Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Dayton Moore

As you may or may not have heard, I’ve been selected as one of eight participants in what the Royals are describing as Digital Digest.  According to the people I’ve spoken with from the Royals, we’ll be given a behind the scenes look at the upcoming Royals FanFest and an opportunity to interview Dayton Moore, Ned Yost, Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur and possibly others.

A week ago, Craig posted a very thought provoking post on the subject regarding media, bloggers and access.  For the most part, I agree with him, however I think that our purpose here is to provide you with a different take than you’ll get from other media outlets.  Part of that comes from the fact that we are constantly writing about the Royals, all year long.  We don’t take a break to write about the Chiefs or whatever else is going on.  During the offseason: Royals.  When the team is hovering near .500: Royals.  Late summer and the team is 24 games out of first: Royals.  However, when the team is offering the opportunity to ask questions of the General Manager that aren’t normally asked by the mainstream meadia, I’m taking that.  I’m doing it because it’ll will be pretty cool, and because I believe there is a desire for people to have different questions asked.

I’m already a little impressed with the way the Royals are handling the Digital Digest.  It came with the words “you can ask whatever you want”.  Which is what the nice woman who called me from the Royals said after she told me who I was going to be interviewing.  It’s been echoing around my brain now for the past week.  Now that I can ask whatever I want of Dayton Moore, what exactly is it that I want to ask?  It’s one of the reasons I’ve reached out to readers via Twitter and Facebook and now here at Royals Authority.  I want to make sure that I’ve gathered the entirety of the unanswered questions so that I can parse them into a few, hopefully thought provoking questions.  I clearly already have a lot of thoughts of my own, but I want to make sure I’m not glossing over anything.  So go ahead and post your thoughts in the comments. My goal when interviewing the General Manager and players will be to ask questions that don’t get asked in typical interviews and to attempt to elicit different responses than you hear typically.

Beyond the interviews, I’ll be getting a behind-the-scenes look at FanFest.  I’m actually pretty excited about that part as well, because I really like going to FanFest.  Ever since the Royals have started to do it, it’s been one of my off-season highlights.  I’m not completely sure why, either.  I’m not a big autograph guy, so I don’t get in line for those.  I think it’s just being in a place that’s completely dedicated to Royal fandom in all of it’s different incarnations.  I’ll be there on Thursday for sure and probably there at some points on both Friday and Saturday.  I’d like to meet some readers and podcast listeners as well.  At this point, I’m not sure if there will be some meetup or anything, so stay tuned to my Twitter, Facebook and this site for any potential details.

FanFest Dates and Times:

Map of Event

Thursday (season ticket holders only) – 5 p.m. ton 9 p.m.
Friday – 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Love it or hate it, the Greinke trade seems to have generated one common feeling throughout the land of Royals’ blogs:   this, at last, really is The Process.  

For better or worse, after somehow getting older at the major league level over the past few years and getting worse at the same time, the trade of Zack Greinke really, really feels like the beginning.   I should clarify in that The Process has been underway for some time and that is evidenced by the glowing reviews of what is generally perceived as the best farm system in baseball.   However, The Process has not been in evidence at the major league level in any truly perceptible permutations until last week.

While there are learned Royals’ fans who, for very logical reason, are skeptical of the return on the Greinke move, but they are also intrigued to see what happens the next couple of years.   The Process is either working or leading all of us down another dark hallway, but it is now, truly underway.   That’s got to be worth something.

If The Process is in full effect at all levels now, it certainly is an inexpensive little mechanism.   The Royals are likely to have a payroll south of $50 million and be pretty awful.   In 2012, however, they are still likely to have a payroll under or around $50 million and be considerably better.   In theory that means that come 2013 when you might be looking at signing some of the young players to long term deals and maybe add an actual impact veteran free agent (‘actual’ being something different than any free agent signee of the Moore era not named Meche) they should have a stash of cash with which to do so.

However, I have some vague recollection of either David Glass or Dayton Moore mentioning something along the lines that the Royals look at payroll/budget issues on a ‘year to year basis’.   I was unable to find that actual quote, but it is a shame if my memory is right on this topic.  

You cannot have ‘a process’ without a budgetary plan that spans four or five years instead of just one.   It is foolhardy, in fact.   Hopefully, David Glass (who by the way is not an idiot when it comes to money) has told Dayton Moore that he has $400 million to spend on payroll over the next six years or something along those lines.   I just picked those numbers out of the air, but what should be the timeframe and the total dollars amount?

Anyway, the point of all this is that the Royals are going to make some money this year and probably a good deal of money in 2012 and even 2013 if this all works out.   A young roster is a cheap roster and if your young players are as good as we all think/hope/pray they are, then the revenues will be up in the coming years.   If Dayton Moore has ‘The Process’, than Mr. Glass better have ‘A Plan’ when it comes to banking some profit to have some ammunition when it comes time to go the table with Scott Boras.

Okay, now a little fun (or agony for those of you who hate lineup projections).   How will the Royals’ lineup mutate through 2011?

If Opening Day brings us this:

Pena C, Ka’iahue DH, Butler 1B, Getz 2B, Escobar SS, Aviles 3B, Gordon LF, Cabrera CF, Francoeur RF; with a rotation of Hochevar, Mazzaro, Davies, O’Sullivan and somebody.     Then how many of those fourteen guys will be in the everyday lineup on June 1st?  August 1st? September 15th?

Well, you know Jason Kendall will be back at catcher and pretty much can count on Mike Moustakas at third base come June and Lorenzo Cain in the outfield no later than August, so there’s three.   By mid-September is it conceivable that as many as six position players will be different and three starting pitchers?   Is it likely that of those NINE changes, at least eight will be dramatic upgrades?  

2011 might suck record wise.  In fact, it WILL suck record wise, but I think it will be the most interesting season since maybe as far back as 2003.   I know, I know:  it’s just another year of ‘wait until next year’, but it feels different.   Let’s hope it actually turns out to really be different.

Just ahead of the Winter Meetings, I wrote that I believed Zack Greinke was on his way out of town by December 16.  The logic behind that date was it was a full week following the meetings and once Cliff Lee signed his deal (at those meetings I thought) it would take Dayton Moore less than one week to size up the potential trade partners and pull the trigger.

So, I was wrong on the date, but only by a handful of days.  However, I’m now a little uncertain that Greinke is going to be dealt this month.

The reason for that is the Philadelphia Phillies.

The last minute “mystery team” the Phillies can only be described as the surprise winner in the Lee Sweepstakes.  If you’re like me and believe that Greinke will be traded this off season, the Phillies winning bid can only be described as good news for the Royals.  That’s because it keeps the two most likely trade partners – the Rangers and the Yankees – very much in the game.

(I know there’s been much discussion about how Greinke would do in New York.  The discussion has evolved something like this:

The Yankees are interested in Greinke. Greinke would waive his no-trade clause. The Yankees don’t believe Grienke could handle New York. Of course Greinke could handle New York.

It’s been kind of a bizarro on again/off again trade rumor.  Yesterday in the aftermath of the Lee signing, there was a flurry of activity on Twitter that Greinke would do just fine pitching for the Yankees and wouldn’t have any of those old issues.  Can I split the difference?  I think he would do fine, but I don’t think he would necessarily enjoy the experience.)

Now GMDM has a decision to make.  He has to weigh some offers – and much like a player’s agent during the free agent process – he will have to play the angles to get the best deal possible for his star pitcher.  A few weeks ago when I made my prediction on Greinke’s departure, it was with the thought either the Yankees or Rangers would win the Lee Sweepstakes, effectively eliminating that team from the market for Greinke.  Now both those teams are still in the mix.  Add the resurgent Blue Jays and the crazy uncle Washington Nationals (what are they doing?) and you have four potential trade partners.  All four have the pieces to make this deal.  It will come down to who jumps the furthest.

And let’s not discount the beloved mystery team.  Think back to the courtship of Lee and how it was all about the Rangers and the Yankees.  And Yankees and Rangers.  Hell, six months ago it was preordained that the Yankees would land Lee.  The Rangers were in the mix only because they traded for him and had new ownership with extremely deep pockets.  (A sweetheart TV deal certainly helps.)  While the Phillies were one of Lee’s former employers, their payroll and rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels meant they weren’t really on most people’s radar.  And look what happened.

Maybe when we’re handicapping the Greinke trade, we should look at the known suitors and just add one.  If that’s truly the case, GMDM currently has five potential trade partners for his ace.

You couldn’t come up with a better scenario.

With so many teams interested in the services of the Royals ace, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of GMDM to net a huge return.  With the minor league system set to start churning out some quality for the first time in years, the Greinke deal won’t make or break the franchise.  But it could certainly help or hinder The Process.  Make the right deal and the Royals strong minor league depth just got stronger and deeper.  And it buys GMDM even more time and more goodwill among the fans.  (Obviously the initial reaction to any Greinke deal from the general fanbase will be harsh.  I know.  I’ve visited the Royals Facebook page.) Make the wrong deal and…  I don’t even want to think about that.

If you don’t like trade rumors, this may be the time to hibernate.  For the Royals, the heat just got kicked up a notch on the hot stove.

From 2008 through 2010, these are the worst players ranked by OPS+ who have accumulated at least 1,500 plate appearances:

Pedro Feliz – 72
Jason Kendall – 72
Yunisky Betancourt – 80
Melky Cabrera – 82
Ryan Theriot – 82
Jeff Francoeur – 83

Dayton Moore has done it again.  (He may not be finished.  Feliz bats right-handed and is a free agent.  He will probably have to outbid Jack Z in Seattle.)  Somehow he has added players to replace areas where the Royals were getting below average offensive production (I’m talking the overall outfield here) and made the team worse.

Sure, Francoeur is just 27. He’s in his prime, right?  Well, sometimes players just aren’t good.  Over his last five seasons, he’s hit .265/.307/.414, averaged 31 walks and 17 home runs.  And even those numbers are misleading… His home run average is elevated by a career high 29 in 2006.  He hasn’t topped 20 home runs since.  Maybe part of that is his outright lack of plate discipline.  Only Francoeur and Vladi Guerrero swung at more than 60% of pitches they saw last year.

Bottom line… He’s just not a good ballplayer.  And with over 3,000 plate appearances since 2006, we know exactly where his true talent level lives.  He may be in his prime, but he’s not going to improve.  He’s reached his ceiling.

Cabrera is equally disappointing.  Over the last four seasons, he’s hit just .264/.321/.377, averaging eight home runs and 39 walks a season.  He’s going to be 26 next year, but his career has been in neutral since 2007.  (Of course, this deal isn’t final at the time of my writing.  Still… I have faith in GMDM.)  Last year, his defense was abysmal and his plate discipline was non existent.  He doesn’t get on base, he lacks power and his speed isn’t all that great.  Why would anyone sign him unless he was a final option?

Dayton Moore just signed a pair of out machines.  Both players received the change of scenery, and both failed.  Again.  There’s no reason to think they will thrive or even be average in Kansas City.

Obviously, I don’t like these signings.  I also don’t like some of the justification I’ve seen from some people trying to explain these moves.  A couple of these need to be debunked…

In the grand scheme of things, these moves just don’t matter.

Normally, I would agree with that, but this is a lineup Dayton Moore has acquired for the “grand scheme” either through free agency or trade:

RF – Jose Guillen
1B – Mike Jacobs
DH – Miguel Olivo
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
C – Jason Kendall
CF – Ryan Freel
3B – Willie Bloomquist
2B – Tony Pena, Jr.

The “grand scheme” does nothing but illuminate how inept GMDM is at acquiring the services of major league talent.  Am I the only one this troubles?  Surely not.  This scares the hell out of me.  The general manager has been so tone deaf as to how to assemble a major league team since day one.  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t mattered because the Royals haven’t been close to third place during this time.  But what happens when the Royals are poised to contend?  We know that successful teams are a blend of home grown players, savvy trades and solid free agent signings to plug a hole or two.  So far, Dayton’s trades haven’t been especially savvy and his free agent signings haven’t plug holes on the roster… They’ve created massive sinkholes.

This is a “lost year” anyway, so what does it matter that the Royals fill their roster with below average players?

To me, this falls to personal preference.  Do you want to watch Mitch Maier do his impersonation of vanilla, or do you want to watch Jeff Francoeur make outs?  My issue here is GMDM has acquired so many boring (and predictable) players over the last couple of years, this is just more of the same.  I’m a fan, first and foremost. I enjoy watching some players more than others… Guys who will take a strike when a pitcher is struggling to locate.  Fielders who glide to the ball.  Heads up base runners.  I love the statistical side of the game, but when I watch the game, I want to see something that entertains and excites me.

The ilk of the Yunigma, Olivo, Kendall and now Francoeur and Melky do neither.

The Royals just parted ways with a player like that… David DeJesus

Frankly, this makes the l’affaire DeJesus look much, much worse.  DeJesus was due $6 million for next season.  Now the Royals have apparently committed close to $4 million for two players who combined won’t provide the production the team would have received from DeJesus.

Fine.  DeJesus wasn’t part of the long-term plan.  He wasn’t going to be around when Project 2012 takes flight.  Here’s the thing… Neither are Francoeur and Cabrera.  These guys aren’t part of any future in Kansas City.

There’s a net savings of $2 million.  And for what?  Wouldn’t it have been preferable to hang on to DeJesus until the trade deadline?  Sure, he got injured last year, squelching any deal GMDM had in the works, but them’s the breaks.  It happens.  Sometimes luck isn’t on your side.  Would the same thing have happened in 2011?  Who knows.  The other option would have been to play out the year with DeJesus, offer him arbitration and collect the draft picks.  He was on the border between Type A and Type B, so with a solid season he would have moved to the positive side.  Would that have been worth the gamble?  I think so.

If there’s one thing GMDM and his scouts have shown they can do, it’s draft.  I’d take the trade of picks over the bounty of Vin Mazarro and Justin Marks.

(Besides, how bad does this trade look right now?  I just feels like GMDM sold low, especially when making the deal prior to the Werth and Crawford signings.  Not that DeJesus is on par with those two… He’s not.  It’s just that the bar creeps higher all the time.  Perhaps by delaying until after some of the top free agents signed, Moore could have upped his return.  Obviously, it’s all speculation… But I can’t help but think that Moore’s continual desire to move at breakneck speed to open the off season has hurt the team.  Again.)

Maybe these guys can be flipped for prospects at the trade deadline.

Of course the best case scenario has Dayton Moore flipping Francoeur and Cabrera at the deadline for a couple of prospects, in the same vein as the Podsednik and Ankiel deals.  Nobody in their right mind (except maybe GMDM) wants the Scare Pair around for an entire season.  That ignores a pair of salient facts.  First, Podsednik, for all his flaws, actually brought some value offensively to the team.  Ankiel wouldn’t have returned a bucket of batting practice balls if it weren’t for Farnsworth, who was packaged with him in the deal.

If Frenchy and Melky perform up to expectations, there won’t be suitors lining up at the deadline.

And finally Dayton Moore has turned his roster math into advance calculus.

You want a low-OBP outfielder, who bats from the right side with no pop, fine.  Get one.  But two?  Why?  Where do they both fit?  Are we going to platoon (give up on) Alex Gordon?  Is Gregor Blanco on the outs?  Mitch Maier doesn’t excite anyone, but he would probably provide more value than either of the new guys at a fraction of the cost.

The Francoeur to Kansas City move was preordained from the day Dayton took the reigns of the franchise.  Then Melky?  Jeez, pick one and go forward.

This is like Dayton’s recent utility infielder waiver claimpalooza where he picked up Joaquin Arias (who incidentally, was traded for Francoeur at the trade deadline last summer) and Lance Zawadzki.  One… It’s not ideal, but fine.  Two?  Overkill.

Or how about last winter when Dayton signed Ankiel, Podsednik and Brian Anderson to contracts.  Again, this made no sense.

The verdict

There just isn’t any reason to think that Dayton Moore can assemble what could be considered a complete 25-man roster.  Any hope we had of that evaporated a couple of years ago.  By signing Francoeur and Cabrera, it just underscores our lost hope.  A reminder of sorts.

Meanwhile, the minor league system is flush with talent.  We had better hope that a high percentage of that talent hits, and hits big.  Because if the Royals are in a position where they have to surround one or two studs with complimentary players, we know how that’s going to go.  Think Greinke.

The Process is multifaceted.  There’s The Process at the minor league and player development level.  And there’s The Process in the major leagues.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Two days into the Winter Meetings and it feels to be unfolding pretty much as we expected… Let’s break these down.

A few Zack Greinke rumors – but nothing of substance.

The Rangers remain the front runner for the Royals ace, but the Blue Jays have emerged as a potential dark horse.  Both teams have the prospects and the payroll flexibility to add Greinke, it’s just a matter of bending enough to the Royals demands.  Which are obviously (and deservedly) huge.  Personally, I’m intrigued by what the Blue Jays have to offer in Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider.  So, too, are the Royals.

The big market teams (in other words, the Yankees) seem to have cooled – or where they ever truly interested?  More and more it sounds like the whole “Greinke would waive his no-trade clause for the Yankees” scenario was someone from the Grienke camp just trying to widen the playing field.  Or it could have been someone from the Royals, trying to drive up the market demand.  Hmmm… It’s all so devious.  And awesome.

From the “out of left field category,” apparently the Nationals have kicked the tires.  When not blowing the markets for outfielders or for aging starting catchers way out of proportion, it appears they like to dabble in just some bizarre discussions.  Not unlike their desire for Cliff Lee.  At this point, they just seem like that only active team in that lame fantasy league… They covet everyone and will attach their name to just about every rumor floating out there.  I wish I had an “ignore” button.

Meanwhile I’ve seen comments here and on Twitter about how it would be crazy for the Royals to deal Greinke.  I still disagree.  Always have, always will.  The only way the Royals can’t afford to deal their star pitcher this winter is if they can get together and find out a way to hash out another contract extension.  With a hometown discount.  Obviously, that’s what I’d prefer, but it seems like a longshot.  Still, the guy is a stud and I’d love nothing more than to have him in Royal blue for the prime years of his career.  Which would hopefully coincide with the pending onslaught of young talent and the raising of multiple pennants on the outfield flagpoles.  However, the thought of returning two or three quality prospects for one ace would be almost too good to pass up.  It should be too good.  As Dutton reports, the Royals are looking for an Adrian Gonzalez like return.  And Gonzalez was on the market last winter, but wasn’t traded as the Padres held firm in their asking price.  An MVP calibre season later, and San Diego did quite well.

The latest has the Royals holding firm to their asking price and the vultures potential trade partners are waiting for the price to drop.  Not. Going. To. Happen. Then came word that teams were slowly increasing their bids.  And the Dodgers have entered the mix.  The good news is, the price can only increase this winter.  Especially if GMDM can wait until after the Lee deal gets done.  And the price will elevate especially if Lee scores the rumored seven years.

Probably the best thing for the Royals is if some mystery team nabs Lee and the original Greinke suitors scramble and panic.  That would be a very good thing.  Another interesting potential development is the Royals could be willing to send Greinke to a team within the division.  Again, this is good to hear as it opens the potential market up by four more teams.  (More like three teams as Cleveland won’t be involved.  You can’t have Lebron and you can’t have Greinke.) More competition for the ace, the better the offers will be for the Royals.  Of course, the worst case scenario is Greinke goes to a division rival, signs an extension and torments the Royals during what should be the Great Awakening of 2014.  I’ll worry about that when it happens.

The Francoeur Sweepstakes – Heating Up

I cackled (seriously, cackled) with glee when Jeff Francoeur was mentioned in a rumor as a possibility for Philadelphia.  Do it, Philly.  Then I heard the Royals were seeking a right handed bat for the outfield.

Seriously, this just reeks of inevitability. I think the only thing holding up the deal is Frenchy is just waiting to see if there’s some other team desperate enough to make a play.  The Royals have probably had an offer on the table for weeks (or years?) and GMDM likes the guy enough, so he’s letting him take his time.

However, I really like what GMDM had to say to Dutton on Monday – where he doesn’t want to sign a free agent that quits on the team in June.  Cough… Ankiel… Cough.  The Ankiel comparison is a fair one here though and should be a concern.  If Francoeur spurns a team like Philadelphia for a team like the Royals, he would essentially be going for an everyday role over a chance to win.  That rarely works well… In either case.

Desperately Seeking Right-Handed Bats

So the Royals want somebody who hits from the right side of the plate.  Available names are Matt Diaz, Melky Cabrera, Andruw Jones and Francoeur.  Can we just change the name of the team to the Kansas City Braves, Western Branch?

Of the four, I’d go for Diaz first, but he’s a strict platoon guy.  He just can’t hit right-handed pitching.  He’s a .269/.327/.382 hitter against RHP while he bats .335/.373/.533 in his career against left-handers.  Naturally, the Pirates signed him to a two year deal.  Hmmmm…

For my second choice… There is no second choice.  The remaining three could form Satan’s Outfield for all I know.  If those are the options, we’re better off going all lefties because the money it will take to secure one of those guys (and I’m thinking around $3 million is in the ballpark) you’d be better off just throwing that cash off the roof of O’Dowd’s.

“Next Year Is The Beginning Of The Process.”

I don’t know if Ned Yost realizes how loaded that statement is.  Still, if you want your Spring Training Burst of Sunshine two months early, check out Dutton’s latest dispatch from Disney.  If Yost and the team are talking (and feeling) like this in December, I can’t imagine how it’s going to be in February and March.

Slow day at the meetings.  I’m sure things will pick up over the next couple of days.

Episode #036 – Royals Authority writer Craig Brown joins Nick in this episode of the podcast.  They talk about Dejesus, Upton, Greinke, the Storm Chasers, Sporting KC and how Clark is totally blowing it if he doesn’t see baseball in Puerto Rico.  All that plus some other random musings on the Royals and baseball.

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Music used in this podcast:

The Replacements – I Will Dare

Sir Richard Bishop – Zurvan

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Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

As you probably know, I’m a John Buck fan.  By “fan,” I mean I really would have liked for the Royals to keep him over Miguel Olivo last winter and avoided signing Jason Kendall.  Buck is an adequate backstop with power.  There’s some value in that.  Yesterday, we learned exactly how much value as he signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Florida Marlins.

Come again?

Just when you think you have baseball economics figured out, someone comes along and just blasts the conventional wisdom right out of the water.  As much as I like Buck, I always thought him to play out the rest of his career as kind of a journeyman… A series of single year deals that would pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 or $3 million per.  But a multi-year commitment that will net him $6 million a year?  Wow.

And now we can say we knew him when.  Unfortunately, he’s now in South Florida.  Baseball’s Siberia.

The Buck news (and subsequent insane Dan Uggla deal) pushed the potential big rumor of the day to the back pages of the internet. (I know… mixed metaphor alert.)  Allegedly, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a bit of buyers remorse on Justin Upton and are listening to offers for their outfielder.  Upton hit .273/.356/.422 in 571 plate appearances – numbers down from his stellar 2009 campaign where he hit .300/.366/.532 in roughly the same number of plate appearances.

Whomever deals for Upton (assuming the Diamondbacks are serious and actually pull the trigger) will be getting a 23 year old outfielder who is signed through 2015 and is owed roughly $49 million.  And is likely a bargain.

This presents an interesting question if you’re Royals general manager Dayton Moore.  Upton is an A List talent locked in to what should be a very favorable contract, so as such, he will demand an A List return.  The Royals have the players at their disposal to make the deal.  We know how their minor league system is stocked to the gills with young, promising talent.

So the question is, do the Royals partially disassemble their minor league system by dealing a couple of their top prospects in exchange for a young outfielder who has proven he can hit in the major leagues?  Do you ship potential in exchange for a player who has proven he can perform at the major league level?

What would it take?  Two top ten prospects?  An arm and a bat? If that’s the case, I think I pull the trigger.    Sure the trade could backfire for a number of reasons (injury by Upton, both prospects become All-Stars, etc.) but in the cases where you can deal potential for proven ability – especially when the player with proven ability is only 23 – you kind of have to do it.

However, if Dayton Moore doesn’t want to ship off a pair of his prized prospects, there’s an alternative…

How about shipping Zack Greinke to Arizona along with another mid-level prospect in exchange for Upton?

Think about that one for a moment… (Although I can hear the chorus of “Hell, yeahs!” all the way from my mom’s basement.)

Greinke has publicly called into question his desire to remain in Kansas City for another youth movement.  He has a limited no-trade clause that we know blocks deals to large market teams, presumably because he doesn’t want to pitch under the microscope that comes with playing for a team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies.  The Royals are in a payroll conscious frame of mind and swapping a $12 million salary for the $11 million Upton is due over the next two seasons seems like something that would appeal to the Royal bean counters.

Of course, I haven’t touched on the big reason to make the trade… Upton could become the best power hitting corner outfielder for the Royals since… Danny Tartabull?  Wow.

For Arizona this deal makes some sense as well.  Everyone needs starting pitching, but the Diamondbacks have more than a few openings.  Greinke is signed for the next two years and in the topsy-turvy NL West, all it takes is some stability to be in the race.  Greinke wouldn’t automatically make them a contender, but he would certainly move them closer.  Besides, think about him taking a few turns in San Francisco and San Diego a couple of times a year.  (Even at home… Those are traditionally a pair of weak-hitting teams.)  Greinke could move to Arizona and pull a Lincecum and win back to back Cy Young awards.

If I’m Dayton Moore, I’m kicking the tires on Upton and thinking of sending Greinke on his way to the desert.  If Arizona is amenable, I’d make this trade in a heartbeat.

If they do make a deal like this, it would seem to accelerate the timetable, wouldn’t it?  Even though Upton would be here until 2015, the Royals would need to move their prospects along to where a majority of them would have to make their debuts in 2012.  (Regardless, this is likely to happen – I’m thinking an Upton deal would really push their hand.)  You figure the young nucleus of hitters and especially the pitchers will need a couple years of major league seasoning before the Royals can seriously consider themselves contenders.  That means a playoff push could happen in 2014, which means we would have two years of in-his-prime Upton to complement the young, developing, championship players.

You will hear no argument from me.

Z Before A

3 comments

Another day, another waiver claim by Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals.

Another day, another utility infielder added to the 40-man roster.

This time, the acquisition is in the form of Lance Zawadzki, a 25 year old shortstop in the San Diego Padre organization.  He made his major league debut last summer and appeared in just 20 games.

A year ago at this time, Zawadzki held some promise.  He bashed 15 home runs in 2009, which helped propel him onto more than a few Padre prospect lists.  At Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein ranked him as San Diego’s sixth best minor leaguer, and said in a perfect world, Zawadzki would be a solid, if unspectacular middle infielder.

Zawadzski brings a lot of offensive skills to the table for a middle infielder, as he has a good approach, plus bat speed, and surprising power for the position, projecting to hit 12-16 home runs annually in the big leagues. He’ll never win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he’s solid enough, and his arm is well above average.

Baseball America noted Zawadzski’s ability to throw across the diamond, as he was touted as having the Padres best infield arm.  He fell just outside of the top ten (15), but earned consideration.

He’s not an overly physical player, but he has two outstanding tools — three if you want to count flexibility — that will get him big league looks. Zawadzki has impressive pop from both sides of the plate and an absolute cannon of an arm. The power will play up the middle and the arm keeps him alive on the left side of the infield… He could offer significant value to the Padres by filling in at third, second and short, settling at one position occasionally to fill in for injured players.

In their 2006 draft wrap, Baseball America noted Zawadzki’s arm graded at a 70 on the 20-80 scale and there was some talk of actually moving him behind the plate.

John Sickels rated him as the 11th best prospect in the Padres system and graded him as a C+:

At worst he could be a very good utility guy, but there’s some chance he could develop into a decent regular.

This all sounds just fine.  It looks like we’re discussing a solid, if unspectacular middle infielder.  A little power and a cannon for an arm.  Not too bad, all things considered.

Then, 2010 happened.

After a 2009 season where he hit a combined .285/.369/.456 between High-A and Double-A, Zawadzki’s progress stalled in a big way in 2010.  He opened the season in Triple-A, earned himself a brief call to the majors (despite hitting .162/.240/.176 in 75 plate appearances) and then finished the season in Double-A.  Overall, he hit a discouraging .225/.291/.316 in a combined 409 plate appearances.

Zawadzki appears to have decent plate discipline, walking in 10% of his minor league plate appearances.  That’s not great, but on the Royals having a double digit walk rate is cause for celebration.  However, that number dropped to 8% last year as he split time between Double and Triple A.

Then, there was his precipitous drop in power.  Extra base hits represented a full 33% of his hit total in 2009.  Last year, that dropped to 26%.  And that meant he lost a whopping 140 points off his slugging percentage.

With Minor League Splits down, it’s difficult to find a statistical cause behind this drop in production.  Was he overmatched by Triple-A pitching?  Did he get off to a slow start and continue to press?  Did he hit a bunch of line drives right at fielders?

Still, the Padres gave up on him, which is saying something as San Diego isn’t necessarily flush with middle infielders.

(Quick aside: Zawadzki hit a home run against Aaron Crow in Crow’s professional debut last year in the AFL.)

Although after not exactly bashing the Joaquin Arias claim (but being less than thrilled) I’m good with the claim of Zawadzki.  Unlike Arias he has some power and has a plus arm.  Also, Zawadzki walks almost twice as much.  I know the Royals are extremely hung up on getting a replacement for the dearly departed Wee Willie Bloomquist, and acquiring these utility infielders isn’t much fun for us fans.  However, I have to imagine if you were looking at the 40 man roster and assembling a depth chart, you would place Zawadzki ahead of Arias.  Poor Arias… Just one day in the organization and he’s already in a free fall.  Welcome to the Royals.  Hell, I’d probably take Zawadzki ahead of Chris Getz.

Again, at this point in the off season, there’s really no harm in picking up cheap talent in the hope you find a little bit of upside.  Zawadzki did something in 2009 to land on those prospect lists.  For it to completely disappear in 2010 is just more than a little baffling.  So it’s worth a flier to see which season was the real Zawadzki.  (He experienced a similar drop in production between his sophomore and junior seasons at San Diego State.  Lack of consistency at the plate seems to be a continuing theme.) If he can’t hit and the prospect hounds were wrong, he either gets released or spends his summer in Omaha.  But if he does have a bit of a power stroke and a rocket for an arm, he could be a useful part of the Royals 25 man roster.

Again, it don’t cost nuthin’.

The Royals made their opening salvo this off season by acquiring infielder Joaquin Arias off waivers from the New York Mets.

Is this man running the Royals?

I’ll give you a moment to collect yourselves.

Meanwhile, the plucking of Arias off the waiver wire reminded me of one of my all time favorite quotes…

“Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”
Judge Smails to Danny Noonan, Caddyshack.

Let’s amend the classic Judge Smails quote…

“Well, the Royals need worthless middle infielders, too.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…  Arias has speed to burn.  He has stolen 138 bases in his minor league career.  Of course, he’s been caught 51 times – a 73% success rate.  He also is a contact hitter with zero pop.  Arias owns a career .376 slugging percentage in the minors.  And he doesn’t take a walk.  In 3,383 plate appearances covering all levels in the minors, Arias has drawn a grand total of 147 walks.  That works out to a 4.3% walk rate.  Abysmal for someone with his skill set.

Here we go again…

Somehow Dayton Moore figures out a way to acquire the exact same player almost every time he hits the waiver wire.  It’s quite stunning.

What exactly will Joaquin Arias bring to this team?  Other than no power, no ability to get on base and speed?

(Seriously, why is the Royals brain trust so taken with speed?  If you can’t get on base, speed isn’t exactly helpful.  And once you’re on base, if you’re a bad baserunner, again speed isn’t doing too much – except to occasionally bail you out of mistakes.  Still, just once I would like GMDM to find a guy who knows how to get on base.  Once.  Please.)

Defensively, the consensus seems Arias has problems moving to his right.  He’s probably in the middle of the pack with the glove, but his numbers (limited as they are) indicate he’s not that great at the pivot in turning the double play as a second baseman.  It could be a different matter at short, but he’s played there so little at the major league level, I don’t have any data to base any kind of conclusion. Of course, he’s blocked by the Yunigma. I feel sick to my stomach…

Of course, describing this move as boneheaded is relative.  If Arias is cut in a roster purge when the Royals need to make decisions on the upcoming Rule 5 draft, or if he spends his summer in Omaha, then no harm, no foul.  But if this becomes the Bloomquist Situation – then we have a colossal problem.

Perhaps you will recall, at the time of the Bloomquist free agent signing, I expressed similar reservations… If the Royals used him properly, then it was simply a bad signing.  “Properly” meant exposing him to under 200 plate appearances.  Of course, he notched a career high 468 plate appearances in 2009.  Thus, the “Bloomquist Situation.”  Where a manager simply can’t help himself but play a gritty utility man as much as humanly possible.  A bad signing became a major screw-up.

And I can’t help but see a bit of Bloomquist in Arias.  Arias is a shortstop by trade, but has spent most of his time in the majors at second base.  He’s played a bit of third base and (heaven forbid) the Rangers even played him at first base this season.  It’s not a stretch given the track record of the Royals to see Arias filling in in the outfield at some point, should he make the team. Managers like Trey Hillman are suckers for players with versatility with the glove.  Ned Yost seemed less so enthralled, so there’s a bit of hope.  Still, it’s in my nature as a Royals fan to fear the worst.

Arias is a better pickup than Bloomquist because he’s less expensive.  How’s that for digging through a pile of crap and finding a positive?  So this could be a meh waiver claim if Arias hacks his way to 150 outs.   If he gets any more than 200 plate appearances, then we’ve got some problems.

Right now, I’m not all that bothered by the Arias pick up.  A waiver claim on a player without enough service time to be eligible for arbitration… It don’t cost nuthin’.

However, I will reserve my right to change my opinion from “nonplussed” to “outrage.”

Episode #034 – Sam Mellinger from the Kansas City Star stops by and discusses Jose Guillen’s tigers and $12,000 floor mats, honesty with baseball players, trading Zack Greinke and how exactly to grade Dayton Moore.  Nick also touches on baseball ratings and the 2010 catching corps.

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Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Sam on Twitter @mellinger, check out his work at the Kansas City Star or read his blog.

Music used in this podcast:

Ray Charles – Never Ending Song Of Love

Stephen Malkmus – The Hook

Sun Ra – Images

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