The Royals signed Joba Chamberlain and Wandy Rodriguez to minor league deals the other day and I had to chuckle at some of the reactions. Why? Some asked. Keep them in Omaha, please, others said. Hey, I understand some of the wonder/concern/angst. I’ll make fun of it because I am only a marginally nice person at best, but I do understand.
Not too very long ago, Chamberlain would not be headed to the minors to try to revive his career but instead would be pitching tonight in Cincinnati…in the seventh inning…of a tie game. One does not have to reach back too far into history to a point when instead of trading for Johnny Cueto to win the World Series, the Royals were signing Wandy Rodriguez to start eight games down the stretch just to get through the season.
Now, Rodriguez gets a month to show if he has anything left as he assumes the role of a warm body in the Omaha starting rotation which was thinned out thanks to the trades of Aaron Brooks, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb. While I think the end of a good career is well within sight for the 36 year old Rodriguez, there is no harm in giving him a look in AAA. Curiously, Wandy’s strikeout rate is up this year, but sadly most of the bad stats are up, too. If you see him in September, which I highly doubt, it will be because of a catastrophic string of injuries (knock wood!) or simply a spot start to get the rotation aligned for the playoffs. His role is really just to eat up some innings for a AAA team short on starters and maybe do well enough to earn a 2016 Spring Training invite.
As much as it appears that Wandy Rodriguez is well into the twilight of his career, I feel as though Joba Chamberlain is pretty much past the bed time of his own. After a passable year for Detroit in 2014, Chamberlain was ineffective in 2015. He was victim to a big (and likely to regress in a good way) home run rate (21.7% of flyballs became home runs), but it is hard to look away from the fact that batters hit line drives off him almost 30% of the time. His is a career that basically has gone down hill via injuries and just plain non-performance since 2008 and shows no real sign of getting better. Yet, the guy was basically sitting 50 miles up the road from where the Stormchasers play, so what is the harm in taking a look?
There is no harm in either signing because, quite frankly, if either Rodriguez or Chamberlain pitches a meaningful inning in a meaningful major league game for the Royals, the team has far, far bigger problems. I think it is unlikely that we see either in a Royals’ uniform this September and quite possible that the month they spend in the system will be their only time with organization. Maybe we’ll see them in Spring Training – again, no harm in having a bunch of arms in camp in March.
It is easy to overestimate the amount of angst contained in a Tweet or a comment on the internet, but if you had any – even one brief sliver of it – over these two minor league signings, you need to note that the calendar says 2015, not 2009. It is not like it used to be. Oh, and by the way, after years of very logical questioning of Dayton Moore, who are we to criticize the signings made by a GM who picked up Chris Young, Ryan Madson and, yes, even Joe Blanton for virtually nothing this year?
Among other things….
- When would you let Omar Infante play second base again? My answer would be next April, but I fear Ned Yost will re-insert Infante as soon as tonight or tomorrow. Some have defended Infante playing every day by siting his defense. Sure, Omar ranks as high as sixth in the majors among second basemen defensively (depending on your preferred defensive metric). You have all watched him and Infante is a good defender, but he is not a great defender. He is no Frank White or Cookie Rojas. Frankly, he is no Mark Grudzielanek. And, by the way, you CANNOT play good enough defense at second base in the 21st century to justify the batting line that Omar Infante carries. You want to play Zobrist over Rios and keep Infante? I’ll listen. It is a pick your poison choice, but lose no sleep over Omar sitting. Also, Ben Zobrist can play some defense at second as well.
- Fun story of the day. My seven year old discovered that our next door neighbors are Cardinal fans – he was appalled. They have a ten year old who was lecturing Max on how the Cardinals had a better record than the Royals, to which Max responded, “Well, we have Johnny Cueto now.” and walked away. Johnny Cueto: fun to say, fun to have on your team.
- A fair portion of you have a distaste for Nebraska. I have said in the past that you cannot find four states that are more similar than Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa or, best I can tell, four states from which people are so certain they are different. As an aside, you know the difference between a die-hard Kansas basketball fan and a die-hard Nebraska football fan? Me neither, there isn’t one and you are fooling yourself if you think there is one. At any rate, the Stormchasers will certainly enjoy a nice little attendance bump should Alex Gordon do a rehab stint in Omaha AND Joba Chamberlain is in the bullpen. Even I (keep in mind I live in Lincoln) will think that might be a few too many Husker fans.
- Speaking of Gordon and again, knock wood, he would seem to be right on track for an early September return. It seems like perfect timing: three to four weeks for Alex to get back in the groove in the majors and the same amount of time for Ned Yost to settle into his post-season lineup. As I wrote last week, I don’t have major issues with Yost resting players liberally and maneuvering the lineup around through the end of this month and the first part of September. Come the weekend of September 19th, however, I believe Yost needs to know and play ‘his playoff nine’ and part of that is putting Ben Zobrist at either second base or in rightfield full-time.
It’s August 18th and we are already talking playoffs. It truly is not like it used to be.