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Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Zack Greinke

This is a post I’ve been hanging onto for a day that now will never come. I was originally going to post it on the day that Jordan Parraz made his Major League debut with the Royals, but since he was recently picked up on waivers by the Red Sox it’s not likely to happen.

I’m getting ahead of myself. This story begins on December 7th, 1992. It’s not quite a day that will live in infamy, rather it’s the day the Royals drafted pitcher Billy Brewer from the Montreal Expos in the Rule 5 draft. Brewer was a left-handed relief pitcher who had put together three very good seasons in low A to high A baseball. He had pitched in 23.1 unspectacular innings in 1992 at the AA level, but the Royals drafted him anyway and placed him on the roster.

Brewer pitched well in the bullpen for the Royals in 1993 and 1994, putting up a 3.01 ERA in 77.2 innings pitched. However, in 1995 he struggled. He posted a 5.56 ERA and that off-season he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jose Offerman. Brewer never actually ended up pitching for the Dodgers. For the rest of his career he pitched 55.2 innings for the Yankees, A’s and Phillies and his ERA was 6.63.

In Jose Offerman, the Royals got a 27 year old shortstop coming off of a career year. In 1995 he hit .303/.389/.375.  He didn’t hit for a whole lot of power, but played an up-the-middle defensive position and got on base at a very high rate. Offerman was a very productive player for the Royals from 1996-1998. He hit .306/.385/.419 and led the league in triples with 13 in 1998.

The Royals got an absolute steal in the Brewer trade and Offerman’s success made him a Type A free agent in the off-season following the 1998 season. The Boston Red Sox ended up signing him and due to the the rules of free agency, they forfeited their 25th overall draft selection to the Royals. Offerman had three more seasons of production that were roughly the same as what he put up as a Royal, but after that his numbers plummeted.

In the 1999 draft, the Royals selected pitcher Mike MacDougal out of Wake Forrest with the Red Sox 25th pick. He spent a few years in the minors and made his debut as a starter in 2001. Not one month later, he was struck in the head by a bat that flew out of the hands of Carlos Beltran and fractured his skull. The lingering effect from that incident was a loss of sensation in his fingers. He eventually learned to pitch with it and came back to the Majors as a relief pitcher. He saved 27 games as the Royals’ closer in 2003, lost that job to Jeremy Affeldt in 2004 and regained it in 2005. In July of 2006 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. In four years with the White Sox, MacdDougal posted a 4.77 ERA in 88.2 innings pitched.

In return for MacDougal, the Royals received Minor League pitchers Tyler Lumsden and Dan Cortes. Neither of them reached the Majors with the Royals and were dealt in separate deals. Cortes was traded with Derrick Saito to the Seattle Mariners for Yuniesky Betancourt, who was then packaged with Zack Greinke to obtain Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers. Lumsden was traded to the Astros for outfield prospect Jordan Parraz who was released this off-season by the Royals.

So we’ve come full circle and back to Jordan Parraz. It’s a long, strange tale of baseball moves, however there seems to be a very interesting point in all of that. If you’ll notice, the moves which are fully realized and the players have all gone on to either finish or nearly finish their careers are ones which the Royals did very well. Below is a chart which shows the series of moves.

Every move that a team makes can have lasting ramifications, either positive or negative. Drafting and then trading Billy Brewer was a shrewd move by General Manager Herk Robinson. The Royals clearly maximized the value of Brewer. The team also cleverly didn’t sign Jose Offerman as a free agent, which gave them one of the three first round picks they’d have in the 1999 draft. That pick yielded prospects in a trade, and those prospects yeilded more prospects and Yuniesky Betancourt, natch.

The point remains that those smart moves by the 1992-1995 Royals front office continue to yield net value to the team in 2011. One good move can help a team for decades, one bad one can do the opposite. This is illustrative of why there is so much importance placed on the small things that the Royals need to do.

It’s not necessarily doing the “little things” on the field that matters as much as doing the “little things” in player acquisition. From gettting talented Rule 5 players, to recognizing when someone has over-achieved or reached their peak. Now that the Royals have built up an incredible farm system, it’s these types of moves which will define Dayton Moore and lead to a renewal of success or continued failure.

There have been plenty of articles written about the Zack Greinke trade.  There were plenty of great opinions both positive and negative.  Personally, I like the trade quite a bit, but that’s not what today’s post is about.  Anyone who watched the Royals for the past four years knows how great Zack Greinke was.  He was an interesting character and a fascinating pitcher.  He seemed like he could do anything he wanted on the mound.  Opposing batters never seemed to know what was going to happen next, and I’m not sure Zack did either.  I will certainly miss that little twinge of excitement when I looked at the pitching matchup and Greinke was on the slate.  Not only did the Royals have a good chance of winning, but there was a pretty good chance that I was going to see something spectacular.

The bottom line is that Greinke was one of the best pitchers to ever put on a Royals uniform.  At his peak, he might have been the best, but he won’t have the longevity to be a part of the Royals Hall of Fame.  To honor Greinke and what he did in Royal blue, I thought I’d take a look at where he will end up ranked (barring a return) amongst the Royals Greats in some statistical categories.

I used the Baseball-Reference method of 500 IP or 50 decisions to be on the rate stat leader board.  Stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com

Innings Pitched


Player IP
1. Paul Splittorff 2554.7
2. Mark Gubicza 2218.7
3. Dennis Leonard 2187.0
4. Kevin Appier 1843.7
5. Larry Gura 1701.3
6. Bret Saberhagen 1660.3
7. Charlie Leibrandt 1257.0
8. Tom Gordon 1149.7
9. Dick Drago 1134.0
10. Zack Greinke 1108.0

I was certainly a little surprised to find that Grienke was 10th in innings pitched as a Kansas City Royal, and if he’d pitched another year he’d have likely made it to 7th.

ERA


Player ERA IP
1. Dan Quisenberry 2.55 920.3
2. Steve Farr 3.05 511.0
3. Jeff Montgomery 3.20 849.3
4. Bret Saberhagen 3.21 1660.3
5. Al Fitzmorris 3.46 1098.0
6. Marty Pattin 3.48 825.7
7. Kevin Appier 3.49 1843.7
8. Dick Drago 3.52 1134.0
9. Doug Bird 3.56 714.7
10. Charlie Leibrandt 3.60 1257.0
11. Danny Jackson 3.69 712.7
12. Dennis Leonard 3.70 2187.0
13. Steve Busby 3.72 1060.7
14. Larry Gura 3.72 1701.3
15. Buddy Black 3.73 977.7
16. Bruce Dal Canton 3.76 555.0
17. Paul Splittorff 3.81 2554.7
18. Zack Greinke 3.82 1108.0

This stat is sort of misleading considering Greinke played in an era where there were a lot more runs scored on average, but it is a testament to a franchise that has had some pretty good pitchers in it’s history.

Strikeouts


Player SO IP
1. Kevin Appier 1458 1843.7
2. Mark Gubicza 1366 2218.7
3. Dennis Leonard 1323 2187.0
4. Bret Saberhagen 1093 1660.3
5. Paul Splittorff 1057 2554.7
6. Tom Gordon 999 1149.7
7. Zack Greinke 931 1108.0
8. Jeff Montgomery 720 849.3
9. Steve Busby 659 1060.7
10. Larry Gura 633 1701.3

Zack could always strike guys out and it was awesome to watch.  I hoped he’d join the 1,000 strikeout club and possibly be the first member of the 2,000 club, but we don’t always get what we hope for.

Wins

Rank Player Wins IP
1. Paul Splittorff 166 2554.7
2. Dennis Leonard 144 2187.0
3. Mark Gubicza 132 2218.7
4. Kevin Appier 115 1843.7
5. Larry Gura 111 1701.3
6. Bret Saberhagen 110 1660.3
7. Tom Gordon 79 1149.7
8. Charlie Leibrandt 76 1257.0
9. Steve Busby 70 1060.7
Al Fitzmorris 70 1098.0
11. Dick Drago 61 1134.0
12. Zack Greinke 60 1108.0

We all know that the win statistic is the most over-rated one in existence and it doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the pitcher.  However, it’s pretty amazing that Zack compiled the 12th most wins in team history while playing for some of the worst teams to wear the KC on their hats.

Hit By Pitch

Rank Player Hit By Pitch IP
1. Mark Gubicza 58 2218.7
2. Dennis Leonard 52 2187.0
3. Larry Gura 40 1701.3
4. Kevin Appier 39 1843.7
Zack Greinke 39 1108.0
6. Paul Splittorff 34 2554.7
7. Dick Drago 31 1134.0
8. Buddy Black 29 977.7
Jeff Suppan 29 864.7
10. Hipolito Pichardo 27 669.7
Bret Saberhagen 27 1660.3

Zack could certainly be wild at times, and he wasn’t afraid of anyone.  His arsenal of pitches, velocity and command combined with just that rough edge where you weren’t sure whether he was throwing at you on purpose or on accident was always fun to watch.

Strikeouts per 9 IP

Player K/9 IP
1. Tom Gordon 7.821 1149.7
2. Jeff Montgomery 7.630 849.3
3. Zack Greinke 7.562 1108.0
4. Steve Farr 7.556 511.0
5. Kevin Appier 7.117 1843.7
6. Gil Meche 6.929 617.0
7. Jose Rosado 6.047 720.3
8. Bret Saberhagen 5.925 1660.3
9. Doug Bird 5.843 714.7
10. Darrell May 5.632 527.3

We already discussed strikeouts, but this list was too interesting to ignore.  Greinke ranks highest amongst starters in Royals history in strikeouts per nine innings.  Who would have guessed that Gil Meche would be higher than Saberhagen on this list?  Ah, Jose Rosado, I’ll always remember what could have been.

Just a sampling of some of the Royals all-time pitching leaders.  Zack wasn’t the best to wear the uniform, but his 2009 season was probably the best single season pitching performance.  His contributions to the team won’t be replicated in the near future, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been traded.

I don’t really like how his exit from the team has gone so far.  There has been some mud slinging and some media and former teammates have taken some pot shots at Greinke.  The kid is gone from the team, that can’t be changed now.  As fans, we watched him grow and mature.  We told fans of other teams how great he was, and we celebrated his Cy Young as if it partly belonged to us.  His stats with the Royals will always be there, and we’ll always have 2009.

Episode #038 – What else are we going to discuss?  Of course we discuss the Zack Greinke trade in detail.  I have Larry Granillo of Wezen-Ball on to discuss the Brewers perspective.  In this star-studded, two-guest podcast, I also have Craig Brown my co-writer at Royals Authority on to break down the trade in detail and how it impacts the team now and into the future.  Nowhere else do you get 2 hours of almost uninterrupted discussion on the Royals and Greinke, so check out this episode of the podcast.

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As Royals’ fans, we are a jaded group.   That has never been so evident as the immediate reactions that were voiced and written as we all got wind of the trade of Zack Greinke to the Brewers.   Primarily, the return was widely disparaged simply because, well, because it was the Royals getting the return.  

With this organization’s track record, over multiple owners and general managers, who can argue with the logic that if the Royals traded an elite player whatever they got back must have been a bad deal.   Going off the top of my head and without getting into a debate over who was ‘elite’ and who was not, here is a partial list of players the royals have received:

Kevin McReynolds, Gregg Jefferies, Keith Miller, Chris Stynes, David Sinnes,  Tony Medrano,  Blake Stein, Jeff D’Amico, Brad Rigby, Angel Berroa, A.J. Hinch, Roberto Hernandez (an OLD Roberto mind you), Nefii Perez, John Buck, Mark Teahan, Mike Wood

Given that list, I get the skepticism.   I also understand the concerns that Dayton Moore, like Allard Baird before him, limited the market by insisting on ‘up the middle major league ready talent’.    It might well be that some teams gave up early or never called to inquire on Greinke figuring that they did not have those type of prospects.   How would the above list look if Robinson Cano was there instead of Mark Teahen?

However, Moore was also at times said to be looking for a major league ready pitcher with ‘Greinke-like’ potential as part of any deal.   While I think Jake Odorizzi might some day be very good, no one is expecting him to become an ace.   So, it seems that the Royals at least were willing to entertain offers that were not exactly in line with their supposed demands.    I wonder just how much of the market really was excluded?

We know that the Washington Nationals had an offer out there and that Zack refused to waive his no-trade clause to them.   Talented reliever Drew Storen and shortstop Danny Espinosa were supposedly part of the deal, but it is unclear if Jordan Zimmerman was and who else might have been  involved.   What we do know is the deal that actually took place and the waves of angst that followed.

Ignoring the casual fan, the ones that lamented Jose Guillen being traded, there was still a pretty wide swath of ‘the Royals didn’t get near enough’ pasted across the Internet.   Alcides Escobar can’t hit, Lorenzo Cain has limited upside, Odorizzi is ‘fine for A ball’ and Jeffress likes the happy weed too much.  Given the above few paragraphs, I can understand the immediate swing to the negative, but it sure seems to be getting a little annoyed.   I say that, by the way, fully cognizant that our own site and myself have certainly beat the Royals’ organization over the head more often than not, but then it’s not like those opportunities have been hard to come by the last ten years.

Prior to the 2010 season, Alcides Escobar was the Brewers’ number one prospect (according to Baseball America), while Lorenzo Cain was number eight, Jake Odorizzi was number nine and Jeremy Jeffress was thought to have the best fastball in that organization.   Of course, an entire season has transpired since those rankings were made and one of the worst things a top prospect can do to hurt his reputation is to, you know, play games.

Beyond that, the four players fit the stereotype of so many others brought in by Dayton Moore:  two position players known for their speed and two pitchers who feature a fastball and a curve.   We have heard those traits a lot in the past and been disappointed more often than not.   That said, some guys who can really run, can also really play baseball and some pitchers (a lot actually) have good careers throwing fastballs and curves.

While the full impact, positive or negative, may not be known until Odorizzi makes the majors in a couple of years and Jeffress has hopefully managed to stay clean AND be a power reliever for a period of time, I am going to focus this morning on the two position players.     These are the two guys that are going to be the ones dealing with the Perez/Teahen/Berroa/Buck comparisons and also the two were are going to see the most of the soonest.

Next to Billy Butler batting third, Jeff Francoeur playing right field and Joakim Soria closing, the surest thing about the 2011 roster is that Escobar will be playing shortstop.   Alcides Escobar had, without question, a pretty awful rookie season.    The defensive abilities he showed in the minors surfaced in his rookie season as flashes of brilliance interspersed with bouts of inconsistency.  That said, Escobar’s UZR/150 of 4.7 still ranked eighth out of twenty-one qualified shortstops in the majors.   Defensive metrics over just one season can be wildly inaccurate, so Escobar is something of an unknown quantity in this area, but his minor league career was generally one in which scouts, prospect analysts and the Brewers’ organization wondered if this great defender could hit enough to justify a job.    For now, I feel pretty confident that Escobar either already is or will shortly become the best defensive shortstop to play for the Royals since the turn of the century.

Of course, the days of the defense only shortstop are long since past and there are questions about Escobar’s offense.    He hit just .235/.288/.326 last season for a paltry OPS+ of just 67.   Some of that was due to an unlucky .264 BABIP, but much of Alcides’ problems were an inability to control the strike zone and work the count to his advantage.    Tough rookie year or a guy who cannot hit major league pitching?

It is worth noting, however, that Escobar’s best minor league seasons at the plate occurred as he reached the higher levels of the minors.    After three fairly poor offensive years his first three years in pro ball, Escobar hit .325/.345/.377 in half a season in High A before moving to AA ball, where he struggled some.   However, in AA the next season, Alcides hit a very good .328/.363/.434 and then moved onto AAA the next season where he hit .298/.353/.409.    During his one AAA season, Escobar walked 32 times in 487 plate appearances versus 31 in 110 more plate appearances the year before in AA.   Hey, the guy is not a walk machine, but he improved from AA and AAA.

In the end, Alcides Escobar may never consistently hit to his minor league career line of .293/.333/.377, but I think there is a better than reasonable chance that he will hit better than the frankly awful rookie season numbers of 2010.   Can Escobar ever be an All-Star?   Does he have to be if Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are? 

Now, Lorenzo Cain does not have the luxury of two of the best hitting prospects in baseball on the horizon to flank him.  While Cain is expected to be a good, if still somewhat raw, defensively (it’s noteworthy that Cain did not play baseball until high school), the Royals need their centerfielder to hit.   Of course, if Alex Gordon hits 35 home runs and Jeff Francoeur reverts to his rookie form, then the pressure is off – but then, this column is optimistic enough – let’s not get carried away.

Cain hit a solid .306/.348/.415 in 47 games for Milwaukee last year, helped considerably by a .370 BABIP.   While that may be cause for alarm, Cain did post a BABIP above .340 in FOUR of six minor league campaigns and one of those off-seasons was in 2009 when most of the season was derailed to an ankle injury.    Frankly, do we have any real reason to think Lorenzo cannot hit close to his minor league numbers of .291/.366/.416 and possibly add some power to those numbers given his 6’2″ 200 pound frame?

While I am certainly being optimistic, what’s the real harm?   As Royals’ fans, knowing that Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain are going to be in your everyday lineup in 2011, why not give them the benefit of the doubt.   Sure, Cain has had an abnormally high BABIP for most of his career, so has Mike Aviles and David DeJesus and a slew of other guys who can basically hit.  

Yes, Escobar was awful as a rookie, just as Omar Vizquel did.    Truth is, Alcides was the Brewers’ number one prospect last season and number freaking twelve in all of baseball.   A bad rookie year suddenly makes this guy a bad player who ‘will never hit’?

Come on, let’s all take a breath on this one.  

Should we get to September and Escobar still isn’t hitting a lick and doing his Angel Berroa impression in the field,  Lorenzo Cain is taking curious routes to fly balls and hitting an empty .275, Jeffress is suspended and Odorizzi getting lit up in High A ball, then you can feel free to write me and say ‘I told you so’.     

For now, however, let’s give these guys a chance before we decide this deal was horrible.   Jurickson Profar may or may not have been offered by the Rangers and while it would be fun to have him in the system, it would also be 2014 before he even sniffed the majors.   By the way, tell me the difference between the minor league numbers of Profar or Danny Espinosa and those of Alcides Escobar.

As Royals’ fans, we have plenty to worry about this season.  Namely, a rotation that starts with Hochevar and ends with ‘gee, I don’t know, somebody’.    I will be the first to lead the charge when Melky Cabrera starts six of the first eight games in leftfield in front of Alex Gordon (or five of seven in front of Lorenzo Cain in center), but I am content to say that the four players the Royals received for Zack Greinke might, just might, be a pretty decent return after all.

Zack Greinke is no longer a Royal.  It’s painful to say, and I’m sad to see my favorite player in a long time move on.  You likely already are aware that he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for  Alcides Escobar (SS), Lorenzo Cain (CF), Jeremy Jeffress (RHP) and Jake Odorizzi (RHP).  I know that everyone really likes to read people’s opinions on which team “won” and which team “lost” any given trade and there’s plenty of that all over the internet and Twitter.  If you must know my feelings, I like the trade.  The Royals had to trade Greinke at some point and they got multiple quality players in return.  At the very least, I don’t think many people could in good faith suggest that this trade is a total bomb.  So instead of trying to sell you on why I like the trade or why you should like the trade, let’s talk about what just got a whole heck of a lot more interesting: the 2011 season.

Like anyone else who roots for the Royals, I want to see more wins on the field, and frankly I don’t care how they accomplish it.  Barring a bunch of extra wins, I’d like to at least watch a team that interests me.  Honestly, the last couple of years have been some of the least interesting and hard to root for Royals teams that I can remember.  They were filled with boring players who had no future with the Royals organization.  It was like watching a bunch of hired guns who couldn’t really shoot all that well.  Going out to see Zack Greinke pitch, Joakim Soria close or Billy Butler hit were the lone reasons to get excited.  The Royals did lose one of those marquee names today, but the team just became much more interesting.

For the past year and a half (it seems so much longer) we’ve been watching Yuniesky Betancourt play sub par defense and hit with a woeful bat.  He’s been a daily reminder of the fact that the Royals gave up Minor League talent in order to get, at best a replacement level shortstop.  For many of us, he was the embodiment of a front office who can’t really identify quality Major League talent and over-values certain aspects of player evaluation.  Now that Betancourt is heading to Milwaukee and the Royals got Alcides Escobar in return, the position just became interesting.  Escobar is known as a very good defender who has the ability to be elite.  He has struggled throughout his career with the bat, but did show some signs of putting it together in the upper Minors.  He’ll never likely hit for any power, but he only needs to be near average offensively for a SS and he becomes very exciting.  Either way, he just turned twenty four and likely represents the Royals shortstop for the next five years.  This season we will get a chance to see him every single day, hopefully making spectacular plays and also developing as a Major League hitter.  I knew what we had in Yuniesky Betancourt, I’m not sure what we have yet in Escobar, but I’m pretty interested in finding out.

The Royals farm system is light on outfield prospects, and very few are close to Major League ready.  So, we’ve gotten used to Dayton Moore acquiring some free agents on one year “show me” contracts who at best can be flipped for prospects at the trade deadline.  These are mercenaries of the highest degree, and usually pretty low-rent mercenaries at that.  There isn’t anything particularly exciting about going to see Scott Podsednik Rick Ankiel, Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur for one season in a Royals uniform.  We can still dream on Alex Gordon some, but he is running out of future projection.  Prior to this move, the most exciting part of the outfield was hoping that speedster Jarrod Dyson would get some playing time and suddenly become a completely different hitter.  Once again, after the trade things have been shaken up.  Lorenzo Cain is thrust into the mix, and he’s a 24 year old speedster who has a good glove but also a track record of being able to hit the ball.  In his first Major League season he hit .306/.348/.415.  Not bad for someone who plays a premium defensive position and can swipe some bases.  He’s young, fast and could take a really positive step developmentally in 2011.  When was the last time we could say that about a Royal center fielder?

The bullpen is always a mish-mash of new and old guys, and in general is only exciting when you don’t want it to be exciting.  Watching Joakim Soria come in and close games is one of the true joys of being a Royals fan, so there always that.  However, there is a good chance that newly acquired pitcher Jeremy Jeffress will be a part of that bullpen in 2011 as well.  He can hit 100 m.p.h. on the radar gun and is compared to Joel Zumaya.  I don’t think that he’s a guy I’d want to rely on to close games just yet, but to have him available in the 7th or 8th inning is pretty cool if you ask me.

Last, but not least, the Royals also got starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.  While he is almost certainly not going to make the Major League team any more interesting, there’s a chance he’s the best part of this whole trade.  He’s a right handed starter who potentially has four “plus” pitches and would have been the top prospect in the Brewers farm system.  How he pitches this year, and how he progresses through the system, along with guys like Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Aaron Crow and Mike Montgomery will be worth watching.  This farm system just went from being a once in a decade type of system to a once in a generation one.

I know that people will still want to debate whether or not this was good enough return for the 2009 Cy Young winning pitcher.  Honestly, I’ll still do it myself.  However, the deal is done and we have to live with it.  I think it’s time to stop using the franchises past errors and bad luck to judge how things are going to go in the future.  The state of the world as it stands today is that the Royals have more talent than any other franchise in baseball, an owner who has been much more open to spending money, and no real financial obligations in the near future.  In other words, they have talent, financial flexibility and money to spend.  When was the last time they had even one of those?  It really is a wonderful time to be a Royals fan, and 2011 is the start.

You’ve heard by now…

The reports are the Royals have shipped Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee in exchange for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. There is some confusion as to whether or not Jeffress is in the deal at this time.  There are rumors it may be a PTBNL.

There are also reports the Royals are sending $2 million to the Brewers as part of the deal.  Consider that a penalty for employing the Yunigma for the last couple of seasons.

The move addresses the Royals needs by securing youth up the middle.  Cain is a speedy center fielder and Escobar is a plus defender at short.  Offensively, I have my doubts.  Escobar struggled to get on base last summer (.288 OBP) but Cain did alright in a brief turn in the majors (.340 OBP) and also posted a line of .317/.402/.432 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

So, it happened… And less than a week after the Cliff Lee deal.  My initial reaction was one of disappointment, as I have been focused on the potential haul from New York, Texas and even Toronto.  Turns out the Brewers were the “Mystery Team.”  I didn’t think they had the prospects to pull this off.  But with Dayton Moore specifically looking for defense up the middle, this move is one that fits.  Although I have to wonder if there’s a bit of Allard Baird Syndrome involved – where the GM becomes so focused on filling a need, he ignores potentially better deals.

Still, as one who has griped (and griped) about the Royals lack of defense over the last several seasons, I’m pleased GMDM is making a move like this.  Plus, as deep as the Royals minor league system is, there aren’t a ton of plus defenders coming through the pipeline. (See Eric Hosmer winning an award as the system’s best defender.)

I posted my initial reaction to the deal on Twitter and got a bunch of replies that this is a very good deal for the Royals.  I’m still sifting through my thoughts and I’m sure Clark and Nick will chime in throughout the day.  In the meantime… What do you think?

Episode #037 – Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus joins me to discuss Royals prospects, Starcraft in Korea, Kane County Cougars and other baseball related issues.  I also touch on the Melky Cabrera and Jeffy Lockerroom signings.

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Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_goldstein also check out his Up & In podcast and his articles at Baseball Prospectus.  You should also pre-order the Baseball Prospectus 2011book for good measure.

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Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane

Ahmad Jamal – But Not For Me

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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.

I have spent the last forty-eight hours basically in bed and out of touch.   Not that I expect anyone to care that I was sick, but only to explain that my mind is something of a blur this morning as I try to catch up on the rumor mill and, what was that other thing?  Oh yeah, actual work that pays actual money.

At any rate, I had a dream/hallucination that the Royals signed Seth Smith yesterday.   How tortured are we as Royals’ fans that a ‘dream’ is to sign a serviceable but hardly earth shattering part-time outfielder?   See, I really was sick!

Anyway, the Royals did designate Philip Humber for assignment to make room for the new slim downed Jeff Franceour.   Nothing too earth shattering there.   Humber had some moments late last season, but I can see the organizational logic in letting go of him over some of the other marginal, yet younger, relievers on the current 40 man roster.  

Another roster move is pending to make room for Melky Cabrera.   Although some out there are guessing that it might be Joaquin Arias, my speculation is that it will be another of the rather obvious group of pitchers who Humber was once a part of.   On the other hand, it could be Zack Grienke…

As Craig wrote yesterday, he predicted Greinke would be gone a week after the end of the Winter Meetings.   I have maintained that he will be gone by Christmas.    While the rumors have cooled off the last couple of days, that is sometimes the sign that actual work is being done between teams.   Either that, or the Royals’ asking price has simply been deemed too much for the rest of major league baseball.

Some of the ‘supposed’ interest in Felix Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano and Fausto Carmona might be generated, at least in part, to see how firm the Royals’ stance may be on their expected return for Greinke.  

Truthfully, the Mariners are not about to trade Hernandez.   They have Ichiro and a lot of money invested in Chone Figgins and at least the hope that their ‘process’ has them in contention this year or next.

Carlos Zambrano?   Hey, if the Yankees are concerned about Greinke pitching in New York and not concerned about Zambrano in their dugout, then go right ahead and pursue that avenue at your own risk.

All that said, it may be 2011 before the Royals move Greinke.   As Craig also indicated yesterday, if rumors are not your cup of tea, don’t click on any baseball sites for the next thirty days.

While we are sitting here talking a lot and going nowhere, the one non-rumor, truly intriguing quote of the off-season by Dayton Moore has been that Everett Teaford, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow will all get a look this spring at possibly breaking camp in the big league rotation.   I think it is a longshot that any of the three lock down the number five spot, but that they are getting a shot at all is something of a positive sign.

I say that because it means that the organization’s long standing ‘we won’t rush anyone, they all need to spend plenty of time at each level’ development plan is not a hard and fast rule.   Sure, you can rush a guy and really hurt him (see Gordon, Alex or even Franceour, Jeff), but you can also push a guy and get great results (see Saberhagen, Bret and Gubicza, Mark or even Greinke, Zack – at least in terms of onfield performance).   I like the idea that not every player is the same and I also like the idea that in adhering to ‘The Process’, Dayton Moore also realizes that good teams are made up of players of different levels of experience.

Having Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow a year or even half a year ahead of Mike Montgomery and John Lamb makes perfect sense.    Just as having Mike Moustakas up four months before Eric Hosmer, who will likely be up four or five months before Wil Myers, does.   It helps from an experience factor and when it comes to future contract considerations.    

Having Moustakas and Duffy arbitration and free agent eligible even just a year apart from Hosmer and Montgomery can make a world of difference in how many of those guys the Royals can keep around.   If The Process is in it for the long term and not just one or two years of glory (i.e. the Marlins’ model), then spacing these prospects out both via experience and financially is smart.

So, in a roundabout way, who would you like to see as the Royals fifth starter in April of 2011? 

  • Everett Teaford – an under the radar guy who might not ever be great, but who has been solid at every level.
  • Danny Duffy – talented, but who quit the game just a year ago.    A guy who has simply dominated at every level, but is shy on overall innings.
  • Aaron Crow – simply had a horrific minor league campaign statistically as he worked on some things, but who may (as doublestix speculated) be ready to take a big leap forward.
  • Player X – probably a veteran innings eater who is on the backside of an average career.   If you can’t name at least five of these guys signed by the Royals over the last six years you’re not trying.

All of those above options are assuming that Zack Greinke gets traded.  If Greinke is the Royals’ Opening Day guy, then I think your rotation, for better or worse, is Greinke, Hochevar, Mazarro, Davies and O’Sullivan.  

Don’t worry, 2012 is just a season away.

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.

Baseball’s winter meetings concluded this morning and most of the general managers are likely in the air this afternoon.   Expect a light news cycle for all of you/us who have been clicking on Twitter and MLBTradeRumors eighteen times an hour for the past four days.

The meetings ended without the Royals ‘officially’ signing outfielder Melky Cabrera.   That said, you can pretty much book that contract (1 year/$1.25 million) as discussion of it appears via Royals.com.    Nothing gets on there without something coming out of the organization itself.   Besides, do you really think there is another GM out there who is going to swoop in and steal Melky Cabrera out from under the Royals?

I was actually holding off on this commentary until some corresponding roster moves were made, but then read that the Royals do not have to add the officially signed Jeff Francoeur to the 40 man roster until Monday.   So, even with the Rule 5 drafting of Nathan Adcock, the team is officially just at forty players.   Now, come Monday when Francoeur and, almost certianly, Cabrera are added, Kansas City will have to make room for both of them.

That might be an interesting exercise as the usual group of ‘Victor Marte’ types no longer populate the 40 man roster.   While I am not sure that signing Cabrera and Francoeur necessarily improves the Royals, at least the idea that finding room for them will lead to some semi-hard choices does indicate at least incremental progress.   Sort of..

Anyway, back to Melky Cabrera.    Mention was made by Dick Kaegel that Cabrera (a switch-hitter mind you) ‘could figure as the righthanded half of a platoon with Alex Gordon’.   Let me be among the many to say:  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

For his career, Gordon does have a striking platoon disadvantage (80 OPS+ vs. LHP, 108 OPS+ vs. RHP), but in an admittedly small sample size in 2010 actually posted a 105 OPS+ versus lefties in 2010 (70 at-bats) and only a 77 OPS+ against right handers.   That could just be a fluke or it could be a sign of improvement.   No matter which, not playing Alex Gordon everyday would be a colossal waste of yet another year in ‘finding out’ about the one time phenom once and for all.

Need we even discuss the fact that the switchitting Cabrera actually has a slightly better platoon split vs RIGHT handed pitching as opposed to when he faces southpaws?   No, I didn’t think so.

Here is the bottom line:  Dayton Moore to free agent outfielders is much the same as my wife at Famous Footwear.   Why buy just one when you can get the second pair (or second outfielder) for half off?   Thus, we have Francoeur and Cabrera when probably just one – and I don’t really care which one – would be enough.

While an outfield of Gordon-Cabrera-Francoeur (which is the only alignment that makes sense, unless the Royals really did just pay over one million dollars for Melky to be an fourth outfielder when they already had two cheaper versions on the roster) is probably better than the Gordon-Blanco-Maier alignment they entered the week with, it is not enough better to warrant any delusions of grandeur.   For that matter, it is not enough better to avoid the scorn of all us hated bloggers and commenters.

Truthfully, I can live with Cabrera if the only real price is losing Mitch Maier and blocking Gregor Blanco and Jarrod Dyson.   I cannot live with it, if it means Alex Gordon in a platoon situation.   That maneuever is completely non-sensical for a team that will have to overachieve just to avoid 95 losses.

Now, onto our newest Rule Fiver:  Nathan Adcock.   He’s a big kid, with three pitches – one of which is supposedly a very good curveball.   Throws kind of hard, but not as hard as Elvin Ramirez, taken right behind Adcock, or Aneury Rodriguez who fell to eighth after being projected as a possible first pick overall.  Either of those guys would seem to have a better chance of sticking as the seventh man in the bullpen more than Adcock, who at age twenty-two has yet to throw an inning above A ball.

The above makes me think that the Royals really have no intention of Nathan Adcock sticking on their 25 man roster and either think the Pirates will not want him back when offered or intend to work out some deal next spring to keep him without Rule 5 restrictions.  (You know, like trading Mitch Maier or Gregor Blanco to the Pirates)

All in all, the Rule 5 is a roll of the dice and for all I know Adcock will throw 60 inning of garbage work in the majors next season – there will be, after all, plenty of garbage time to go around.   He has some potential as a back of the rotation starter and it never hurts to have a farm system full of arms, so I do not despise the selection of Adcock, but am simply skeptical of it.    Let’s put it this way, when the first of January comes around and I do my monthly projection of the 2011 Opening Day roster, Nathan Adcock will not be on it.

By the way, that January 1 post:   don’t expect Zack Greinke to be on it, either.