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The Royals finished last night’s game in spectacular fashion.  A two out go ahead home run from Eric Hosmer in the top of the ninth and a spectacular Omar Infante flip to Alcides Escobar’s barehand and then a laser to Hosmer for an out.  If you haven’t seen it, FIND IT!  It is worth any trouble you have doing so.  I have seen that play before, most notably from Cookie Rojas and Freddie Patek way, way back when I was young.  Spectacular is about all you can or need to say about it.

Anyway, that was just the frosting on the cake of day that Tuesday turned out to be as the Royals traded for Ben Zobrist earlier in the day.  Don’t like the starting rotation?  Boom!  Dayton Moore gets you Johnny Cueto.  Worried about depth, second base, rightfield and maybe an extra bat?  Whammo!  Dayton Moore presents us with Ben Zobrist.

Now, there has been a little bit of angst about these deals in the land of Royal.  Some of it, I think, stemming from the fact that this fanbase had been beaten down for so many years that we may simply not believe we get to have nice things.  There is also some of the ‘well, I’m no follower’ in finding a reason not to be excited about a trade that is seen as a tremendous positive by the vast majority of the fanbase and, quite honestly, the baseball world.

There is another couple of sentiments that go along the lines of the Royals have a good thing going, why do we want to disrupt it?  In a similar vein, there is the Royals are almost certain to make the playoffs as it is and once there it is all really just a crapshoot, so why not save the prospects and roll with this unit?

Okay, now, I put probably more stock in clubhouse chemistry than a lot of folks who frequent this edge of the blog world, but I also believe that players know who can play and who can’t.  There is no doubt in my mind that every person in the clubhouse, including the starting pitchers, thought the Royals could really use another starting pitcher. I also believe that the team is not unaware that Omar Infante’s on-base percentage would be a bad batting average and his slugging percentage would be a poor on-base percentage.   They know that, until recently, Alex Rios was swinging a wet noodle, that Jarrod Dyson never has and never will hit lefties and that Paulo Orlando, for all his heroics, has some holes in his swing.  You know what else they know?  They know Ben Zobrist can play the game a little bit.

Moving along, as a craps player, I understand a little bit about luck.  As a Royals’ fan, I remember Buddy Biancalana being a World Series hero in 1985 even though he was not really a very good player.  We have seen the St. Louis Cardinals win a World Series with a team that was no very good in the regular season.  We saw Detroit get David Price last year and not make it through one playoff series.  Weird things happen in baseball, especially in a short series.  Luck happens.  Bad players get hot.  Good players get cold.  Any team on any given day stuff, you know the drill.

While I don’t buy that the woeful 2005 Royals would have a 40% change of beating this year’s Royals in a seven game series, I know they would have some chance (see the paragraph immediately above).  Let’s say the Royals, who I don’t think anyone can argue have improved their regular season team in the last week to the extent that they are virtual locks for the playoffs, end up facing the Astros in the first round.  I don’t know (or care) what the actual percentages were, but for discussion purposes we will say Kansas City had a 54% chance of winning the series.   If adding Cueto and Zobrist moved that needle to even just 57% I will take that action over the ‘playoffs are all luck’ approach.

Of course, both Cueto and Zobrist came at a cost.  While I will not be surprised if all five pitchers involved in these two deals have major league careers, the Royals might well be haunted by Sean Manaea in future years. That’s actually fine, in my opinion, especially if the Royals have a really big, tall new flag in leftfield next spring.  Manaea was not going to play for Kansas City this season and, frankly, probably was not going to be up at the start of 2016, either.  He might well be great…but that greatness will certainly not be in full effect until 2017 at the earliest.  Same timeline for Cody Reed.   John Lamb might have been a contributor on the 2016 team and we all know the Finnegan drill.   Good pitchers….maybe, but not good MAJOR league pitchers (other than Finnegan being decent out of the bullpen – not exactly a weakness for the Royals) this season or likely next.

You know who is good THIS season?  Johnny Cueto is and so is Ben Zobrist.

Dogged by injuries earlier this year, Zobrist has rebounded to hit .268/.354/.447, which is freakishly right on his career numbers.   He has been worth 1.1 fWAR so far, after being worth 5.6 in 2014, 5.2 in 2013, 5.8 in 2012 and 6.3 in 2011.   With Alex Gordon on the shelf, Zobrist is probably the Royals’ most consistent hitter right now.  I was not the first to come up with this and you do actually worry about changing too much (domes, you know), but I would be tempted to bat Zobrist leadoff.   His strikeout rate has declined in each of the last four seasons (that’s good), while his walk rate remains right at his career rate of 12%.   Dude can hit, boys and girls.

Defensively, Zobrist has played everywhere but catcher in his career.  He was a decent shortstop and even logged 236 innings there last year:  good enough to be there if something happens to Escobar during a game.   The metrics don’t like him at second this year, but it is very small sample size and effected by Zobrist playing hurt early on.  For his career, his defensive numbers (and reputation in the game) at second base are excellent.  If you are worried about a defensive dropoff there between Infante and Zobrist, you are worrying too much.  Zobrist has logged the majority of his time in right, where he was very good as well (metrically speaking) in seven of the last eight years.  He has played more innings in left this year (197) than any previous season and the metrics don’t like him there, but they loved him in left in a similar sample size in 2014.   When healthy, and Zobrist seems to be healthy now, Ben is a good defender just about anywhere and especially in the spots the Royals are going to play him.

And that is kind of the beauty of this trade.  You can play him everywhere and offend no one.  For now, we are likely to see Zobrist spend most of his time in left.  Personally, I would put him at second and roll with Dyson/Orlando, but that’s me.  While left might be Zobrist’s primary spot, the Royals would be silly not to give him a couple of days a week at second and another in right and maybe another day at designated hitter.  Until Alex Gordon returns and returns in full Alex Gordon mode, the Royals can pretty much play Ben Zobrist every day and not have truly benched anyone.

Let’s face it, every team could use Ben Zobrist and your Kansas City Royals got him.   In the span of less than a week, Dayton Moore added two very good veteran baseball players to his team without subtracting a single relevant piece of the club that was already the class of the American League.  There is nothing to fear here other than expending some angst over what MIGHT have been pieces of the 2017 starting rotation.

This is going to fun, kids.

During the 2014 season, Johnny Cueto threw 244 innings for the Reds.  He struck out 242 batters and allowed just 6.2 hits per nine innings.  His earned run average finished at 2.25….pitching half his games in the best hitters’ park outside of Colorado.  Cueto’s ERA+ was 163, his FIP 3.30, his ERA- was 61.   Pick a number, they are all good.  With Johnny Cueto, they are almost always all good.

Don’t care about last year?  Well, in 2015, Cueto has tossed 131 innings, stuck out 120, allowed 6.4 hits per nine innings, fashioned a 2.65 ERA and an ERA+ of 145.  His FIP is 3.12 and Cueto has already provided 2.9 fWAR. I was told that Cueto had a bad May and he did, for him, allowing a 4.45 ERA. In other words, the worst month (by far) that Cueto had was better than what the Royals have gotten this year from Jeremy Guthrie, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy (before his last two starts).

Johnny Cueto is a Kansas City Royal.

You can name some major league pitchers who are better than Johnny Cueto, but the list is not very long.

Johnny Cueto is a Kansas City Royal and, by the way, Raul Mondesi, Kyle Zimmer, Sean Manaea and Miguel Almonte are still members of the Royals’ organization.  The Royals did have to give up John Lamb, Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed.

Sure, Finnegan was a great story last season and gave the Royals some decent innings in relief this year, but he was seventh reliever in a stacked bullpen and very little progress had been made in 2015 towards steering Finnegan back to a starter. I have little doubt Brandon Finnegan will have a long major league career, but many doubts that much of it will be spent being an effective starter. It is also doubtful that Finnegan was slated for many (if any) critical innings the final months of the season or in the post-season.

John Lamb is another great story and a guy you would have hated to trade away in say, 2011.  As it is, even a great half season in AAA seemed to do little to advance Lamb’s status with the organization. Joe Blanton and Yohan Pino got starts while Lamb staying in Omaha. Once he profiled as a top of the rotation starter, now he looks to be a back of the rotation guy….and one who has yet to throw a major league pitch.

Quite honestly, the name that might come back to haunt you in this deal might be Reed.  Hat tip to Clint Scoles (@clintscoles) who, after speculation that Sean Manaea’s medicals might be an issue on Saturday night offered that Reed was a pitcher that might be a suitable replacement. Reed, however, was just moved up to AA.  I thought a lot of guys were going to be stars when they were in AA that never went anywhere.

These three guys all have potential, but they all have question marks and none of them will ever by Johnny Cueto.  Of course, the argument goes, the Royals only get Cueto for a short period of time.  There is this ‘I don’t like rentals’ sentiment that runs perilously close to being a ‘get off my lawn’ mindset.  There is also the ‘hate to part with prospects’ mentality, drummed into many of us when all we had as Royals’ fans was the hope of prospects. I’m not buying either mindset.  This was at worst a fair trade and quite possibly a clear win for the Royals.

In the end, this trade really comes down to this:

  • Are the Royals more likely to win a World Series with Johnny Cueto on this team THIS year or more likely to win a title with Finnegan, Lamb and Reed paired with what is left in 2017?

Truthfully, the acquisition of ‘just a rental’ this year does not really effect the team’s ability to be a good team in 2016 given that Reed likely would not yet be ready, Lamb would – at best – be a rookie at the back of the rotation and Finnegan would almost certainly be in a similar role as this year.

While I was at the forefront of the ‘Royals need a bat more than an arm’ movement, I freaking love this trade. Some claim all this gets the Royals is just a handful of Cueto starts, but the math indicates that it gets them FOURTEEN regular season starts and, knock wood, at least two starts a piece in three post-season series. Maybe that is just a handful, but it is a damn valuable handful.

Couple Cueto with the just maybe possible resurgence of Danny Duffy and a hopeful start from Yordano Ventura and all of a sudden, the Kansas City Royals can at least dream about being four deep in starting pitching with the best and deepest bullpen in the game.  Say what you want about teams acquiring aces not parlaying that acquisition into post-season success, but I like the idea that Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Young (as good as he has been, he falters in the second half with regularity and, by the way, do you want a flyball pitcher on the mound in a playoff game in Houston?) never being considered for a post-season start.

I like the idea that Dayton Moore and the Royals are buyers at the trade deadline. I like the idea that an organization and a general manager who have always relied on staying the course this time said that a seven game lead in the division is not enough.  This was a move made to make the Kansas City Royals THE team to beat, not just one of the teams. And it was a bold move made without giving up any of the very best prospects in the system.

Johnny Cueto is a Kansas City Royal.

Today is a very good day.


Since starting the season with seven straight wins, the Kansas City Royals have gone 14-13.  Thus far, that has been good enough to get into and stay in first place.  A few weeks back, I noted that the Royals could put themselves into position to win 90 games by simply going 7-6 over each of eleven thirteen game stretches between the seven game win streak to start the season and the evening of Sunday, September 20th.  That would put them at 84-66 with twelve games to play.

Well, the Royals have gone 7-6 in the first two thirteen game spans.  Last night’s loss was the first game of a new thirteen game span.  Why thirteen games?  No reason, just happened to be the random point of the season when I thought of it.  You can slice and dice however you wish, but the premise is that the Royals can play just a little better than .500 ball for the rest of the year and likely be in decent to very good shape of making the playoffs.

That seemed like a doable task when I first wrote it, but that was before Danny Duffy managed to accumulate all of four innings of work in two combined starts, before Jason Vargas went on the disabled list and before Yordano Ventura ate 13 innings over two starts that included allowing 9 runs and burying his team early both times. I ranted on Tuesday (and it was just a rant, not analysis, not noteworthy) about the starting rotation and things got worse.

A few weeks back, I took in a game with a couple of friends and we were talking about how deep the Royals’ bullpen was.  My thought was it was a fertile stockpile with which to make a trade and my friends asked a very logical question:  ‘Well, where would you improve?’  At the time, second base was (and remains) squarely in my sights.  Dollars be damned, if the Royals could upgrade second, they should.  They won’t, I don’t think, because Omar Infante is under contract for two seasons after this, but it seemed like the place to look.  Now, three weeks later, with the rotation offering us two good Chris Young starts, one by Jeremy Guthrie and a whole bunch of yuck, it seems obvious the Royals should be seriously considering a rotation upgrade.

The minors offer very little in the way of help.  Joe Blanton has an opt-out tomorrow and, well, is still Joe Blanton.  Christian Binford is in Omaha and does not really have the ‘look’ of anything more than a back of the rotation starter at best in the majors.  John Lamb? That would be a nice surprise, but it is difficult to see him going six and two-thirds effectively in the majors any more regularly than the current rotation.  Kyle Zimmer?  Yeah, prove to me he even exists.  Sean Mannea?  Injured.  Almonte? Not ready, not close.  Brandon Finnegan? He’s on the reliever merry-go-round.  You get the idea.

Without question, it is early.  I am not advocating trading for Johnny Cueto tonight…well, if you want to Mr. Moore, go ahead, but it’s too early to go into full panic buyer’s mode.  That said, the time is coming when the Royals will either have to get better starting pitching or seriously make a move.  The best bullpens in the world don’t do much other than get worn out if their starting pitcher consistently puts them in a 4-0 hole. The best offense in the world (and the Royals are good, but not the best in the world) cannot consistently battle back from an early deficit.  It wears you out, just because it cannot be statistically quantified does not mean it doesn’t happen.

So, let’s get back to the deep bullpen. I don’t believe trading a reliever for a starter, no matter how good the reliever might be, straight up happens in baseball: not if you are looking for a real upgrade in a starter.  The Royals also don’t have THAT prospect to center a trade around.  There is no Wil Myers in the system or Yordano Ventura (rumored to be the asking price for Howie Kendrick at one point) or Zack Greinke (rumored to have been asked for in exchange for David Wright before Zack made his major league debut). I am not even sure there is a Jake Odorizzi to offer.

There are those who love and covet prospects, I’ve lost that attachment to most or at least to the current group in a good, not great, Royals’ system. If Hunter Dozier and Raul Mondesi (currently hurt) greases the wheels of a trade for a starter, I am not sure I lose sleep over it.  That said, to get the conversation even started, Dayton Moore would have to part with one of the vaunted Herrera-Davis-Holland triad of doom.  All three are good and all three are not getting any cheaper.  How much less effective would Madson/Hochevar-Davis-Holland or Madson/Hochevar-Herrera-Davis be than the current group?  Would you trade Greg Holland and Hunter Dozier for two and a half months of Johnny Cueto?  Would you throw in Bubba Starling or Brett Eibner to make it happen?

The Royals will take a spin through the starting rotation three more times before the end of May.  A couple of lights out Ventura starts, twenty innings from Danny Duffy and news that Jason Vargas really isn’t going to need Tommy John surgery and maybe these thoughts go away.  That, obviously, is the best case scenario.

What if the above doesn’t happen and the Royals limp to the end of May with an overtaxed bullpen and little improvement in the rotation?  Then it will be time to pick your target, swallow hard and start thinking about trading players you would rather not.

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

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

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

Let’s deal with the target man first…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s look at Bourgeois…

My first reaction…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well played, Luhnow. Well played.

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

But wait… There’s more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, Dayton…

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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




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

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

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

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

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

Not so fast…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, do you like it or not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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