The dust has yet to settle on the Greinke deal, but there have been a couple of interesting developments on the side since the trade went down early Sunday. These are just a few things that caught my eye…
What now for Alex Gordon?
So we now have Lorenzo Cain in center field and a pair of free agent acquisitions in Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur. The Royals also have Gregor Blanco, acquired in the Farnsworth/Ankiel trade. Along with Mitch Maier. And Jarrod Dyson who earned a cup of coffee at the end of the season. And David Lough waiting in the wings.
Unless the Royals petition the league for an exemption to add an extra defender (Given the lousy state of their defense the last couple of years, why didn’t anyone think of this? It could be the Beer League Softball Exemption.) they will be forced to choose four – maybe five – of these guys to stay on the roster. Let’s examine this group, one by one.
Jeff Francoeur – Don’t kid yourself. He’s a lock. Your right fielder. So inevitable, it was predicted by the Mayans. And the Incas.
Lorenzo Cain – When the trade was announced, I figured Cain would slide in as the everyday center fielder. You don’t trade your ace for a player with big league experience, only to have him riding the buses around the Pacific Coast League. However… This is the Royals we are talking about. As the Great Poz pointed out, strange things may be afoot… From Ned Yost via Bob Dutton’s article on the trade.
“We’ll see where (Cain) fits in. I’m not projecting anything right now. We’ve signed Melky Cabrera (to play center field), and Lorenzo Cain only has (147) big-league at-bats.”
So this athletic, defensive stud you just received in exchange for your one-year-removed-Cy-Young-award-winner could be edged out my Melky Freakin’ Cabrera? The same guy who, with over 2,600 career plate appearances owns a slash line of .267/.328/.379?
Look, it’s early. I have to figure that sane minds will prevail.
What? Yes, this is the Royals. Crap…
Melky Cabrera – Apparently, he’s our center fielder. Although he broke in with the Yankees as a left fielder and played more innings in left last year for the Braves than any other outfield position. So it’s possible he could slide over. Either way, I just remember seeing him butcher play after play in the outfield last year. He was fat, slow and played like he just didn’t give a damn. In other words, he’s a Royal.
Plus, you have to wonder what kind of promises or assurances were made to get Melky to come to Kansas City. He’s started for most of his career, so I’d have to assume he was told he would be part of the everyday mix. We know the clubhouse mix is important to the Royals and Dayton Moore. You don’t want to promise something to a guy and then welch on that deal.
The acquisition of Cabrera is another area where GMDM really jumped the gun. He wasn’t necessary before he signed here. And now he’s really unnecessary. At least he can take The Yunigma’s place as my least favorite Royal.
Gregor Blanco – Clearly better than Cabrera. Clearly. While he lacks Melky’s experience (although Blanco is nine months older) he’s shown the ability to reach base and actually steal the occasional bag. Blanco is the type of player who immediately springs to mind when we think of guys GMDM covets – speedy, slasher type with limited power. The one way he doesn’t fit the GMDM mold is his career .358 OBP and 12% walk rate.
I’m not certain he’s an everyday player, but he should certainly be in the mix in this outfield.
Mitch Maier – Our Mitch. He’s out of options and seemingly out of space on the Royals roster. Meaning he will hit the waiver wire sometime between now and the beginning of the season.
Maier’s value lies in his versatility – he can play all three outfield positions. That could save him when it comes time to build the roster, but the front office has always been tone deaf when it comes to assembling a complete 25 man roster. In my mind, he’s a classic fourth outfielder… Decent defender, average to below average offensively, inexpensive and a guy who won’t kill you if he gets into the lineup a couple of times a week. Useful on the Royals, but they probably don’t realize that.
Jarrod Dyson – The kid showed some crazy defensive skills in center during his September call-up, but was overmatched at the plate. He has under 300 plate appearances in his career between Triple-A and the majors combined. He’s 26, so the clock is definitely ticking, but I wonder if it’s too late.
David Lough – DeJesus 2.0 did well in his debut as a regular in Omaha and is a year younger than Dyson. Placed on the roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, he was positioned to get some playing time in Kansas City next summer. Until GMDM went on his acquisition spree. It’s possible he still has a future in Kansas City, but it will have to wait until the free agent studs clear the deck at the end of the season. (Or take a June hunting trip.)
That brings us to…
Alex Gordon – We all know the story. Injuries, attitude problems and time spent in Triple-A has seemingly robbed Gordon of coming close to realizing his potential. As one of the remaining holdovers of the Allard Baird regime, where exactly does he fit when GMDM and his brain trust assembles the 2011 squad. I thought he played an above average left field when he returned from his Omaha exile. However, his bat never got on track. Recalled when DeJesus’ season ended in New York, Gordon hit a meager .218/.311/.360 in 243 plate appearances. Ouch.
Is he the next guy out of Kansas City? I think so. Like all of Dayton’s moves this winter, this has an air of inevitability about it. The Royals are frustrated by Gordon, who has ignored all attempts at salvation by the coaching staff. His stock is dropping for sure… It’s never been lower and we haven’t reached the floor.
But time and again, I come back to the guy not really having had a chance over the last couple of seasons. It would behoove the Royals to just turn him loose and see what happens. He could post a miserable line like he did in the second half of the season. Or he could be league average. Tough to say. I do know he needs to just relax and play his game. We’re not at the point where the Royals can give up on him. But we’re pretty damn close.
He remains one of the great mysteries of the Royals.
Ideally, my outfield would be Gordon in left, Cain in center and somebody in right. (I suppose it has to be Francoeur, but it really pains me to say that.) I get the feeling by the end of 2011, the majority of the outfield time will be Cabrera in left, Cain in center and Francoeur in right. That’s criminal.
And if I had to rank the outfielders right now, it would probably look something like this:
While The Process continues to roll… There are still too many failures of evaluation at the major league level.
Billy Butler is emerging as the clubhouse leader.
I don’t think anyone really saw this coming. But with DeJesus gone (not really leadership material anyway) and now Greinke, Butler is one of the longer tenured Royals on the team. Plus, he came up through the system. He really is someone who can help the younger guys out – if he chooses. And indications are he’s more than willing.
Obviously, there’s “Jeffy Ballgame” as Nick likes to call Francoeur. I know GMDM and the brain trust think he’ll be a leader. But guys who aren’t good and are on short-term contracts aren’t the type of players the youngsters will look up to. No matter if they were on the bench during the playoffs.
Breaking up is hard to do.
So Zack arrived in Milwaukee and declared himself the “happiest he’s been since the draft in 2002.” Ouch. Then word slowly comes out of the Royals camp that nobody liked Greinke much anyway. Double ouch.
I’ve always preferred to separate the personality from the performer. I know there’s going to be some sniping from both sides… It happens all the time. And it always seems to happen when a guy signs an extension with a losing team and then is surprised when the team doesn’t immediately start to win. Still, I’m glad Greinke was a Royal. As I tweeted on Sunday, “We’ll always have 2009.” Don’t dispute that his starts were some of the most fun you’ve had watching Royals baseball in the last decade. Sure, the guy is weird and flaky and was notoriously short with the media. Who cares? The guy threw some outstanding ballgames.
Of course the counter argument to that is he quit on his team. Maybe he did. Hell, I think he mailed in a start or two even in his Cy Young campaign of 2009. That’s just the way he is.
It’s just Zack being Zack. It wouldn’t be an issue if the Royals won ballgames.