We talk about The Process – hell, we joke a lot about The Process – but today let’s talk about The Plan.

We don’t really know what Dayton Moore and the Royals have planned for the Winter Meetings, but we can make some pretty educated guesses.  One good guess would be that The Plan is to do nothing at all and just sit back and watch the Marlins sign everyone.   As I wrote several weeks back, that particular plan has some appeal to this writer.   There seems to be too much rumbling to make me think this is actual what will happen, however.

The other end of the spectrum would be The Big Splash.  This would be an out of nowhere signing of C.J. Wilson or a blockbuster trade of prospects for Gio Gonzalez or James Shields or ‘insert your favorite not-very-plausible-but-yet-kind-of-not-impossible pitching target here’.    Almost every discussion would begin with an opposing GM saying the name Wil Myers, quickly followed by Dayton Moore hanging up, so I doubt that we will see something of that nature this week.

That leaves us with something in the middle. 

While it might not all come together this week in Dallas (in fact, it won’t), I think The Plan includes procuring a veteran middle infielder, probably a back-up catcher and one additional starting pitcher. 

All things being equal, I would personally not be concerned with the veteran utility player and prefer to go in-house to fill this position or, at the least, one of the non-roster players about to be or already invited to spring training.   Of all the people who are optimistic about the Royals’ chances in 2012, however, Dayton Moore has to be near the top of the optimism wave and hence I think he wants a veteran bat with some defensive skills to spell Giavotella and, to a lessor extent, Escobar and Moustakas. 

Now, from a payroll point of view, the Royals have money to burn this year and next.   After that, you start to get into Hosmer’s arbitration years, Gordon’s free agency and, frankly, pretty much everyone on the roster starts to cost real baseball money.  Unless you think David Glass is putting money that was budgeted for payroll but not used into some sort of money market account for future payrolls (I don’t think he is) then there is not a huge harm in Moore getting his veteran bench guy for two or three million this year.

The risk with Moore is that it won’t be Jamey Carroll (just throwing out a name there – please, God, NOT Jamey Carroll!) for one year/three million, but instead will be for two years/9 million and an option year.  That, coupled with Ned Yost’s affinity for grit, could suddenly put the Royals into the ‘Bloomquist scenario’ where a long time veteran bench player sets career marks for plate appearances and we find ourselves halfway through 2013 and still don’t know if Johnny Giavotella can play or Mike Moustakas can hit tough left-handers.

Anyway….

So, Dayton Moore goes after his veteran utility player, whomever that might be.  The second part of The Plan is likely to kick the tires on some type of veteran backup catcher.   They are out there, lots of them – particularly if you don’t much care about offense – and the Royals will have to decide if they want this year’s Matt Treanor to back-up Sal Perez or are content to go with the defensively limited Brayan Pena or the offensively inept Manny Pina.

Again, a veteran guy to help mentor Perez is not a bad idea at one year and a million bucks.  Heck, it might even be cheaper than that:  backup catchers will call pitches for food come mid-March.   I believe the club is fully behind Perez as a guy, but a young kid playing catcher probably should not be asked to catch 145 games in his rookie season.  If one million dollars gets you a good defender and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, a good clubhouse guy who can catch 42 games in 2012 before riding off into the sunset, then Dayton Moore should go get him.

Now, the water keeps deep from here.  Dayton Moore could botch both of the above acquisitions and probably not cost the Royals more than ten million dollars and some aggravation over the next two years, but should he make a misstep with regard to the starting rotation, he could really tangle up the overall development of this club.  

My gut tells me that Moore has made his ‘big moves’ such that they were in trading for Jonathan Sanchez and signing Bruce Chen and Jonathan Broxton.   He has been fairly public about wanting to add another arm to the rotation competition, but I doubt it will be someone that is assured of a roster spot.  Somebody along the lines of a Chris Volstad comes to mind in this scenario.

Of course, I expect Moore to check in on the Wandy Rodriguez situation (it would take a real fire sale, but it is possible) and he would not be doing his job if he didn’t explore, however casually, trading for the tier of starter just below Shields-Gonzalez-Garza.   There is talk – okay, rumored speculation – that the Angels might be looking to clear some payroll space by dangling Ervin Santana.  I would not hate that deal if the price was right.    Would you trade Christian Colon and Tim Melville or Jason Adam?   Not sure that gets a deal done, but it is a starting point.

The final piece of The Plan is the Rule 5 draft on Thursday.  I am not sure the Royals make a pick this year.   They are a young team across the board with absolute boatloads of young pitchers.    Whether you believe the Royals will be contenders in 2012 or not, this roster does not really have room to carry a player or pitcher you don’t really want to play very much.   

All the national guys believe this is going to be one of the most active Winter Meetings in recent history.   They are probably right, but your Kansas City Royals might not get much press this week and that’s not a bad thing at all.

xxx