Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Happy “Let’s Exchange Salary Figures Before We Go To Arbitration Day!”

(That’s not really a holiday. I just made that up.)

Today is the day major league teams and their arbitration-eligible players trade salary figures for the upcoming season. The Royals have nine players eligible for arbitration. As of this writing, all nine are still unsigned.

A quick primer on arbitration: A player with at least three years of service time can make his case before an arbiter for an increase in salary. Those unfortunate souls with less than three years of service are at the mercy of their teams, who have the right to renew their contracts at a dollar value they see fit. (This is ignoring the Super Two designation, which gives a percentage of players who have played for less than three seasons, but very close to that amount, the same opportunity for arbitration.)

Today is the deadline for players and teams to submit their respective numbers. That also means we should expect a flurry of announcements in the coming hours about players reaching deals with the Royals.

Let’s look at what happened last season. The Royals had eight players eligible for arbitration. On the deadline day to exchange figures, three of them (Eric Hosmer, Luke Hochevar and Emilio Bonifacio) reached deals for 2014 the Royals announced around the noon hour. (Two of them – Tim Collins and Brett Hayes – had previously settled.) With nine players still unsigned for 2015, I expect an even larger flurry of deadline signings today.

For those who don’t sign, the next step will be to exchange figures. Which is what this day is really all about. Let’s look again to last year. Greg Holland was a first year arbitration-eligible player who made it to this step. He told the Royals he thought he was worth $5.2 million. The Royals countered with $4.1 million.

At this point, players and teams can still negotiate. Consider the exchange of numbers simply the opening salvo of a negotiation. The team and the player can come together and reach a deal. In the case of Holland, they settled at $4.675 million. Or $25,000 above the midway point.

Should the player and team fail to reach an agreement, they would head to an arbitration hearing sometime in February. At that point, there is no middle ground. Player argues for his salary offer. Team argues for their salary offer. The arbiter picks one. There is no middle ground.

Of course, you are likely aware Dayton Moore has never gone to the final step in arbitration as a general manager. This will be brought up as if he’s some sort of contract wizard. In this case, he’s really not. Arbitration is just something that has become increasingly rare in today’s game. Everyone knows they’re going to get paid and they just want to avoid the acrimony.

Thankfully, we have Major League Trade Rumors and Cot’s Contracts to help us sort though the gory finances. Using the arbitration estimates from Trade Rumors and the contract information from Cot’s, I’ve compiled a spreadsheet of how the Royals finances look at this point for the next two seasons.

RoyalsPayrollEstimate2

I currently have the Royals at close to $113 million. On Thursday, Jeff Passan from Yahoo.com tweeted a list of payroll estimates. This number puts the Royals at the 15th highest payroll among 30 teams. That’s up from number 19 last year. Keep in mind though, with Max Scherzer and James Shields still on the market, the Royals ranking could drop a few spots before the dust settles on the offseason.

This is a good payroll. Or I should say, this is an appropriate amount of money to spend given the Royals market size and revenue streams. I’m not sold they have allocated their funds wisely (I’m still a little perturbed by Kendrys Morales), but that’s for another post.

Some other notes:

— Alex Gordon’s original player option for 2016 is $12.5 million. His contract had salary escalators built-in for things like All-Star selections and Gold Glove awards, pushing it to $14 million.

— Don’t miss the bottom of the table. The Royals owe $1 million each to Bruce Chen and Billy Butler.

— This number will move a little higher when the Royals open the season with Kris Medlin and Luke Hochevar on the disabled list. I could be wrong, but I believe those players on the DL count toward Opening Day payroll. Figure their spots will be taken by someone making close to the major league minimum which will be around $510,000.

— The salary figures for the last four guys on the list are estimates. They will all earn close to the major league minimum. The $525,000 figure is used simply for rounding purposes.

— Yes, I know Brandon Finnegan isn’t going to make the Opening Day roster. His name is simply on the list as the 25th man. Whomever gets that spot will make close to the major league minimum.

— The Salvador Perez contract remains – and will always be – a thing of wonder. As long as Ned Yost doesn’t play him 162 games this coming summer.

— Six current Royals have mutual options in their current contracts. Yes, it’s a meme in Kansas City. Despite Jin Wong’s protestations.

— My pledge to you: I will update this table as the signings and salary updates hit the interwebs.

A few years ago, I attempted to make this site something of a clearinghouse for Royals information. Not stats and such – you can find that anywhere. Maybe something more arcane. I don’t remember where, but at one point I found a site that did a family tree for the team they followed. The idea is simple – trace the roots of the current roster. How was it built? Who were players “related” to?

Finally finding some inspiration to get off my winter ass and do something semi-productive, I rebuilt the Royals family tree.

The table is fairly straightforward. It lists the players – pitchers first, then hitters – and how they were acquired. (Draft with round, trade, free agent, amateur free agent, etc.) It also includes the year they landed with the team. The next column is the “Root” which is the initial player they were exchanged for. Click to enlarge:

Royals Family Tree 0113

Some fun facts (your mileage may vary):

— The Royal with the deepest roots is Wade Davis. He can be traced all the way back to Billy Brewer, making him a sixth generation Royal. That’s something else. Brewer was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1990 and the Royals nabbed him in the Rule 5 draft ahead of the 1993 season. He pitched for three seasons in Kansas City out of the bullpen, made 144 appearances and posted a 3.95 ERA with a 6.1 SO/9 and 4.1 BB/9. He was flipped to the Dodgers for Jose Offerman, who has the distinction of having the highest batting average (.306) and on-base percentage (.385) in Royals history.

After Offerman departed after the 1998 season, the Royals gained the Red Sox first round pick which they used to select Mike MacDougal. MacDougal was then shipped to the White Sox in one of Dayton Moore’s earliest trades in exchange for Dan Cortes. We know about MacDougal, but we never got to know the guys he was traded for when the Royals shipped him to the White Sox in one of Dayton Moore’s earliest trades.

Cortes was on the move a couple of years later as the “key” to the Yuniesky Betancourt deal. Ahead of the 2009 season, Baseball Prospectus had Cortes as the Royals third best prospect, behind two guys you may know: Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Cortes had a few off-field issues and never fulfilled his prospect potential.

You probably know the rest of the story: Betancourt was packaged with Zack Greinke to the Brewers, bringing back Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi was later shipped to the Rays as part of the deal for James Shields and Wade Davis.

And there you go.  The seeds of Heroic Bullpen Arm, Wade Davis, were sewn in the Rule 5 draft in 1993 when the Royals plucked Billy Brewer from the Montreal Expos.

— The current 40-man roster is built like this:

Trade – 10
Draft – 15
Free Agent – 8
Amateur Free Agent – 6
Rule 5 – 1

That’s 21 players who would qualify as home-grown.

— The Billy Brewer to Wade Davis thread isn’t typical. I’ve been searching for some other long branches of the Royals family tree. While I haven’t found any as long, I did find a couple of interesting roots.

The Royals selected Danny Jackson in the 1st round of the 1982 draft. He was traded to Cincinnati for Kurt Stillwell in 1987. When Stillwell departed as a free agent, the Royals gained a supplemental pick in the 1992 draft which they used to pick Johnny Damon. The Royals sent Damon to Oakland in a three-team trade where they acquired Angel Berroa. The thread dies when the Royals dumped Berroa on the Dodgers for Juan Rivera.

And of course, there’s the famous Carlos Beltran root that fizzled out when the Royals parted with Chris Getz last spring.

— Turns out my old BP editor Woj, who runs the A’s Sweetspot blog at Beaneball, has been doing the same thing. But since his team has the original Mad GM, Billy Beane at the controls, there are a few more branches on the A’s family tree. Four players can trace their roots six generations. Three of them (R.J. Alvarez, Sam Fuld and Jesse Hahn) can claim Johnny Damon as some sort of demented great-great-grandfather.

Just something to compare.

— I have no idea when I last updated the Royals Family Tree. That version just has a 25-man roster. There were just three players on that list who are still around, so it’s be a little while. I’ll leave it for a few more days if you want to jump into the time machine. And ridicule me for calling Greg Holland “Derek.”

In the least-surprising news of this Royals winter, on Tuesday it was announced the Royals extended manager Ned Yost for another year. His contract now runs through the 2016 season.

There was a little grumbling about a one-year extension for Yost. After all, he led the Royals to the promised land, didn’t he? Doesn’t he deserve more? Not so fast, says the man himself.

“Dayton’s got this year and next year, and that’s all I wanted,” Yost told The Star in a telephone conversation. He added, “One extra year, I’m happy with that. And we’ll just play it out, and see what happens after that.”

Move along. Nothing to see here. Please, move along.

Seriously, there’s no controversy about this. Yost took the team this close to the summit. He has other interests – and more deer to kill. The man strikes me as someone who doesn’t really care too much about his own future because he has confidence he can do whatever the hell he wants. It’s no longer Nervous Ned. It’s Gunslinger Ned. He just doesn’t give a damn.

A rolling contract makes sense in his situation. He has the trust of ownership and upper management and presumably a job for as long as he would like. Clearly, his players like and respect him. Why not take it a year at a time and reevaluate on an annual basis?

I’m sure Yost will take just a game or two in the 2015 season to frustrate the fanbase all over again. That’s just his style. I’m interested to see if he applies the lessons he learned down the stretch last year and in the postseason. Winning is a beautiful thing, so he’s earned a certain level of goodwill for 2014. And when he orders a sac bunt, remember, Yost isn’t really all that different from every other major league manager.

Yost has been at the helm for the Royals for 775 games, the most in franchise history. He passed Dick Howser late last year, who managed Kansas City for 770 games before stepping down at the All-Star break in 1986. With 373 wins in his Royals tenure, Yost has the third most wins. The top five:

Whitey Herzog – 410
Dick Howser – 404
Ned Yost – 373
Tony Muser – 317
John Wathan – 287

It’s interesting that Yost will pass both Howser and Herzog by mid-season. Those two were gods of the Royal dugout. I’m pretty sure most Royals fans have never placed Yost in that class.

As you would expect from the manager near the top with the most wins in franchise history, Yost will also take over the top spot for losses early next year. The top five:

Tony Muser – 431
Ned Yost – 402
Dick Howser – 365
Whitey Herzog – 304
Tony Pena – 285

I bring up that list only to have the opportunity to throw Tony Muser’s name in a post. What a dreadful manager.

Yost’s .481 winning percentage as Royals manager ranks 10th in franchise history. He will have to win 25 more games than he loses over the next two seasons to even his win-loss account.

The off-season is always full of hope….and angst.  Let’s face it, Dayton Moore’s off-season has come down to having faith in comeback seasons from Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, competence from Edinson Volquez and the idea that great defense and a dominating and deep bullpen can get the Royals back to the post-season.  It might work, maybe, but you know what would make it all a lot easier?  If the title of this column is a realistic conversation come August.

I bring this topic up because in a random (i.e. didn’t feel like working the other day) scan of Eric Hosmer’s Baseball Reference page an interesting comp comes up at the top of his Age 24 similarity score:  Keith Hernandez.

Comparisons and similarity scores and projections and whatever are what they are:  interesting, but certainly not concrete indicators of what a player will become.  Humans, it seems, are kind of hard to predict.

That said, let’s have a little fun.

Hosmer got his career started basically a year sooner than Hernandez, logging 128 games as a 21 year old rookie.  Hernandez had played 78 major league games over two seasons before logging 129 games in his age 22 season.   In each of their first nearly full major league season, both guys were pretty good:

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 293 334 465 118 113
Hernandez 289 376 428 127 130

As we know, Hosmer followed up his 2011 rookie season with an abysmal 2012 (80 wRC+) and an encouraging 2013 (120 wRC+), but let’s take a little liberty and skip over that 2012 campaign and match our two subjects up age to age.  Why can we do that?  Because I said so.

As indicated in the preceding paragraph, Hosmer had a good age 23 season (2013) and so did Hernandez:

 

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 302 353 448 118 120
Hernandez 291 379 459 125 124

Then both of them fell on some hard times during their age 24 season:

 

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 270 318 398 98 99
Hernandez 255 351 389 108 107

If you’re into awards, both players won Gold Gloves that season.  If you like counting stats, Hosmer had 35 doubles and 9 home runs.  Hernandez had 31 and 11, plus 64 RBI:  6 more than Hosmer.

Without questions, Hernandez up to and through age 24 had enjoyed a better and more consistent career than Eric Hosmer has, but they are not dramatically far apart.   A system devised by far smarter folks than me has designated Hernandez as the most similar player to Hosmer at this data point in their careers.

So, and I bet you saw this coming, what happened to Keith Hernandez in his age 25 season?  MVP, baby.

Twenty-five year old Keith Hernandez hit .344 in 1979 with a .417 on-base percentage and slugged .513.  His OPS+ was 151, his wRC+ a robust 156.  He slashed 48 doubles and had 11 triples, 11 homers and 11 steals.  All told, Keith Hernandez was valued at 7.4 fWAR that season.  There was debate that year as to whether he was the true MVP, but that is one hell of a season.  Not only that, but Hernandez was a remarkably similar player for the next seven years.

Pretty sure we would all be pretty happy with Eric Hosmer becoming Keith Hernandez.  Quite frankly, that is exactly what the Royals will likely need to make it back to the post-season in 2015.

 

The Royals have released their team hall of fame ballot, on which fans have a small part of the vote. Like just about every baseball fan, I’ve become ambivalent about that other hall in Cooperstown, but the Royals Hall of Fame remains what a hall of fame should be: a fun honor and celebration of the best and most important people in a given history. The voters have done an excellent job in selecting the 17 players, two owners, two managers, one GM/president, one announcer, one scout, and one groundskeeper to receive a pre-game induction ceremony and plaque in the Hall of Fame building beyond Kauffman Stadium’s left field. Curt Nelson, the hall’s director, has done a fantastic job with the physical museum portion, the website (where you can find video of almost all the induction ceremonies), and making the voting process transparent and fan-inclusive.

As part of my rating system for my top 100 Royals list I’ve come up with a “hall rating” for each player. My rating system is patterned after Adam Darawoski’s work at his Hall of Stats, the basis of which is taking a player’s wins above replacement and wins above average and turning them into a single number called their hall rating. 100 or above means they’re in the Hall of Stats, under 100 means they’re out. (If you want all the messy details about the formula I use for the ratings, see here.) It’s an especially satisfying approach for the baseball hall, which I personally think should be about on-field greatness and little else. I’m undecided if the team hall selections should skew so heavily towards on-field production, and how much things like popularity or how much of the team’s “story” a person embodies should enter into induction. So far, the inductees have been the statistically elite in team history, with the exception of Cookie Rojas, whose stats are unimpressive but was (I gather) a big fan favorite. I can get too caught up in not being able to see past the statistics and sometimes miss a broader context of a player’s story, but the stats are what I can wrap my head around.

Here are the 10 players on this year’s ballot, from lowest to highest hall rating, and my thoughts on their hall worthiness. You can weigh in with a “yes” or “no” vote for each player’s RHOF-worthiness too.

Angel Berroa ∙ 9

Berroa’s story is unfortunately one of disappointment. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in that bizarro 2003 season and became the latest hope that the Royals had finally found a long-term solution at shortstop (a position that has haunted the Royals through most of their existence). But that modestly good season was the high water mark for Berroa’s career. He continued to play almost every day for KC for three more seasons, but something had robbed him of his potential.

Yes
0 Vote
No
89 Vote

 

Brian Bannister ∙ 22

Banny has the fan-favorite aspect down. Unfortunately a torn shoulder put an end to his career before he could get the longevity and production needed for hall consideration. (I wrote more in-depth about Bannister’s time with the Royals here.)

Yes
4 Vote
No
81 Vote

 

John Wathan ∙ 35

Wathan is one of those organizational soldiers who has put in so much time in so many different roles that I can understand a case for his induction. His 10 year playing career was spent only with the Royals, and was framed nicely by the team’s first playoff appearance in 1976 and the title in 1985. (Until 2014, there had never been a Royals playoff team without Wathan on it.) After his playing days, he managed the team to a 287-270 record between ’87-’91, and has continued to work for the team in various capacities off and on ever since. But for someone as production minded as me, it’s tough to vote for someone who was mostly used as a back-up/utility player. He averaged just 86 games played a year. He’s the kind of guy it’s nice to have around all these years, but not quite hall-worthy.

Yes
28 Vote
No
55 Vote

 

Bo Jackson ∙ 36

Along with Darrell Porter, Bo is one of the two on the current ballot that are tough decisions for me. If you subscribe to the idea that the hall members should be the ones who tell the team’s story, Bo is a lock. He was a myth come to life and invigorated baseball in Kansas City for a short time. His career is right in my sentimental wheelhouse too, having played in KC when I was ages seven through 11. I was fully swept up in Bo hype and he’s a big part of why I love baseball. So I’d be happy to see him inducted.

But it’s hard to get past the fact that he didn’t contribute that much to actually winning baseball games. He was the biggest tools freak of all time, making him possibly the most entertaining athlete to watch ever, but what we got to see in Kansas City was the slow process of Bo’s baseball skills growing into those crazy tools. It’s true that even his outs were exciting to witness, but it’s also true that he made outs way too often in the beginning. But he was just too talented, and he steadily improved every season until his production actually caught up with the tools and the hype in 1990 when he had his one truly excellent season. He would have had a glorious peak for many years after that if not for football. Being a two-sport all-star was of course a big part of Bo’s appeal, but it’s also a big negative when it comes to his place in Royals history. The violence of football crosses a line from acceptable brutality into an activity that robs people of their basic health and often even their mental well-being, and by playing football, Bo risked and ultimately lost the years that could have been the grand payoff of his baseball learning pains. He’s one of the best stories in team history. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to become one of the best players.

Yes
73 Vote
No
24 Vote

 

Al Cowens ∙ 56

Did you know Cowens finished second for the 1977 AL MVP? Wow. He had a fantastic year, the only season his hitting was way above average. His other five years in Royal blue were merely good, which all adds up to a nice, underrated career for AC. Sort of like David DeJesus after him, Cowens was subtly good, with no stand-out skill to make him as appreciated as he could have been. A fine career deserving more recognition than it gets, but not a team Hall of Fame career.

Yes
9 Vote
No
73 Vote

 

Gil Meche ∙ 58

Meche is almost unique in Royals history as a big professional free agent signing that actually worked out. (Steve Farr and David Cone went on to more success as free agent signings, but Farr wasn’t a big signing at the time considering he was 27, had just half a season in the big leagues, and the Indians had just released him outright. Cone’s signing was definitely a big one, but it also pre-dated the era when the Royals generally couldn’t or wouldn’t spend with the richest teams in free agency.) The Royals blew the market out of the water giving Meche a rich five-year deal heading into the 2007 season, and it paid off handsomely for the first two years as Meche piled up quality innings. The team may have let him pile up too many innings though, as his health, innings, and effectiveness diminished greatly in ’09 and ’10. Meche shocked the house by retiring before the ’11 season, leaving his Royals legacy built mostly on those two excellent first years. Not enough for the hall.

Yes
4 Vote
No
81 Vote

 

Al Fitzmorris ∙ 81

Fitzmorris was a huge get for the Royals in the ’68 expansion draft, and he pitched admirably for them all the way until KC lost him, ironically enough, in the ’76 expansion draft. Some of his raw numbers rank surprisingly high in team history, such as his 3.46 ERA (fifth in team history for pitchers with 500 IP) and .593 winning percentage (first in team history). Drilling down a little deeper though, Fitzmorris falls down the lists a bit. His adjusted ERA+ is 106, which is good, but right around other good but not great guys like Doug Bird, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jeff Suppan. Fitzmorris had no strikeout power to speak of, but learned to limit walks and home runs as his career progressed. His spot in team history is probably a little under-appreciated, but I regard him in a group of the best pitchers who aren’t quite hall worthy along with guys like Tom Gordon, Danny Jackson, and David Cone.

Yes
15 Vote
No
66 Vote

 

Kevin Seitzer ∙ 89

Seitz is similar to Fitzmorris in that group of the very best Royals careers that fall just shy of hall-worthiness. My silly hall rating is anything but definitive, but Seitzer has the highest hall rating of any player under 100. He put together four strong offensive seasons between 1987-90, accomplished by hitting lots of singles and doubles and actually taking something called “walks,” a foreign concept for most Royals throughout team history. His .380 OBP is best among the 39 humanoids who have 2,000+ plate appearances for KC. That alone is enough to make him a strong candidate for the hall, and I’d be happy to see him elected. But he really only had two truly excellent seasons, and overall probably ranks around the 15th most productive hitter in team history on a counting basis. Very good, but not quite enough in my book.

Yes
51 Vote
No
35 Vote

 

Darrell Porter ∙ 106

I go back and forth on Porter. He’s hard to judge because his time with KC was so short (four seasons) but so good. He possessed a wicked bat that would have played at any position, but Porter didn’t play just any position. He’s the only catcher the team has ever had to be a well above average hitter. Stats like WAR peg him as hall-worthy, but unfortunately it’s tough to place too much trust in WAR for catchers. Getting the positional adjustment and especially defensive contributions of a receiver factored into WAR is a tricky thing. I think Porter is a guy I really would have had to have watched for myself to judge properly. I gather his defensive reputation was fair, known for having a terrific arm but average “receiving” skills. I don’t know. I’d yield my vote to people who both saw his career with the Royals and give credence to advanced hitting stats. This is a weird way to look at it and probably shouldn’t enter into it, but I think if Porter were still alive I would really hope to see him honored. As it is, I’m on the fence.

Yes
45 Vote
No
35 Vote

 

Mike Sweeney ∙ 108

Sweeney is a pretty clear choice for the hall. There was plenty of disappointment revolving around his struggles to stay healthy and lack of team success, but overall, he gave the team everything he could for more than a decade. That included a long stretch as one of the AL’s elite hitters from 1999-2005 and an even longer stretch as the face and leader of the team.

Yes
93 Vote
No
4 Vote

3B/RF ∙ 2005—09

Mark Teahen was picked by the A’s in the 2002 Moneyball draft based mostly on his strong hitting numbers in college, and was still in the A’s minor league system in mid-2004 when he was shipped to the Royals in the three-team deal that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston (and also brought John Buck to KC). The Royals sent him to Omaha to finish the 2004 season, but Teahen was in the show as the starting third baseman on 2005 Opening Day. He remained a fixture in the team’s lineup for five full seasons. 2005 was an adjustment year for Teahen, during which he showed flashes of promise but did not put together a good overall year. He finished strong though, earning the team’s player of the month honor for September.

Things really clicked in 2006, though not right away. After struggling during the season’s first month, he spent most of the second month in Omaha. He worked on his swing some, but said the time in Omaha helped mentally more than physically.[i] After his recall to the bigs, Teahen played like an All-Star, hammering the ball and taking his walks to the tune of a .941 OPS. The good times came to an end early for a season-ending shoulder surgery. Despite missing two months of the season, he was rightfully recognized as the team’s player of the year. After the season he said, “I don’t feel it was a complete year, but I was happy with what I contributed.”[ii]

Despite that success, Teahen found himself at a new position at camp in 2007. To make way for über-prospect Alex Gordon, Teahen spent the spring learning right field despite never having played outside the infield at any level. He admitted later that he wasn’t thrilled about the move at first, but eventually was glad to gain positional flexibility and learned to enjoy the outfield.[iii] (Regarding Gordon, Teahen was prescient in saying, “…it’s important that people not put too much pressure on Alex to make an immediate impact. He needs time to develop just like anyone, rather than putting the weight of the entire organization on his shoulders.”[iv]) Teahen handled the huge Kauffman outfield well for a newbie, though his hitting took a step backward to close to league average in 2006. His average and OBP remained good, but the tantalizing power he flashed in 2006 never returned. 2008 and 2009 were struggles on the field as he battled back issues, the Royals mercilessly jerked him from position to position, and both his offense and defense declined. He spent some time at every position except for pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. He was traded to the White Sox in the ’09—’10 off-season in exchange for Josh Fields and Chris Getz.

Even when he was struggling, it was impossible not to like and root for Teahen, whose dedication could never be questioned. He was generous with charitable causes, particularly the Little League/YMCA Challenger program that brings sports to special needs children. The Mark Teahen Challenger Baseball Field remains in KC as a testament to his good deeds. His sheepishly goofy sense of humor (still on display on Twitter) helped make him a fan favorite as well. The admiration seems to go both ways. Teahen said in 2013, “My heart will always be in Kansas City…It’s a great city to play in. The town really got behind the team when we would play well, and if they win I will be excited to see what kind of baseball town it can be.”[v] True to his word, he traveled to Kauffman Stadium to catch the 2014 World Series in person.

[i] Jeff Moeller, “Q&A With Royals’ Mark Teahen,” http://m.royals.mlb.com/news/article/1514391/

[ii] Dick Kaegel, “Teahen named Player of the Year,” http://m.royals.mlb.com/news/article/1734874/

[iii] David Laurila, “Prospectus Q&A,” http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12068, September 24, 2010.

[iv] “Teahen chats mechanics, confidence,” http://m.royals.mlb.com/news/article/1578400/

[v] Jeremy Deckard, “Hoping to play like it is 2005: ‘Horsehide Q&A’ with former Kansas City Royal Mark Teahen,” http://cjonline.com/blog-post/jeremy-deckard/2013-03-11/hoping-play-it-2005-%E2%80%9Chorsehide-qa%E2%80%9D-former-kansas-city-royal-mark, March 11, 2013.

On Monday, the Royals announced the retirement of assistant general manager Dean Taylor. Thus set off a chain reaction of new titles for some familiar faces across the front office.

The Star has the changes in full, but from their post, here’s a list of the new titles.

▪ J.J. Picollo has been elevated to vice president and assistant general manager for player personnel.

▪ Rene Francisco to vice president and assistant general manager for major-league and international operations.

▪ Scott Sharp to assistant general manager for baseball operations

▪ Jin Wong to assistant general manager for baseball administration

▪ Chino Cadahia to senior coordinator for player development

▪ Kyle Vena to director of baseball administration

▪ Ronnie Richardson to director of minor-league operations

▪ Mike Groopman to director of baseball operations for analytics

▪ John Williams to director of baseball analytics for player personnel

▪ Daniel Mack to director of baseball analytics for research science

▪ Chris Getz to baseball operations assistant for player development

▪ Phillip Stringer to baseball operations assistant

▪ Nick Relic to minor-league video coordinator

Forgive the cut and paste, but with so many names, it just seemed easier.

Up at the top, the roles haven’t changed. Just the titles. Picollo and Francisco added a vice presidency. Wong and Sharp get new business cards with “assistant general manager” (as opposed to “assistant to the general manager”).

If you have a sabermetric bent, the names of interest are Mike Groopman, who was formerly the director of baseball analytics and is now the director of baseball operations for analytics. John Williams, who was the assistant director of baseball analytics has been elevated to director of baseball analytics for player personnel. Daniel Mack was an analyst and is now a director of baseball analytics for research science.

Those three have appeared at Baseball Prospectus day at The K for the last couple of seasons. I know it’s cool to knock the Royals for their seeming distaste for analytics, but they’ve beefed up that department the last couple of years. If I’m not mistaken, about four years ago it was Groopman, Williams and a couple of interns. The department now includes at least six guys, maybe more. And they’re all smarter than you.

This collection knows their way around a database. At least that’s what they tell me. I have no idea how to get around a database. It looks to me like this restructuring is probably leading to more money and a larger staff than was employed last summer. If you have the opportunity to talk to any of those guys, they won’t tell you anything about what they’re doing. We should have had atomic scientists so secretive. But more voices in that department should be a good thing. Also, I had the briefest opportunity to say hello to Groopman prior to the Wild Card game and it was just great to see the enthusiasm and happiness he was experiencing at that moment. Good for him and good for his department. And hopefully, good for the fans as they figure out new inefficiencies to help keep the Royals relevant.

Further good news is that Taylor will remain associated with the Royals as a consultant. He’s an administrative wizard, with extensive knowledge of the rules governing teams and players. I’m sure he’s helped Dayton and the brain trust find a loophole or two to exploit over the years. His consul is undoubtedly valuable to Dayton and it will remain so.

Oh, and Chris Getz got a job.

 

Slow time for Royals news, so why not have some fun, cast a wider net, and stumble head-first into what is certain to be the first baseball controversy of 2015. How about a hypothetical baseball Hall of Fame ballot?

First, a pseudo disclaimer: I really enjoy the Hall of Fame. I enjoy the debates. I absolutely love the history. It’s an imperfect institution, but that’s OK. Most institutions are.

I even enjoy the sanctimony of some of the writers in a perverse kind of way. Their self-important bluster keeps me amused during the cold months of the winter.

Not all writers fall into the above paragraph. That wouldn’t be fair. Perhaps there’s a lesson there. Beware those who throw everyone from the same profession – or same era – into a one-size-fits-all container. That’s dangerous business. For every crank who votes for three or four players on what is an absolutely loaded ballot, there is a different kind of writer who is thoughtful and thorough. Oops. My bias is showing.

And that’s the rub with the Hall of Fame. You may have someone who claims to be impartial and/or fair and thoughtful about the process, but failing a definitive standard for election, it’s really up to an individual voter and their baseball worldview on how they ultimately cast their ballot. By virtue of said ballot, voters have an opinion and it’s their right to interpret the rules for use of that ballot however they deem fair. I may disagree with some, but it’s their right. The process doesn’t always provide for the result I think is right, but so what? That’s life.

It’s a fun diversion for a baseball fan at this time of the year. If you haven’t discovered Ryan Thibs HoF Tracker, I encourage you to take a few minutes and geek out. It’s fun stuff. Same for Repoz’s HoF Collecting Gizmo at Baseball Think Factory.

I’m of the opinion that the right players will eventually be enshrined. It may not be a pleasant process for everyone involved, and it may take a few years, but I truly believe that when the dust settles on this era, a number of “tainted” players will be in the Hall. Having said that, the limit of voting for 10 players is kind of silly. It leads to some strategic ballots where some writers will leave off a player like Pedro Martinez because someone else needs his vote. That really shouldn’t be happening. If there are 14 players on the ballot a particular writer feels are Hall of Fame worthy, then that writer should be allowed to vote for all of them.

The new rule where players are on the ballot for only 10 years is an embarrassment to the Hall. It reeks of manipulation – a desire by the Hall to remove what may be an unsavory name or two now five years earlier. From what I can tell, some of the newer writers seem a bit more forgiving to the steroid era (Again, some of the writers. It’s dangerous to make a general statement about an entire, diverse group of people.) and this is the way for the powers of the Hall to push some of the steroid era players off the ballot before the younger writers become eligible to vote. Unfortunate.

Having said this, I’m hopeful at least five and maybe six will make the Hall this year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are locks. The first three are newcomers and Biggio missed last year by two votes. From the holdovers, it looks like Mike Piazza has a good chance. Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the outsiders. It would be excellent if one of them could get in, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

For some self-important bluster of my own, here’s my ballot:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Randy Johnson
Pedro Martinez
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Alan Trammell

By the Tango HoF Index, my ballot scores a 100. So that’s special. Promise I only checked my score after I filled out my pseudo-ballot.

If I expanded by “ballot,” it would include Larry Walker, Curt Schilling and John Smoltz. Probably Gary Sheffield. And Edgar Martinez. Oof. There are a bunch of great players on this ballot. As I said at the top of the post, I don’t begrudge writers their thought process for their selection. I agree with some, disagree with others. That’s fine. Having said that, a ballot without checkmarks for the full slate of 10 is something I’ll have an issue with this year. Tons of quality. I could’ve checked 15 names for crying out loud. And that doesn’t even include Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Kent, all of whom should be debated for inclusion.

The good news is, the logjam should ease a bit next year. Of the new candidates, only Ken Griffey, Jr. is a lock. Maybe then guys like Raines, Mussina and Schilling will get their due.

An imperfect system for an imperfect institution.

You can probably tell from my ballot where I stand on the so-called steroid era. It happened. Everyone looked the other way. Everyone. Some used. Some didn’t. We will never fully know who used and we will never fully know how it helped. The current process simply exposes the portion of the electorate who choses to act as judge, jury and some sort of moral compass for this era. The numbers are what the numbers are. They are right there on Baseball Reference. And until someone has some sort of proof that those numbers are invalid for one reason or another, those numbers are fact. It’s what we use to judge. Not speculation. When it comes to the Hall and my hypothetical ballot, I’ll stick to the facts.

It’s probably naive to think that this will sort itself out on it’s own. It’s probably also naive to think the veteran’s committee will right some of the wrongs. I love the Hall of Fame because I love baseball. I hope in the next couple of years, they can get their act together and enshrine some of the greatest players of the most recent generation.

Royals news – and this blog – took a bit of a hiatus during the holidays. I hope your Haunakah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s was enjoyable.

When I was at Baseball Prospectus, a writer whom I greatly admire told me that writing (and creativity in general) is like a muscle. You need to exercise it frequently, or risk losing it. Or at the very least, misplacing it for a moment. Deep in my psyche, I was aware of this, but it helped to actually hear those words, because they have stuck with me over all these years.

Inspiration has been difficult to locate at times, but I’ll try my best to at least give you a few random scribblings. If nothing else, for my own selfish reason to keep my wits about me. There are a few things I’d like to sort out before pitchers and catchers report in seven (seven!) weeks, so we’ll see how everything goes.

— Alan Eskew of Baseball America has a note about Royals Rule 5 acquisition Jandel Gustave. Not a lot of new info about the flamethrower from the Dominican, but the Royals were pleased with his consistent delivery in winter ball ahead of the draft, which led to improved command. The Royals also would like to get him a few more innings before spring training.

— I have the Royals current payroll at around $110 million. That’s actually lower than you would expect after they went on a free agent signing spree last month. But the contracts for multiple years are all backloaded. Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez, Luke Hochevar and Kris Medlen will all receive raises in 2016.

It’s an interesting – and dangerous – shell game being played by Dayton Moore, Jin Wong and the Royals front office. By my rough estimations, the Royals have $56 million in commitments for 2016 and that’s just for seven players under contract and six options. Some of those options will be picked up (Wade Davis, Alcides Escobar) so that $56 million is already too low. Plus, that doesn’t include arbitration for players like Greg Holland (if he’s still with the club) or Eric Hosmer. And it doesn’t count whatever money Alex Gordon will get. (He has a player option for around $13 million, which he’s said he will engage, and I’m unaware of the buyout if he declines it.)

The tldr is, that’s a bunch of cabbage committed for a year from now.

If anything, Moore and his Royals brain trust have shown an understanding of how to juggle the budget. They may misread the market, but they do know how to structure a deal to spread the pain. None of the contracts they awarded this winter are going to cause long-term damage, but the short-term juggling act will certainly be worth watching. And something to be aware of as the season approaches.

— Kind of an interesting note surfaced between the holidays about Rios and the Royals. Joel Sherman of the New York Post, wrote that the Royals and the Rangers had a trade agreement in place ahead of last summer’s deadline. The stumbling block – Rios had the Royals on his no-trade list. He asked the Royals to pick up his $13.5 million option for 2015. When the Royals refused, Rios exercised his right and blocked the trade.

The knee-jerk reaction would be to cast aspersions toward Rios for declining to play for a team that ultimately won the AL pennant. But don’t forget that at the trade deadline last year, the Royals were just one of many teams chasing a playoff spot. It was never a guarantee. Plus, those no-trade clauses exist for a reason. They are leverage for a player. Kind of a reward for a veteran. Put yourself in Rios’ shoes last July. You’re having a tough season. Your power is down as well as your run production. In the back of your mind, you’re wondering about your option for $13.5 million and if the Rangers will pick it up, knowing that because of your current year, it’s a long-shot you will make that much if you hit the open market. It’s his right to try to get that money.

In the end, it worked out for everyone. The Royals got Josh Willingham, who collected maybe the biggest hit of all the big hits in the Wild Card game. Rios got a $1 million buyout and $11 million guaranteed from the Royals, so he lost a small percentage of his original $13.5 million option for 2015. And we got a non-story to discuss during the holidays. Win, win, win.

— Anyone wondering about James Shields? It’s so quiet. I kind of thought if he was going to sign with the San Francisco Giants, it would be done by now. Especially after they have been jilted by a few free agents. Once upon a time, the Red Sox were interested, but they seem to have gone the “let’s-assemble-a-bunch-of-solid-yet-unspectacular-starters” route, so I wonder if there’s room. I keep hearing rumblings about the Padres being in play. And the Dodgers have more money than anyone, so they’re always in the discussion.

He’s not coming back to Kansas City, but he is tied to a draft pick the Royals are counting upon. There’s no way he remains on the shelf like Morales did last summer, but you just have to wonder about the holdup. The longer this goes, the more teams – like the Royals – have set their budgets and payrolls for 2015, limiting his options. Again, not that KC was ever a true option, but it’s just an example. Between Shields and Max Scherzer, there are still two top quality starting pitching options on the market.

The Hot Stove isn’t as scorching as it was last month, but there’s still plenty of heat.

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