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The story broke late Thursday from Yahoo s Tim Brown that the Royals signed Rick Ankiel to a one-year deal valued at $3.25 million.http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2594/3790240811_0cbf136160_m.jpg

Ankiel? Really?

My first thought, where does he fit given that Dayton has already splashed the cash on Brian Anderson and Scott Podsednik? Of course, this has always been Dayton s off season M.O.: An accumulation of talent at one position with no rhyme or reason. This just fits everything he s done in the past.

Then there s always the possibility Dayton signed Ankiel to pitch. How sad is it that I say this as a joke, but wouldn t be surprised if it somehow came up that Bob McClure thinks he can fix a flaw in his delievery.

My second thought: There has to be another move forthcoming. Podsednik didn t come here to pinch run. David DeJesus is a fixture. Jose Guillen still harbors the illusion he can play the outfield. And don t forget about Anderson. And Josh Fields who somehow figures into this mix. Oh, Alberto Callaspo is here if we re talking about designated hitter types.

(Doesn t that previous paragraph neatly summarize the last 20 years of Royals baseball? Plenty of players competing for spots creates the illusion there s quality or the potential for a breakout. Look at those names again. Role players, fourth outfielders and an oft-injured malcontent. Only DeJesus is any kind of quality. More on him in a moment. Callaspo is too, but he s on the periphery here since he s not an outfielder and he would clearly be the number one choice to be the DH if the Royals are serious about using him there.)

At $3.25 million, that s a lot of jack, so we can safely assume Ankiel plays every day.

Is Guillen on his way out? Greg Schaum tweeted that Guillen isn t healthy. That runs counter to Dayton Moore s statement last week that Guillen is in good shape. (Did anyone see Guillen at FanFest? Was he there?) The Royals could just decide to part ways and give him his unconditional release. At this point, that s the only way to unload him.

Or maybe the Royals are close to trading DeJesus? At $4.6 million this year and a club option for $6 million in 2011, he s extremely affordable given his production. The flip side is that makes him the Royals best trading chip (not named Greinke.) I realize he s not a star, but I m a huge DeJesus fan. He s a steady, quality player. Besides, dealing DeJesus goes against Moore s stated off season goal of improving the defense. If you re looking to do that, do you trade your best defender?

Or maybe the Royals are close to shifting Callaspo. That would solve the defense issue and clear the way for newcomer Chris Getz. But Callaspo is still under club control for one more year. Remember Moore talking about all those 0-3 year guys the Royals need to be stockpiling?

So if the Royals are going to make a move to clear room for Ankiel, the release of Guillen makes the most sense. The Royals are in a better position than anyone to assess his health and fitness heading into the year. If he s fat and out of shape (again) then it s time to just let him go. Normally, I scoff at those who justify a deal by saying, “This has to be the first of a two-part move.” But this time, I really believe that this has to be the case.

Now we have to ask the question, does Ankiel improve the Royals? I think he does. Not by much, but he does. The consensus projection for Ankiel seems to be .250/.310/.445 with 18 home runs and average defense. That beats the offensive production the Royals got out of center field or right field last year. And it’s far better than they got out of their DH. Don’t forget the tricky thing about comparing projections to past performance. But even though the Royals have added plenty of outfielders, to this point they haven’t gotten anyone appreciably better than what they had last year. They finally found one in Ankiel.

I d prefer Ankiel to Podsednik. I d prefer Mitch Maier to Podsednik. That s where my frustration comes from. Why the hell would you sign Podsednik if you are going to go after Ankiel. I understand they re different players, but you re throwing more logs into a logjam. Identify a player you like – a player you think will improve the team – and go for it. I don t understand this method of stockpiling mediocrity. This does nothing to allay my fears that Moore can’t assemble a 25 man roster.

(And of course this blows my theory I floated yesterday that the Royals were done. They were supposed to be between $66 and $67 million in total payroll. With this contract, they’ll be close to $70 million.)

So in this group Ankiel is probably the second best outfielder to DeJesus. It s not great. It s not ideal. But it s better than what we had yesterday.