know, someone kind of like a Yamaico Navarro.   The Royals are also thinking that they might well lose Rey Navarro, another infielder, in this morning’s draft. 

It seems like maybe Kansas City could have just kept Yam Navarro, but there is talk they did not care for his defense.  It also seems that if they were going to trade one Navarro and concerned about losing the other Navarro (Rey), then one could have moved Navarro, Rey not Yam, onto the 40 man roster.   Especially considering they lost a non-Navarro middle infielder in Jeff Bianchi to the waiver process a few weeks prior.

Now, Yamaico Navarro had defensive concerns and Rey Navarro, who has shown the ability to hit for all of about 60 days of his minor league career, was probably  not worthy of a 40 man spot (and frankly, I don’t think he gets taken in the Rule 5 anyway), so nothing earth shattering has happened here.    I have to believe the Royals were aware enough to know that Bianchi probably would not make it through the open market (everyone on Twitter was certain he wasn’t so one would hope Dayton Moore was cognizant of that probability as well).  That tells me that the organization has at least a passing interest in entertaining Chris Getz as a utility player, that they are serious about signing a veteran infielder (Renteria is the current popular rumor), or there is someone in the Rule 5 they like better than either Navarro. 

We have heard names like Ryan Flaherty, Cole Gillaspie and Beamer Weems, among otheres, bandied about and that means, as someone else has already pointed out, that Dayton Moore will draft a pitcher or a centerfielder or no one.   It is very possible, that the trade of Navarro was simply to give Moore some flexibility to explore Rule 5 opportunities, while opening up a roster spot for signing his veteran infielder.

It might be an interesting morning.    Here’s the truly great thing about where the Royals are right now:  for maybe the first time in ten years, one of the real considerations of picking a Rule 5 guy is whether Kansas City has room on its roster for such a player.   This team may not be a contender in 2012, but they have certainly moved to the point where wasting a roster spot in hopes of future gain is no longer a viable option.

xxx

 

 

The weather is cooling here in Kansas City and there is no baseball being played. So step over here by this hot stove and warm your hands upon the pyre of rumors. Few of these logs will be around long and many are merely invented out of thin air, but occasionally there is some smoke and the discussions become reality. Today’s bit of wood comes from the great white north and therefore we have a bit of music to listen as we contemplate.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun dropped this nugget in his column yesterday:

The Kansas City Royals will start with Lorenzo Cain in centre, but with concerns about whether the 25-year-old (42 career starts) will hit has the Royals looking at Colby Rasmus of the Jays

My initial reaction on this rumor is “YES, YES, YES, YES, OH PLEASE YES!”

The gist of the column referenced above is the fact that the Blue Jays are looking at Heath Bell to be their closer. While it isn’t mentioned is who, if anybody the Royals have offered for Colby Rasmus, if the Jays need a closer then Joakim Soria should be floated.

Everyday players are more important than relief pitchers. This is an inescapable fact. It doesn’t matter how good Joakim Soria is, his 60 innings of work are never going to be as valuable as a decent everyday player. Colby Rasmus is not just a decent everyday player.

Rasmus has played three seasons at the Major League level. In his first as a 22 year old rookie he posted a line of .251/.307/.407 with 16 home runs and a fWAR of 2.8. It’s not something to go crazy over, but he played a solid defensive center field taboot. Rasmus really took a huge step his second season with the Cardinals by hitting .276/.361/.498 with 23 home runs and an fWAR of 4.3. If you’re wondering that’s a superior season to the one that Melky Cabrera posted as a Royal in 2011.

It seemed as if Rasmus was really starting to hit his stride and could be on the verge of becoming an elite player. Then things tumbled hard in 2012. Everything seemed to be off. His walk rate of 9.5% was the one thing that was even close to his output of 2010.

The most glaring thing that happened to Rasmus was Tony Larussa began to despise the kid and the media jumped on the bandwagon. Rumors swirled about Rasmus’ dad being too involved and telling the coachign staff what to do. I don’t know what exactly happened there, but I do know that Tony Larussa and subsequently his players are some of the most petulant children in the sport. Larussa had been trying to get rid of Colby Rasmus since the off-season and finally got his wish as he was traded to the Blue Jays late in the season.

Rasmus is a very talented player, and possibly one that comes with a bit of baggage and had a drop in production last year. I don’t believe that the problems are anywhere near as bad as the Cardinals organization made them out to be, and that rough season could provide just enough drop in value to make him somebody the Royals can acquire. He has the potential to be an elite center fielder, and you ALWAYS trade a relief pitcher for that if you can.

The other part of the equation here is Lorenzo Cain. I think the Royals would be ok with him in center. I believe he is a plus outfielder with the upside of an average to slightly above average bat. He’s the kind of player that will help a team be competitive. Rasmus is the kind of player that helps a team be dominant. So, I’m not concerned at all about Cain and I’m very happy to see the Royals looking to upgrade when they can.

I’m not convinced that Dayton Moore has the cajones to pull the trigger on a Soria for Rasmus trade, nor do I know if the Blue Jays would accept it. But I’ve been trying to convince my Cardinal fan buddy Kyle to take a Soria for Rasmus trade for 3 years now. I always thought it was a dream scenario, but it just might happen in reality. I really hope it does.

Edit: The Royals signed Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to a one-year contract. This seems really odd unless the Royals are really considering moving Joakim Soria. Sh&t just got real, yo.

 

 

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

 

 

 

Say what you will about Dayton Moore, but the guy doesn’t waste any time. Once the postseason is over, it’s like he’s on the clock, and has to make a move.

Again, he strikes while the recently completed World Series is fresh in our minds. This time he brings a pair of left handed pitchers, starter Jonathan Sanchez and minor leaguer Ryan Verdugo to the Royals in exchange for last year’s starting center fielder Melky Cabrera.

If you were going to select a guy off the 2011 roster to trade, it would have been Cabrera. It’s a savvy move by GMDM, picking a guy off the scrap heap (he was non-tendered by the Braves last winter) and then turning him into a pair of arms after he experienced a career renaissance in Kansas City. Talk about selling high… The Melk-Man was at his absolute peak. I was extremely skeptical that he was going to be able to repeat his .305/.339/.470 performance. It’s going to be even more difficult now that he’s moving to the National League and the Giants.

If the Royals were selling high on Cabrera, you would have to say the Giants sold low on their left-handed starter, Sanchez. He struggled last year for San Francisco, taking two trips to the DL, while hobbling to a final ERA of 4.26 against an xFIP of 4.36 with a 5.86 BB/9. Maybe it was the injuries, but he lost a little giddyup on his fastball as he wasn’t able to break 90 mph on average for the first time in his career.

Royals PR was quick to point out that Sanchez has the third highest strikeout rate among starters since 2006. His 9.36 SO/9 trails only Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw. And his hit rate of 7.02 H/9 is the second best behind only Kershaw. Wow! Sounds excellent, doesn’t it. It’s as if the ace we’ve been dreaming about has fallen into our collective laps.

Not so fast…

What Royals PR won’t tell you is that Sanchez has a difficult time finding the strike zone. His career 4.78 BB/9 is horrendous. And if we’re going to do the whole compare and contrast thing, Sanchez’s walk rate is the third WORST in baseball since 2006, trailing only Oliver Perez and Daniel Cabrera. See… There’s a cause and effect thing at work here. Sanchez’s hit rate is low because batters are either swinging and missing (good) or they’re laying off the wild stuff and taking their base (bad).

When looking at his raw numbers like ERA, remember that Sanchez was toeing the slab in one of the more favorable ballparks for pitchers in San Francisco’s AT&T Park. With it’s expansive outfield and swirling winds off the bay, only Barry Zito could struggle there. Sanchez will be challenged to repeat his modest successes away from San Francisco and the NL. Consider Sanchez the first test for new pitching coach Dave Eiland. For his entire major league career, Sanchez has known only one pitching coach – Dave Righetti – so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with a new tutor. It’s the ultimate “change of scenery” type of deal that could pay dividends. Then again, Sanchez is moving from a pitchers league and a pitchers park… If last year was his “true” talent level… 2012 could be ugly.

As such, Sanchez has made a career out of living around 4 with his xFIP. That’s not great, but it’s solid mid to back of the rotation kind of stuff. Meaning, he’s not a number two starter, rather a number four, with the upside of a number three. And that number three designation is a bit of a long shot. Those control problems have plagued him his entire career. They’re not going to just disappear. Acquiring Sanchez doesn’t elevate the Royals pitching staff. Think of this as simply a band-aid move on the rotation. It stops the bleeding… For the moment. It’s useful, but Moore and the Royals need to seek a better, longer term cure.

This means the Royals – who entered this winter with what appeared to be a set lineup – will now welcome Lorenzo Cain into the fold as the starting center fielder. There are a few question marks about Cain (more on those in a moment) but the one thing we can be certain about is the guy can flat out play defense. He is a huge upgrade over Melky Cabrera in center. Yes, the Royals outfield was defensively all kinds of awesome last summer, but the Melk-Man was absolutely the weakest link. Losing his glove only helps solidify the outfield.

The questions about Cain come with his bat. While we may look at his .380 OBP in Omaha and think we’ve found a leadoff hitter for the future, he walked just 7.3 percent of the time in Triple-A, a number that is extremely low for someone you want in the leadoff spot. He finished with a .366 BABIP, which was well above average and not to mention, accomplished in the PCL, a league that favors hitters. With that kind of plate discipline, it just isn’t realistic to expect that Cain can come close to repeating his 2011 Triple-A performance in the majors in 2012.

Aside from the fact he doesn’t statistically profile as a leadoff hitter, there are several scouts who have been less than impressed with his bat speed and think that Cain has several “holes” in his swing that can be exploited. Of course, since scouting is an inexact science, I’ve also heard exactly the opposite… That Cain is just fine at the plate and will experience little difficulty making the jump to a major league regular.

One side effect of Cain in the everyday lineup that I’m worried about is that Ned Yost won’t be able to resist the speedy Cain at the top of the order. That would be a mistake after the season that Alex Gordon had as the Royals leadoff hitter. I give Yost all the credit in the world for the unconventional move of having Gordon at the top of his lineup card for the majority of the games (although maybe I shouldn’t give him too much credit… It was clear from the beginning of the season that the Royals lacked a “true” leadoff hitter. Gordon was kind of a last gasp attempt that happened to have an enormous payoff.) Cain swiped 16 bags for the Storm Chasers in 22 attempts, but he would be better served by opening lower in the lineup.

Financially, Dayton Moore thinks this trade will be a wash. I agree. Both players will clear around $5 million in their final round of eligibility next year, but Sanchez will probably end up making slightly more money. Maybe that’s why GMDM got Brian Sabean to throw in left handed prospect Ryan Verdugo in the deal.

Verdugo is a little like Sanchez in that he misses a bunch of bats, but has difficulty controlling the strike zone. According to Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus, his best pitch is his change while his fastball is average at best. He was a starter last year in Double-A where he finished with a 9.2 SO/9 and a 4.4 BB/9, but profiles more as a situational lefty out of the pen. If that’s the path the Royals choose to pursue with Verdugo, he could be in Kansas City at the start of the season as the second lefty with Everett Teaford getting a shot at the rotation. A clever piece of business by GMDM to get the extra arm.

I know there’s always a need or desire to declare a winner in a trade, but this one feels fairly even to me. The Giants are getting someone who had a great year prior, but will almost certainly regress, while the Royals found a guy who struggled last year but has a enough upside that he’s worth a shot. Both players fill holes on their new team’s roster. I like that GMDM sold high on the Melk-Man and I like that he got a pitcher with potential. While Sanchez may be a long shot to improve, it’s worth it in that he’s around for just a single season at an affordable rate. I’d rather have him in my rotation than Jeff Francis. This move doesn’t make them appreciably better as the team still lacks the front line depth in the rotation that you need to play in October. Still, I suppose Verdugo tips the scales in the Royals favor. Anytime KC can grab an arm that is close to the majors, that’s a plus.

One final thought: If I’m a major league general manager, I keep Brian Sabean in the top three on my speed dial. For sure.

As usual, Dayton Moore strikes early in the off-season.   This morning, the Royals traded Melky Cabrera to San Fransico for starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and minor league pitcher Ryan Verdugo.

Sanchez, a lefty, will turn 29 on November 19th and is arbitration eligible for the last time this off-season.   He made $4.8 million last season, when he threw just 101.1 innings and spent two stints on the disabled list.  Here’s what to like about Sanchez:  he is hard to hit.   For his major league career Sanchez has allowed just 7.7 hits per 9 innings and struck out 9.4 batters per 9 innings.   Here’s what to dislike:  he walks a metric ton of batters (4.8/9 innings).

Hurt in 2011, outstanding in 2010, decent in 2009, not very good in  2008:  that’s a quick summary of his career as a regular major league starter.

Now, Verdugo is kind of intriguing.    He will turn 25 in April and has not been above AA yet.   After being outright dominant as a reliever in his first three professional season, Ryan was moved to the rotation for his AA debut in 2011 and gave up just 115 hits in 130 innings of work, striking out 133 and walking 63.   Frankly, he strikes me as something of a younger version of well….Jonathan Sanchez.

Okay, do you like it or not?

The Royals played three consecutive one run games this past weekend, losing two of them.   That has become a common theme for this particular team during 2011 as they have now played 49 games decided by one run:  only the Angels, among American League teams, have played in as many.   While there are several teams in the National League that have played as many or more one-run games than the Royals, the game over there is a little different.  So, we’ll limit our discussion to the junior circuit for now.

In playing the most one-run games as anyone in the league, the Royals have also LOST more of those games than anyone.   Currently, Kansas City holds a 21-28 record in such contests the next closest teams to below the .500 mark are Oakland (17-22) and, suprisingly, Texas (16-21).

The contenders, are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the one-run game.   Check out the records of those teams over .500:

  • Boston 17-12
  • New York 15-18
  • Tampa 22-16
  • Detroit 21-15
  • Cleveland 22-23
  • Texas 16-21
  • Los Angeles 25-24

It might be a stretch at this point to consider the Indians a contender, so if you kick them out of the group and decide the Angels are just an outlier, what starts to come to light is not that good teams win more one-run games, but instead that good teams don’t play as many one-run games.   That was not completely true in 2010, but was in 2009 and for the most part in 2008 as well (although the Angels, who won 100 games in 08 still played in an above average number of one-run contests).

I bring this topic up, not so much to make some grand statistical analysis (it is not), but to point out that when Dayton Moore and Ned Yost preach ‘pitching and defense’ it is important to realize nobody consistently contends winning 3-2 games.  The Royals should not be thinking they are a ‘right’ Joakim Soria and a Mike Moustakas 35 home run season away from going 40-19 in one-run games.   Instead, they should be aiming to play a whole lot 5-2 and 7-4 games and not find themselves spending mulitple weekends like this last one.

In a sense, Dayton Moore’s statement to the Kansas City Star that he would be willing to move prospects for a top of the rotation starter this off-season is a reflection that he might already know that no one gets rich playing a bunch of close games.    It is optimistic, but also logical to project this group of position players to be as good and probably better (as a unit) offensively in 2012.

If the organization believed that all they needed was for Soria to lock down games like he used to and score an extra couple of runs four times a week, then Moore might well be well down the road of building up the rotation from within and hoarding his remaining top prospects like a protective mother bear.   What I sense from Moore’s comments is that he intends to score more runs AND stop the other team from scoring as well.   After all, you don’t reverse a 21-28 one-run game record by scoring just one run, you do it by scoring one more run and holding your opponet from scoring one as well.

What the Royals should be hoping to do in 2012 is to hand 5-2 leads to their talented young bullpen instead of 3-2 leads.   If you have the bullpen in place, which the Royals do, and you have the offense to score, which the Royals hope they will have by 2012, then you bolster the starting rotation sooner rather than later.  You do that, if you’re Dayton Moore, because you don’t want to play 49 one-run games before the end of August.

That, and you would prefer that your team would be playing games that matter this time of year.

I was a little shocked when the Royals made so few moves prior to the trade deadline. With so many possible trading chips and a history of past deadline activity, it seemed likely that they would make a plethora of moves. Only two relatively minor moves actually happened, but although the traditional trade deadline has passed, trades can still be made through the waiver system. It’s not the simplest system in the world, so I figured I’d dig in and try to shed some light on how these trades work. It’s pretty likely that the Royals will make a waiver move, so this might come in handy.

The machinations of baseball rosters have a number of quirks and complicated processes. From Super-two to arbitration there are seems no end to the contractual and legal issues that surface in the national pastime. The one that we’ll focus on today is waivers. There are roughly four different kinds of waivers, but for this exercise we’ll be focusing on the trade waivers.

The trade waiver system comes into play after the traditional trading deadline at the end of July has passed. To initiate the process a team will place a player or a number of players “on waivers”. They notify the league office and then every team is notified. Placing a player on waivers is essentially saying “hey, here’s player X and he’s on waivers, who wants him?” Most teams will place a large number if not all of their players on waivers to guage interest and possibly as subterfuge.

Teams have roughly two days to say that they want a player on waivers by placing a claim on him. There is no limit to the number of teams which can place a claim. If no teams claim the player and he makes it through waivers, he can then be traded to any team subject to any no-trade clauses the player has in his contract.

If a player is claimed by only one team then there are a few things that can happen. The claiming team can pay $20,000 and receive the player and his contract in whole, or the player can be pulled off of waivers or “revoked” and the two teams can work out a trade for that player. The player can only be traded to that one team that claimed him and no other negotiations can be made. A player must waive his no-trade clause if he has one with that team.

If multiple teams make claims on the player then the team with the lowest winning percentage in the same league as the player gets priority and a trade can be made with only that club. So, for example if the Royals put Bruce Chen on waivers and every National League team and the Yankees made claims, then he can only be traded to the Yankees. To cross leagues every team in in a players league would have not make a claim.

These revokable waivers can only be used one time. If a team were to revoke a player and then place him on waivers again, he is then on irrevokable waivers and the team cannot pull him back. Players on the disabled list cannot be put through revokable waivers. Playes can be traded in September but cannot be placed on a post-season roster.

Sometimes teams in a pennant race will claim a player on waivers so that a team with a better record in their division cannot acquire that player in trade. However that maneuver can back-fire if the team doesn’t pull the player back. This supposedly happened last year when the Giants put a claim on Cody Ross to keep him from going to the Padres. The Marlins didn’t pull him back and the Giants paid the $20,000 fee and then were given Ross. In a case of double irony, Ross made some great plays in the postseason to help the Giants win the World Series.

I would imagine the Royals will put the vast majority if not all of their roster on the waiver wire and pull them back after a team makes a claim. There aren’t any giant contracts which the Royals would be happy to dump if there was a claim. Players like Bruce Chen, Jeff Francis, Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera and the entire bullpen are possible candidates for trade.


Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline came and went without Dayton Moore and the Royals making any additional moves as the organization instead played spectator to a rather frenzied trade market.   I don’t know if Moore deserves criticism, praise or neither for this.  

Moore did ship the forgotten Wilson Betemit to Detroit earlier in the month for two young non-prospects (but also two guys who you can kind of envision making it to the majors as well) and also spun the unwanted and unhappy Mike Aviles to Boston for a younger, happier version of himself (Yamaico Navarro) who can also play the outfield as well.    Given the status of both Betemit and Aviles at the time each trade was made, I applaud Moore’s return on both.

As Craig wrote after the Aviles trade one would have thought more activity was sure to follow.   After all, if Moore could spin a 30 year old player who had spent much of the year in Omaha to a division leader for a player who was actually on their major league roster, then surely there would be a market for veterans Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francouer, Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen.

As it turned out, apparently not.

It may well be that Moore’s initial asking price of a number three type starter for either Cabrera or Francouer was so outrageous that rival GM’s simply didn’t bother wasting anymore of their time thinking about it.    The sheer number of better players that were traded, however, may simply have overwhelmed the market and left the Royals’ in the starting gate.

After all, when Hunter Pence, Carlos Beltran and Colby Rasmus (Michael Bourn as well) all are out in the market, it is easy to lose interest in the likes of Cabrera and Francouer.   With Ubaldo Jimenez, Erik Bedard and Doug Fister on the move, teams that might have resorted to a Francis or a Chen simply had better, sexier options.

Given that Ryan Ludwick was traded to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later or cash (pretty much the ultimate ‘here, just take him’ trade) might give some indication of what the offers might have been for Jeff Francouer – a better player than Ludwick right now, but not that much better.

As you probably know, I am as big a prospect guy as there is and trading a veteran for a couple of lottery tickets so that Lorenzo Cain (.318/.391/.525 in Omaha, .306/.348/.415 in 158 major league plate appearances in 2010) could play in Kansas City has always been my hope.   However, if the compensation for a Francouer was a used lottery ticket and some spare change, then even I agree with Moore’s lack of action.

Several years back, I was genuinely livid when Moore, using the ‘we’re not going to trade for anything less than value’ mantra, refused to move Ron Mahay at the trade deadline, but this year I have no great angst over waking up in August with Melky, the Panamanian named Bruce, Francis and the Frenchman still on the roster.  

So, what now?

There was a little bit of a Twitter snippet that if Kyle Davies was placed on the disabled list, that Johnny Giavotella would be called up to Kansas City.  That would certainly get everyone’s attention and I am all for it.    Let’s see what Johnny’s AAA line of .341/.394/.485 translates into at the big league level and let’s find out if the kid can actually field or not.   Chris Getz, who went a rather remarkable seven weeks without an extra base hit before doubling on Saturday, really should not be an impediment to seeing what a red hot young player can do in a season that is not going to end in a playoff berth.

We will see what transpires with Davies and what the subsequent result might be.   Ned Yost was already rumbling about returning to a five man rotation before the injury, so something is likely to change.  I foresee a Davies move to the disabled list, accompanied by Kyle’s inevitable return from it about the time Danny Duffy runs out of innings towards the end of August.  If Davies’ biggest contribution of his Royals’ career is eating some meaningless innings to save the arm of a pitcher who is part of the team’s future, then so be it.

Whether a DL stint for Davies means Giavotella gets the call or not remains to be seen.   Dayton Moore and Ned Yost have never done much to make me think they are particularly creative, so adding an 8th bullpen arm (hello Everett Teaford once more) is just as likely a roster move.  That said, what Giavotella is doing at the plate in AAA  is bordering on the ridiculous:  he will be here sooner rather than later.

Side note:  If Moore’s logic is to keep the bulk of the Omaha team together for a AAA playoff run.   So they can ‘learn to win together’, I am going to have some sort of coniption…maybe even a hissy fit.    I will buy that logic when someone, without looking it up, tells me the last three PCL champions and shows me how that benefitted their big league club.

So, what happens to Lorenzo Cain?   Given that he already has major league at-bats under his belt, Cain may the most major league ready of anyone who spent time in Omaha this year.   Unlike Giavotella, Lorenzo also brings plus defense to the outfield, but it is hard to figure where he fits in right now.   I don’t like the idea of bringing Cain up to play a couple of times per week and we all know that neither Cabrera or Francouer is going to sit as long as they are on the roster.

Perhaps the fact that Cain has already had a taste of major league pitching in a weird way makes the need to get him back to the majors less pressing.  Theoretically, Cain could hit the ground running as the regular centerfielder on Opening Day 2012 without getting more than a courtesy look this September.   The idea being that Cain has already gone through that first 100 at-bat ‘adjustment period’ that bedevils many a good prospect upon their debut in the majors.

In my heart, I think Dayton Moore missed a chance to be really creative at the deadline and possibly move The Process ahead at least a good half-season.   Should the Royals have shouldered the monetary load that is Wandy Rodriguez?   Should they dipped their toe into the Ubaldo Jiminez pool?  If key trade componets were Mike Montgomery and Aaron Crow, would you have made the leap?   Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush?    Truthfully, how did the Charlie Furbush for Doug Fister trade get made without Nathan Adcock being included?

Okay, back to reality.

Since Ned Yost’s closed door meeting, the Royals have played good baseball, winning baseball actually.   Enough so, that they remain interesting.   Add Johnny Giavotella to the lineup tomorrow night and this Royals’ fan will remain interested and also remain convinced that the Royals are moving forward despite the lack of activity on Sunday.

Some of you have no interest in trade rumors and just plain random speculation and it can get pretty overwhelming this time of year.   Between tweets and posts from reporters with some inside knowledge to those who simply speculate to just random comments  on various sites that suddenly come back around as legitimate rumors – assuming a rumor can ever be categorized as ‘legitimate’ – the whole July trade deadline can simply wear a person out.

That said, if you are one who disdains speculation or are just plain grumpy about the trade deadline and all that comes with it, then this is not the column for you.  

The Royals appear to be leaning towards not doing much at the deadline.   Dayton Moore, thus far anyway, has stuck to his guns about wanting near major league ready starting pitching in return for either Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francouer.    It is not a horrible idea as Cabrera has been outstanding and Francouer okay:  maybe somebody will panic and overpay.   While I would like to see what Lorenzo Cain can do as much as anyone, an outfield of Gordon-Cabrera-Francouer has proven quite capable this season.

The consensus I am getting from within the organization as well as outside of it is that ‘staying the course’ and ‘trusting The Process’ is still the plan.  Dayton Moore has publicly stated that expects to field a contending team made up of mostly homegrown players over the next few seasons.  If it all works as planned, then staying the course is exactly the way to go.   IF….

What about an alternative plan of action?  This might be labeled as bold, risky or just plain stupid and let me state that everything from here on out is mostly just pure speculation from the tortured caverns of this blogger’s mind.

Trade for Wandy Rodriguez

I have beat these horse a couple of times already and the idea was not even mine to begin with (I stole it from Rany and I’m not even sure he was the first to offer it up), but the truth is Rodriguez is better than any starter the Royals are sending to the mound right now and he will be better than anyone they send out in 2012 as well.  In the wildest expectations for Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi, Wandy would still be in the middle of a good Kansas City rotation in 2013.

The Astros want out from under the $26 million they owe Rodriguez and that number becomes $39 million if he is traded as a $13 million option for 2014 kicks in on any trade.  Now, in 2014, Wandy will be 36 years old and there exists a real probability that he will not be worth $13 million.    That season would also be the first where the Royals would really start to run into some serious salary concerns, so there is risk in making this move as it could end up hamstringing the organization from adding a piece or two to put them over the top.

That said, the price is reportedly low on Rodriguez for a team willing to take up the salary load and the Royals are pretty much not paying anyone anything this year and truthfully won’t have a big payroll in 2012 or 2013, either.  In addition, tell me the free agent starter that the Royals can get in the off-season that would be better than Wandy Rodriguez.

If the price tag was, say, David Lough and Chris Dwyer, I would make the trade.   If the Royals had to throw in one of the thirty or so live bullpen arm they have in the minors (Buddy Baumann or the like), I probably still make the deal.    Reading the rumors, I am not sure it would take this much to get Rodriguez.

One other cavaet, Rodriguez actually has a negative road split over his career – odd given that Houston is something of a launching pad.  Add that to your risk assessment.

Trade Joakim Soria

I don’t trust closers.   We have all seen them suddenly come apart and never get it back.   There was a time early this year where many thought that Soria was headed down the path of Mark Davis and so many others, but he has righted the ship and pitched like Joakim Soria as of late.   That said, I don’t trust closers.

Dayton Moore’s asking price for Soria was supposedly one major league starter and one near major league starter.   The Yankees, it was assumed, were asked to give up Ivan Nova and one of Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos and balked.   I don’t blame them.   That said, Mariano Rivera will at some point in our lifetime stop pitching..or at least stop pitching effectively.   

What if the Royals lowered their asking price just a touch?  Say Ivan Nova and D.J. Mitchell instead?   Given that Greg Holland looks like a real life closer of the future to me and Aaron Crow might well be a closer right now and, by the way, the Royals can spend the rest of 2011 grooming one of them to be a closer and still rest comfortably in the AL Central, I make that deal.

Now, we could continue on with other trades.   I would try to move Jeff Francouer and Jeff Francis, maybe Mike Aviles (if he had value) or Chris Getz (if HE had value) or other ‘non-future’ parts of this team, but those are not necessarily BOLD moves.  

Ignoring the trades that might actually happen, would you trade Soria and trade for Rodriguez?

It feels like we’re on the edge of some excitement… The calm before the storm that is the trade deadline.

Although I’m not so certain there’s going to be much action where the Royals are involved.

It seems to me the team has four trade candidates.

Jeff Francoeur

The Frenchman is playing at his expected level of .264/310/.448, but with sterling defense in right field. Several teams are looking for a right-handed bat, so you would expect some level of interest.

However, we can’t discount GMDM’s past relationship here. And the fact there is a mutual option believed to be in the neighborhood of $4 million.

I think Frenchy not only hangs with the team for the full year, I think both parties are interested in being together in 2012. As fun as it is to watch Braves fans freak out about the possibility of a Francoeur return, they need to take a deep breath and relax. He’s going to be a Royal for the next 18 months.

Melky Cabrera

Under normal circumstances (i.e. a barren organization from top to bottom) the rebirth of the Melk Man would have Royals fans dancing in the aisles at the K. A line of .294/.331/.456 with a 1.9 rWAR is pretty solid from a player we didn’t expect that much from in 2011.

But here we are… Melky is doing fine and based on the service time rules, the Royals control him for the 2012 season. Cabrera will be a third year arbitration eligible player this winter.

Again, this would be fine… Except Lorenzo Cain is languishing in Omaha where he’s tearing up Triple-A.

Given the contract situation, Cabrera should attract serious interest from a contender looking to patch a long-term hole. (Long term meaning through next season.) Again, I think GMDM holds steady. Cain has already spent his entire summer in Omaha, another month won’t kill him. He can come up in September and we can watch as Ned Yost tries to juggle a four man outfield… Meaning Cain will get fewer plate appearances that that one guy… I forget his name because we never see him… Mitch Something. I think.

Bruce Chen

I hear all this talk about Chen being the Royals “ace” or “stopper.” He’s not. That’s Felipe Paulino. But I digress…

With a 3.30 ERA, Chen is having a nice enough season, although his 4.44 xFIP is on the high side. He would be a decent candidate for a contender looking for a left-handed arm in the back of the rotation.

The problem here, as Ozzie Guillen so eloquently reminded us the other day, is that he’s “Bruce F’n Chen.” Although he’s pitched well enough the last two seasons, there aren’t many who believe in him. He tried to get a two year deal last winter and found no takers. Given that he returned to KC for a one year deal at $2 million, I doubt there were many interested for even a single season. Again, while he’s pitched OK (when healthy) he hasn’t done anything to change perception.

Jeff Francis

While Chen gets discounted, we hear stronger interest exists in Francis. Why? Neither one are that great, but if I was choosing between lefties, I’d go with Chen first.

Francis has a 4.62 ERA, but a 4.01 xFIP… Slightly better than Chen. Neither one strikes anyone out, and Francis owns the better control. Hell, I don’t know. Maybe this is a toss up.

He’s proved he’s fully recovered from the shoulder surgery that caused him to miss all of the ’09 season.

So those are the top four trade candidates. Who goes? Who stays?

I would bet at least one pitcher gets moved prior to the deadline, in return for another pitcher. That will allow the Royals to revert to a five man rotation. (Yeah! More Davies!) But like the Betemit deal, we need to temper our expectations. None of these guys are going to return a frontline or even a grade B prospect.

Whatever happens, next week won’t be boring, that’s for certain.