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Royals Authority

Long Live The Process

Frank White has been fired by the Royals.

Consider that if you will for a moment. One of the greatest living legends in the relatively short and mostly un-legendary history of the Kansas City Royals has been told to walk away from the franchise. It’s clearly the quick and dirty version of what has happened and it doesn’t approach the many and varied nuances involved in the situation, but most people aren’t going to care about the nuances. Even if they were to know all of the small things that went into this very large decision, few minds would be changed. The bottom line is as stated above. The Royals told a local legend to “get bent”.

Only a select few will ever know what went down behind closed doors and at this point only one is talking: Frank. He’s been vocal in saying he was fired because he said some “negative” things while broadcasting games.  I’m sure it likely goes further than that and the Royals have a longer list of things that they would trot out if it didn’t make them look like bigger schmucks than they already do. Hell, some of them are probably even justifiable reasons to fire someone.

Frank White though, isn’t someone. He’s Frank God Damn White! The man literally helped build Kauffman Stadium and subsequently helped win a World Championship. I believe that he is that butterfly that if you squash in the past, the future is radically different. Royals history without him is incomplete, it’s changed, it’s unrecognizable. Frank White’s don’t come along all that often, for most franchises they never have existed. From his accomplishments on the field to his public demeanor to his willingness to do public relations and work with the players. He’s a franchise’s dream come true.

I’ve met Frank White a few times and I’ve met hundreds of people who have known him professionally and personally. I’ve never heard anything negative about him. I’ve never heard anyone with a bad Frank White experience. I’m sure there are some that exist, a few people who rubbed Frank the wrong way or cought him in a foul mood. But the guy was always pleasant when I saw him.

I knew a man who was a normal guy. A very sweet man whose name was Floyd. He wasn’t rich, he wasn’t a public figure. He was just one of those great guys that you know. He’s passed on now, but in the 80’s and 90’s he was a regular fishing buddy with Frank White. I got to hear stories about Frank from this man (those he felt didn’t betray Frank’s confidence) and even got to have some first hand experience with some of those Gold Gloves you hear so much about.They needed to be repaired, and my family does that kind of thing.

However as a young baseball fanatic who grew up in a nearly all-white suburb, it was jarring to hear of a white man like Floyd and a superstar black man like Frank White fishing together. I’m not saying I grew up in the Jim Crow south or was ingrained with some type of racism, but it broke down some stereotypes for me. It helped personalize the man to me. He wasn’t just second-baseman Frank White. He was fisherman Frank White, buddy with Floyd. This is just one of thousands of Frank White stories of this nature that exist.

These little stories, these experiences, they help tie people to the franchise of the Royals. It’s unquantifiable, but it’s real and it’s valuable. The Royals can’t afford to NOT have Frank White. They’re throwing away a gift that so few franchises are given. So whether or not the Royals had any justification for Frank White short of some Isiah Thomas like sexual harassment, you keep the man involved as much as you possibly can. You deal with the idiosyncrasies, the un-asked for comments and all the rest.

The biggest issue here is that I don’t think that Frank White is exaggerating about how or why he was fired. I’ve seen the Royals many, many, many times over-react to criticisms and perceived slights. I know of multiple examples of the Royals front office at the highest levels being upset about things that bloggers write on Twitter. Not just opinions either, but facts and quotes from Royals front office members. They are terrified of all media members in the press box, which is why they are doing their best to keep out anyone they possibly can. There’s some kind of belief that if you can stamp out any negativity about the franchise, that it doesn’t exist.

They are a notoriously tight-lipped organization with an us-against-the-world mentality. There’s something to be said about that as a management technique, but ultimately it breeds paranoia and over-reaction. Two qualities the Royals seem to have in spades. They continually trip over their own feet trying to prevent public relations issues by creating them. Why does Dayton Moore read what a blogger writes on Twitter and then actually care about it? Why do they care that a legend points out a few things that even the least adept fans can criticize. Why would you cancel the best non-game event of the year in FanFest? Why do the Royals have to so often try and defend the indefensible? Why do they think it’s a good idea to kick Frank White out of Kauffman Stadium?

I’m a baseball fan. I’m a Royals fan. I’m a Frank White fan. Criticism is healthy and it’s interesting. The people who read criticisms are the same people that go to the stadium and buy tickets. It’s not the criticism and the negativity that leads to poor ticket sales, it’s the things that we’re criticizing. Frank’s very couched criticisms didn’t drive fans away. It was the poor play, the losing and things like firing Frank White.

This is the most excited I’ve seen this fan base in years and they are completely justified. This front office has turned one of the worst franchises in professional sports into a budding contender. They’ve maintained fan support when they should’ve had empty stadiums. They’ve done a lot of things right. But we all make mistakes, sometimes we make wrong decisions. Sometimes we say or do things that we regret. Trying to white wash them out of existence is only going to magnify them.

So I say to the Royals:

When you’re given a gift, you celebrate it. You don’t say out loud that you wish it were slightly better or different. It’s a gift! When you have a passionate fan base, you celebrate that with a FanFest. You don’t shut it down because you are having the All-Star game later that year. When you have a man who came from Kansas City, helped build the franchise both literally and figuratively, you don’t wish he was more like George Brett. You celebrate him, you help him help you.

You aren’t fighting against the world. Nobody is trying to make you fail or make you look bad. Fans want you to win. Bloggers want you to win. The traditional media wants you to win. Frank White wants you to win. Don’t fight it. Accept it. Enjoy it. Love it. It’s a privilege to have fans, bloggers and Frank White. Just imagine if that butterfly had been stomped and there is no Royals. If the confluence of events didn’t allow for a present that has this franchise. It’s a reality we don’t have to face because there was a Ewing Kauffman, a Frank White and millions of Floyds who buy tickets. Celebrate all of it in every way you possibly can. Sometimes you can be so used to fighting the current, that you know no other way. You don’t stop to realize that riding with the current can take you to your destination easier and faster.

 

 

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.

 

We talk about The Process – hell, we joke a lot about The Process – but today let’s talk about The Plan.

We don’t really know what Dayton Moore and the Royals have planned for the Winter Meetings, but we can make some pretty educated guesses.  One good guess would be that The Plan is to do nothing at all and just sit back and watch the Marlins sign everyone.   As I wrote several weeks back, that particular plan has some appeal to this writer.   There seems to be too much rumbling to make me think this is actual what will happen, however.

The other end of the spectrum would be The Big Splash.  This would be an out of nowhere signing of C.J. Wilson or a blockbuster trade of prospects for Gio Gonzalez or James Shields or ‘insert your favorite not-very-plausible-but-yet-kind-of-not-impossible pitching target here’.    Almost every discussion would begin with an opposing GM saying the name Wil Myers, quickly followed by Dayton Moore hanging up, so I doubt that we will see something of that nature this week.

That leaves us with something in the middle. 

While it might not all come together this week in Dallas (in fact, it won’t), I think The Plan includes procuring a veteran middle infielder, probably a back-up catcher and one additional starting pitcher. 

All things being equal, I would personally not be concerned with the veteran utility player and prefer to go in-house to fill this position or, at the least, one of the non-roster players about to be or already invited to spring training.   Of all the people who are optimistic about the Royals’ chances in 2012, however, Dayton Moore has to be near the top of the optimism wave and hence I think he wants a veteran bat with some defensive skills to spell Giavotella and, to a lessor extent, Escobar and Moustakas. 

Now, from a payroll point of view, the Royals have money to burn this year and next.   After that, you start to get into Hosmer’s arbitration years, Gordon’s free agency and, frankly, pretty much everyone on the roster starts to cost real baseball money.  Unless you think David Glass is putting money that was budgeted for payroll but not used into some sort of money market account for future payrolls (I don’t think he is) then there is not a huge harm in Moore getting his veteran bench guy for two or three million this year.

The risk with Moore is that it won’t be Jamey Carroll (just throwing out a name there – please, God, NOT Jamey Carroll!) for one year/three million, but instead will be for two years/9 million and an option year.  That, coupled with Ned Yost’s affinity for grit, could suddenly put the Royals into the ‘Bloomquist scenario’ where a long time veteran bench player sets career marks for plate appearances and we find ourselves halfway through 2013 and still don’t know if Johnny Giavotella can play or Mike Moustakas can hit tough left-handers.

Anyway….

So, Dayton Moore goes after his veteran utility player, whomever that might be.  The second part of The Plan is likely to kick the tires on some type of veteran backup catcher.   They are out there, lots of them – particularly if you don’t much care about offense – and the Royals will have to decide if they want this year’s Matt Treanor to back-up Sal Perez or are content to go with the defensively limited Brayan Pena or the offensively inept Manny Pina.

Again, a veteran guy to help mentor Perez is not a bad idea at one year and a million bucks.  Heck, it might even be cheaper than that:  backup catchers will call pitches for food come mid-March.   I believe the club is fully behind Perez as a guy, but a young kid playing catcher probably should not be asked to catch 145 games in his rookie season.  If one million dollars gets you a good defender and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, a good clubhouse guy who can catch 42 games in 2012 before riding off into the sunset, then Dayton Moore should go get him.

Now, the water keeps deep from here.  Dayton Moore could botch both of the above acquisitions and probably not cost the Royals more than ten million dollars and some aggravation over the next two years, but should he make a misstep with regard to the starting rotation, he could really tangle up the overall development of this club.  

My gut tells me that Moore has made his ‘big moves’ such that they were in trading for Jonathan Sanchez and signing Bruce Chen and Jonathan Broxton.   He has been fairly public about wanting to add another arm to the rotation competition, but I doubt it will be someone that is assured of a roster spot.  Somebody along the lines of a Chris Volstad comes to mind in this scenario.

Of course, I expect Moore to check in on the Wandy Rodriguez situation (it would take a real fire sale, but it is possible) and he would not be doing his job if he didn’t explore, however casually, trading for the tier of starter just below Shields-Gonzalez-Garza.   There is talk – okay, rumored speculation – that the Angels might be looking to clear some payroll space by dangling Ervin Santana.  I would not hate that deal if the price was right.    Would you trade Christian Colon and Tim Melville or Jason Adam?   Not sure that gets a deal done, but it is a starting point.

The final piece of The Plan is the Rule 5 draft on Thursday.  I am not sure the Royals make a pick this year.   They are a young team across the board with absolute boatloads of young pitchers.    Whether you believe the Royals will be contenders in 2012 or not, this roster does not really have room to carry a player or pitcher you don’t really want to play very much.   

All the national guys believe this is going to be one of the most active Winter Meetings in recent history.   They are probably right, but your Kansas City Royals might not get much press this week and that’s not a bad thing at all.

xxx

 

 

This is becoming the winter of the bumbling PR move for the Royals.

The statement:

FOX Sports Kansas City and the Kansas City Royals appreciate Frank White stepping into a larger role as game analyst the last three seasons. He shifted from a planned part-time role to a near full-time role and performed admirably in the booth at a time of need. We also want to thank Kevin Shank for his years of leadership as producer of Royals telecasts. FOX Sports Kansas City has decided to go in a different direction with these positions next year. A search for their replacements will begin immediately.

I’m not sure the Royals understand the relationship people like Frank White have with the fans. Kansas Citian. Royal in the glory years. Minor league manager. Broadcaster. And as a broadcaster, he was the most visible tie between the team and the fans. He wasn’t a particularly good or smooth at television, but Royals fans love the guy. That’s what happens with icons.

And you just don’t kick icons to the curb. Unless you’re the Royals.

Maybe you don’t want Frank to return to the broadcast next year, but you certainly give him another role within the organization. To just let him go… Awful.

Supposedly, the Royals felt Frank was too negative on the broadcasts. Holy crap. You know what I want? The truth. So many of these former Royals are angry and upset about the product that’s been allowed to perform the last couple of years. Just like the fans. I don’t think Frank was negative at all. If anything, I felt he pulled too many punches. He wasn’t hard enough.

Whatever.

And by all accounts, Shank is a solid producer, too. None of this makes a ton of sense.

This is just the latest in the PR missteps the Royals have committed since the end of the season. Chalk this one up right there with canceling FanFest.

The Royals are so close to being respectable on the field again. They obviously still have a ways to go behind the scenes. Brutal.

The annual Winter Meetings open next week in Dallas. Normally, this is when the free agent field starts to thin out. And with all of the top free agents still on the market, this looks to be an especially active session.

So the question is, will the Royals be active? We know the lineup is basically set. The bullpen has been (hopefully) strengthened with the signing of Broxton. So that leaves the rotation. Currently, there are seven or eight candidates for a starting job in Kansas City, and none of them inspire much – if any – confidence.

Supposedly, the Royals don’t want to go the free agent route. I understand that. They want to keep their fingers crossed and hope their pitching prospects develop for the long term good of the franchise, while the guys in the mix this year routinely give them six strong innings per game. But the Royals could really make a splash if they found a decent starting pitcher on the open market to slot into their rotation. In a weak AL Central, this could be the tipping point between being competitive and making this another year of development.

Usually, the top names are the first ones to sign. The second tier is happy to let the big guys go and grab tons of cash because then it establishes a market for their services. No one wants to leave money on the table.

With that in mind, here’s a quick list of the available free agent starting pitchers, in the order of what I believe to be their demand.

C.J. Wilson
Mark Buehrle
Roy Oswalt
Edwin Jackson
Javier Vazquez

Wow. Not difficult to see why Dayton Moore is shying away from the market. Wilson is the supposed front-runner and will set the pace. Sorry, I’m not a big believer. Whomever dishes him a big contract is going to have buyers remorse. Jackson is underwhelming and it’s shocking that Vazquez – after all his ups and downs – could land on a short list such as this. Oswalt is a gamble – and an expensive one. Buehrle is the only consistent guy out there.

These five will be interesting to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Royals were linked to two or three of the guys listed above. I also wouldn’t be surprised if GMDM went stealth again and grabbed Buehrle or Oswalt on a three year deal.

— Word circulated around Twitter last night that Frank White was out as one of the broadcasters of the games. I’m going to withhold comment for now because I want to see how the Royals handle this. As of this writing, neither Frank, Fox Sports Kansas City or the Royals have said anything.

After the PR nightmare that went along with canceling FanFest, I’ll be watching this very closely.

More soon…

After the flurry of Colby Rasmus rumors the night before, we should have known something was up. Smoke screen style.

Because really, who saw the Jonathan Broxton signing?

No one, that’s who.

My initial reaction to the trade was this is exactly the kind of thing Dayton Moore has done over the last couple of years… Kick the tires on a relatively low cost guy with a bit of upside. Most recently, he did the trick with Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur. With the Melk-Man, it netted the Royals a starting pitcher. With The Frenchman it bought us two more years of the French Quarter in right field.

Hopefully, the Royals will get fair value for their efforts here.

Yet there’s considerable risk involved. The guy hasn’t pitched since last May 3. And that was the feather in a whole cap of ugly that stretched back to the end of June in 2010. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Last May, when Broxton exited the Dodgers game against the Cubs in early May he had been brought in to hold a 1-1 tie, retired the first batter, but was pulled after missing the strike zone with eight consecutive balls. Following the game, Dodger manager Don Mattingly affirmed Broxton was still his closer, but he hit the DL the following day, with fluid buildup in his elbow. He also revealed that in 2010 he had an MRI that revealed a bone spur.

Ah… 2010. Now, back to the Dodger game on June 27, 2010. In that game, LA held a lead against the Yankees 6-2 in the top of the ninth when Broxton made his appearance. Strange that he would pitch in this game, since it wasn’t a save situation. Stranger still given the fact that Broxton had thrown 19 pitches over 1.1 innings in a 9-4 Dodger blowout the night before. You probably know the story of the June 27 game by now. Broxton retired the first batter before allowing the next five to reach as the Yankees tied the game.

Especially notable was how then manager Joe Torre sat on his hands and allowed Broxton to pile up 48 pitches in that appearance. Combine that with his 19 the day before and you see that Torre allowed his closer to throw 67 pitches in about 24 hours.

And as the story goes, Broxton hasn’t been the same since.

The numbers certainly bear this out.

Before Injury – 2.73 ERA, 12.0 SO/9, 3.4 BB/9
After Injury – 6.31 ERA, 7.4 SO/9, 6.5 BB/9

The numbers are so polar that you would think there had to be signs of an impending collapse. Except there weren’t any signs. From 2005 to 2009, Broxton had been as consistent as you would hope from a relief pitcher. Entering the pitch count game in 2010, Broxton had a 0.83 ERA, a 13.2 SO/9 and a 1.4 BB/9. He was enjoying the best season of his career. Then it all changed.

So did the high pitch count damage Broxton? Impossible to say, but like Gil Meche, I’d bet there were problems lurking underneath the surface before the extended (and unnecessary) outings. The bone spur was evidence that something structurally was wrong. And they apparently were present in the elbow around this time.

In an article from September in the LA Times, Broxton’s agent, BB Abbott speculated that Broxton and the Dodgers were a tad too optimistic when he reported to a rehab assignment in July. His agent also revealed he had elbow soreness after his first rehab appearance and chose to keep it under wraps.

(This is so damn typical. Pitch through the pain. Somehow this never works. It also raises the question about his earlier health. Did Broxton have pain back in 2010 and try to work through it? This seems increasingly possible.)

Abbott’s take on his client is somewhat… Strange.

“The days of Jonathan Broxton throwing 99 and 100 [mph] might be over,” Abbott said. “But I think he can reinvent himself. He’s still going to be 93-97. He’s relied on one thing and that’s power. … He’s going to have to be a chameleon. It might be a power slider or a power cutter. He’s going to have to transition.”

I’m not too sure I’ve heard an agent so candid about one of his players. “Transition” and “reinvent” aren’t words those guys throw around. Mainly because they aren’t exactly the things GMs like to hear when they’re considering their client.

Enough about Broxton. How does the affect the Royals? (Everything from here on out assumes Broxton will be healthy.) What GMDM did for the Royals on Tuesday was, in one large stroke, create a ton of flexibility for his team. The Royals were already going to try Aaron Crow and Everett Teaford in the rotation, and now they have cover if either one of these guys makes the move. If not, then the Royals strongest part of the team just got a little stronger. Imagine a healthy Joakim Soria in the ninth, preceded by Broxton in the eighth, who was preceded by Greg Holland in the seventh. That is a nasty, nasty bullpen.

And if everything works out, then the Royals can either contend (Yessssss!) or they can flip Broxton to a lucky contender at the deadline and pick up a prospect in return.

I saw a bunch of Tweets following the Broxton announcement speculating that Soria could move to the rotation. (From the national media, naturally.) There is absolutely no way that will happen. Zero. Chance. For a number of reasons. One, he’s never, ever been remotely stretched out in the majors. Two, his injury history makes him a risk to break down under a heavier workload. Three, his pitch selection has become limited in the closer role and prone to breakdown under repeated viewing. And four, the Royals love him as the closer.

There’s also speculation that this means the Royals could move Soria. Again, this deal has no impact on Soria’s future. As I pointed out, Broxton is far from a sure thing. If the Royals are trying to contend in the Central, they’d be gambling on their closer in a big way if they dealt Soria. No way this happens. Besides, after Soria’s struggles and ailments last summer, trading him now would be selling at his ultimate low point. Uh-uh. Not going to happen.

I know GMDM said this wasn’t a precursor to another deal, but if not, it’s difficult to understand why the Royals would chose to throw money at what was one of the stronger parts of their team last year. Especially when that part is the bullpen, which is always in flux as far as performance goes. There were reportedly five to six teams interested in Broxton, and since he’s coming here as a setup guy to reestablish his value, it’s safe to say the Royals offered the most cash. Probably by a lot. Bob Dutton tweeted that the Royals strategy seems to build the best bullpen they can because that’s more affordable that picking up a starting pitcher. The theory is good, I guess. But we’ve seen how investing in a bullpen can be a fiscal gamble. Plus, your bullpen doesn’t mean a thing if your starting pitchers can’t stake you to a lead. GMDM bought himself some flexibility. Now he needs to leverage that to his advantage. Something he hasn’t usually been able to do.

And the Royals still need a quality starting pitcher if we’re thinking about contention in 2012.

Given the money involved, this isn’t a bad deal for the Royals. But it’s a strange one. GMDM is a bit of a gambler, whose bets paid off in 2011. We’ll see if he still has the touch in 2012.

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.

 

 

 

Last year, I did a monthly speculation on what the Opening Day roster would be.  Obviously, it changed dramatically from month to month and likely will again this year.   Certainly this projection is open for debate and likely to change, but….

In reality, baseball’s off-season has barely even begun, but the possibility exists that Dayton Moore’s activities this winter may already be done.   The signing of Bruce Chen to a two year deal makes me believe that the Royals dipped their organizational toe in the off-season waters and determined that there was little chance of rationally acquiring a starting pitcher for a better value than Chen.

If Moore was truly planning or even hoping for a big splash via either free agency or a trade then it would seem unlikely that he would have forfeited the compensation draft pick that would come with another team signing the mighty Chen.   If the Royals thought that it was more than a remote possibility of getting a top of the rotation type starter, then you almost have to believe the draft driven Royals would have waited before signing Chen and forsaking the extra draft pick next summer.

Now, we don’t really know what the thought process was, but I’m pretty sure one of the following (no idea which) pegs it:

  • We really, really like Bruce Chen and want him to pitch for us for the next two years.
  • This market is stupid crazy.  Not only are we not going to sign anyone decent, somebody is going to give Bruce more than we are.
  • Bruce Chen will help the Royals contend in 2012.
  • This market is stupid crazy.  Come summer, Chen is going to look like a great deal to some contender.

Truth is, whatever the thought process, Bruce Chen is a Royal for 2012 and your starting rotation is almost assuredly going to be Chen, Jonathan Sanchez, Felipe Paulino, Luke Hochevar and Danny Duffy.   I will admit to being much higher on Duffy than a lot of people, but I saw a young pitcher with dynamic stuff who simply needs to learn how to put away major league hitters when he is ahead in the count.   You don’t learn that in Omaha and, frankly, that puts Duffy light years ahead of the likes of Hochevar or Davies at a similar age.

The Royals are certain to give Everett Teaford, Luis Mendoza, Mike Montgomery and Aaron Crow a look at starting this spring, but it would seem extremely likely that the five mentioned above will be the starting rotation.   The question come April may well be whether Teaford and Crow start the season in the 2012 major league pen or honing their craft as starters on the Omaha mound.

 So, what about the Opening Day Roster?

Starting Rotation – Hochevar, Sanchez, Paulino, Chen & Duffy

Bullpen – Joakim Soria, Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, Everett Teaford, Aaron Crow and Blake Wood

Yes, I think the Royals will go with an eight man bullpen – even in April.  When you have Sanchez and Duffy, both of whom are possibilities to put up some short starts on a regular basis due to their high pitch counts, I think an eight man pen is almost, ALMOST, logical.  Frankly, the bullpen is a strength and the rotation is still a weakness.  Why not count on three plus innings every night from the pen and limit the exposure of your weaker unit?

Catcher – Salvador Perez

First Base – Eric Hosmer

Second Base – Johnny Giavotella

Shortstop – Alcides Escobar

Third Base – Mike Moustakas

DH – Billy Butler

Left Field – Alex Gordon

Center Field – Lorenzo Cain

Right Field – Jeff Francouer

With the possible exception of second base, this lineup is  a virtual lock.   When it comes to second, I think the organization is pretty much committed to giving Giavotella a shot.   After all, the list of average to good major league players who sucked their first six weeks in the majors is very long.   Should Johnny show up and hit decently and not be a total butcher during spring training, I think he will get the nod at second.   After all, he might be Marcus Giles.

Bench – Brayan Pena, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Duncan or Yamaico Navarro

The real spring training competition will be for these three (four if they go with a now traditional 7 man pen) spots.  Chris Getz is, of course, in the mix – particularly if the Royals want Navarro to play everyday in Omaha.   Getz really can’t play shortstop or third on a daily basis, but he can manage it for a game or two if Escobar or Moustakas had an in-game injury.   You can throw Irving Falu into the mix as well as his versatility would play well on a team with a three man bench.   I think Dyson gets the nod over Mitch Maier because he brings one ‘plus tool’ (and a bunch of minus tools as well), which is one more than Maier has.

In the end, I don’t think the Royals put anyone on the bench that they have big plans for in the future.  Honestly, barring injury, how often is the bench going to play?   If they commit to giving Giavotella half a season, which I think happens, then your bench guys maybe play once a week.  That’s why I don’t think Navarro is on the roster as he is still young and with potential and why a journeyman like Duncan maybe does make it.

Well, there is your first pass at next year’s twenty-five.    With the Winter Meetings just a week away, things are very possibly going to look different sooner rather than later.

xxx

 

Baseball killed the World Series in 1994, but with the signing of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, we are guaranteed 21 years of labor peace. An unheard of stretch in the modern era of the game.

Labor peace is nice, but we’re Royals fans here. We want to know how this version of the CBA affects our team. The short answer: It’s not good. Not good at all.

The most sweeping change that will be discussed has to do with the draft.

Each team will have a bonus pool for the first 10 rounds of the draft. Their bonus will be unique given the number of picks they hold and all picks will be assigned a dollar amount. According to Jeff Passan, the total money that will be in the draft pool for next year will be around $200 million. Baseball has longed for a “hard” slot system. For them, this is the next best thing. And this time, the penalties have some serious teeth.

-0-5% over bonus pool – 75% tax on overage
5-10% – 75% tax on overage and loss of 1st round pick
10-15% – 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st and 2nd round picks
15%+ – 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st round picks in next two drafts

This neuters the Royals and Dayton Moore. Chop!

Baseball likes to talk about their competitive balance (Look! The Yankees didn’t make the World Series!) but the reality has always been an uneven playing field. That’s not to say there aren’t other ways for teams to compete. Tampa has been Exhibit A about how to draft and develop talent (and how to use that talent to add.) Since Dayton Moore arrived, the Royals have become much more savvy about the draft and have certainly used the system to their advantage, frequently going above slot to sign their draft picks.

The new system with the stiff penalties, effectively levels the playing field that has been the draft.

Last year, the Royals top 10 picks were slotted at $4.8 million. The Royals – powered by the $7.5 million bonus paid to Bubba Starling – powered right through that number. By the time the dust settled, they handed out checks to their top 10 picks totaling $11.4 million. They went over slot by just 249%. If the new system had been in place last summer, the Royals obviously would have received the harshest penalty. They would have forfeited their first round picks in 2012 and 2013 and paid a 100% tax on the overage, which would have amounted to a bill of $6.6 million.

Suffice it to say, I don’t think the Royals would have been that aggressive had this system been in place.

By comparison, the Yankees spent a total of $6.3 million, which was about middle of the pack. Why? Obviously, they don’t hold high draft picks, so the extreme cash paid out in the first handful of picks isn’t an issue. But it’s also because they choose to spend their money on free agents and Derek Jeter. That’s how they build their ballclub. And that’s why this system is bad for baseball and bad for the Royals.

The Royals can’t compete on the free agent market with the large market teams. Duh. But under the old system, they were about to outspend and outdraft those same teams through a savvy allocation of resources. Now, with the stiff penalties in place for going over suggested slot, that old advantage is gone.

Selig & Glass think the new system is excellent.

I thought I had buried the old “David Glass is cheap” meme, but after the cancellation of FanFest, and now this, I’m thinking of bringing it back. Mainly because I see him gleefully accepting this new draft system. Why? Because it benefits his pocketbook. He’s not going to be able to sign that bonus check for $11 million dollars next year because there’s zero chance the Royals go over the collective slot. As an organization, that would be akin to slicing your own throat, given the forfiture of draft picks. Of course we’ll never know who pushed for what, but in my cynical mind, I can just see David Glass cozying up to Bud Selig and having a good laugh at the extra cash now lining our owner’s pocket.

This new draft system just saved the Glass family a whole lot of cabbage.

The byproduct is that it’s handcuffed Dayton Moore and his scouting department. No longer are the Royals going to be able to find premium talent after the first two rounds (thinking Wil Myers) because that talent isn’t going to fall to them. And even then, if they do fall, because of the “pool” there’s now more incentive to head to college. No way around it… This is just an atrocious system for the Royals.

One thing I don’t buy is that this new system will chase talent to other sports – specifically football and basketball. If this system had been in place last summer, would Bubba Starling be at the University of Nebraska right now? I suppose. But baseball has been hemmoraging talent to football and basketball for decades. As great as Starling’s signing bonus was for him, he’s now going to be riding buses to the small towns spread throughout the Midwest League, Pioneer League or wherever he begins his professional career. A $7.5 million bonus doesn’t mean much to the citizenry of Idaho Falls. By contrast, had he gone to Nebraska, he would have been treated like a rock star and if everything had gone right, he’d be suiting up on Sunday afternoons in about four years. There aren’t any minor leagues or bus rides or ham sandwiches on the road to the NFL or NBA. Kids play the game because they love it. Given the amount of work it takes to succeed, you have to love it to keep going. (Maybe I’m an idealist, but I believe this to be true. For a large majority of players.)

Yes, the money is a huge factor, but they wouldn’t be in that kind of position if they didn’t already love the game.

Other draft highlights:

— A similar signing bonus pool will be assigned for international signees.

Again, this hurts the small market clubs in that the penalties for exceeding the budget are extremely harsh.

— Drafted players may only sign Minor League contracts.

I don’t see this as a huge deal. Of the top 15 bonuses paid out in draft history, only six included major league contracts. The only Royal to be drafted and handed a major league contract was Luke Hochevar. Maybe this helps prevent clubs from making mistakes.

— There will be a Competitive Balance Lottery.

The name makes me laugh.

This is a confusing system, so I’ll just lay out the guidelines below:
A. For the first time, Clubs with the lowest revenues and in the smallest markets will have an opportunity to obtain additional draft picks through a lottery.
B. The ten Clubs with the lowest revenues, and the ten Clubs in the smallest markets, will be entered into a lottery for the six draft selections immediately following the completion of the first round of the draft. A Club’s odds of winning the lottery will be based on its prior season’s winning percentage.
C. The eligible Clubs that did not receive one of the six selections after the first round, and all other payee Clubs under the Revenue Sharing Plan, will be entered into a second lottery for the six picks immediately following the completion of the second round of the draft. A Club’s odds of winning the lottery will be based on its prior season’s winning percentage.
D. Picks awarded in the Competitive Balance Lottery may be assigned by a Club, subject to certain restrictions.

Known as the “Throw the GMs a bone” clause. I guess this is supposed to make up for the bonuses leveling off.

This smells “Made For TV” to me. The cool thing about this is it would seem these draft picks can be traded. Subject to certain restrictions, of course.

— The signing deadline will be moved forward.

It’s scheduled to land sometime between July 12 and 18, depending on the date of the All-Star Game. This is an excellent change. We know all too well that the top signings go down to the deadline because there’s no incentive to get the deal done early. My moving the deadline forward, this assures no one misses out on a (half year) of development time.

Some other nuggets…

— The percentage of players with two years of service who will be arbitration eligible will be increased from the top 17% to the top 22% in terms of service.

If you thought Eric Hosmer was close to Super Two status, he’s now a dead solid lock. And now the Super Two status of Mike Moustakas is in play. Under the old system the 2011 cutoff range was at 120 days of service time. This past year, Moose accumulated 111 days of service time. By pushing the percentage up by five percent, if Moustakas remains in the big leagues, he will certainly be on the cusp of eligibility. If he develops the way we hope, this will ultimately make Moustakas a few more million dollars.

2016 just got a little more expensive for the Royals.

–Major League will increase from $414,000 in 2011 to: $480,000 in 2012; $490,000 in 2013; and $500,000 in 2014; COLA in 2015 and 2016.

That’s a large jump, but I’m on board with this.

— Participation in the All-Star Game will be required unless the Player is unable to play due to injury or is otherwise excused by the Office of the Commissioner.

This means Derek Jeter will be in KC in July. If Chairman Bud had the stones to stand up to him.

— All Players will be subject to a policy governing the use of Social Media.

Great. Just when Danny Duffy fired up his Twitter account.

— Instant Replay will be expanded to include fair/foul and “trapped” ball plays.

I’m not a fan of instant replay, but I realize I’m in the minority here. Having said that, if you were going to expand the current system, this is the expansion that makes the most sense.

But this creates an interesting situation… What happens if Chris Getz loops a ball down the right field line (this is a hypothetical) and the ball is called foul. Obviously, everything stops because the ball is dead. Now the umpires will check the video and what happens if they change the ruling on the field. How do they decide how many bases to give the runner? There will be a few ejections on this rule.

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers won the American League Most Valuable Player award for 2011. If you are of the belief that pitchers should be able to win the MVP, then he was the right choice. It seems that most voters did agree with that philosophy so the award was bestowed upon a deserving candidate. However, after picking Verlander, the voters apparently started getting drunk and throwing darts. Here is how the vote went down:

 

Voting Results Batting Stats Pitching Stats
Rank Tm Vote Pts 1st Place WAR HR SB BB BA OBP SLG OPS W ERA WHIP GS SV IP BB SO
1 Justin Verlander DET 280.0 13.0 8.5 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 24 2.40 0.920 34 0 251.0 57 250
2 Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 242.0 4.0 7.2 32 39 52 .321 .376 .552 .928
3 Jose Bautista TOR 231.0 5.0 8.5 43 9 132 .302 .447 .608 1.056
4 Curtis Granderson NYY 215.0 3.0 5.2 41 25 85 .262 .364 .552 .916
5 Miguel Cabrera DET 193.0 2.0 7.1 30 2 108 .344 .448 .586 1.033
6 Robinson Cano NYY 112.0 0.0 4.6 28 8 38 .302 .349 .533 .882
7 Adrian Gonzalez BOS 105.0 0.0 6.9 27 1 74 .338 .410 .548 .957
8 Michael Young TEX 96.0 1.0 2.4 11 6 47 .338 .380 .474 .854
9 Dustin Pedroia BOS 48.0 0.0 6.8 21 26 86 .307 .387 .474 .861
10 Evan Longoria TBR 27.0 0.0 6.3 31 3 80 .244 .355 .495 .850
11 Ian Kinsler TEX 25.0 0.0 5.4 32 30 89 .255 .355 .477 .832
12 Alex Avila DET 13.0 0.0 5.4 19 3 73 .295 .389 .506 .895
13 Paul Konerko CHW 11.0 0.0 3.6 31 1 77 .300 .388 .517 .906
15 Adrian Beltre TEX 9.0 0.0 5.2 32 1 25 .296 .331 .561 .892
16 Victor Martinez DET 7.0 0.0 2.9 12 1 46 .330 .380 .470 .850
16 James Shields TBR 7.0 0.0 6.1 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 16 2.82 1.043 33 0 249.1 65 225
16 Ben Zobrist TBR 7.0 0.0 5.1 20 19 77 .269 .353 .469 .822
19 Mark Teixeira NYY 5.0 0.0 2.4 39 4 76 .248 .341 .494 .835
20 Asdrubal Cabrera CLE 4.0 0.0 3.7 25 17 44 .273 .332 .460 .792
21 Alex Gordon KCR 3.0 0.0 5.9 23 17 67 .303 .376 .502 .879
22 Josh Hamilton TEX 1.0 0.0 3.6 25 8 39 .298 .346 .536 .882
22 David Robertson NYY 1.0 0.0 3.9 0 0 0 4 1.08 1.125 0 1 66.2 35 100
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/22/2011.

You want proof of East Coast bias? Look at that table. Look how much higher undeserving Red Sox and Yankees are than their non-East Coast brethren.

Ellsbury over Bautista? no

Granderson over Cabrera? uh, hell no

Cano over Longoria? Oh, %&@$#*  no.

I bring this up because one of the best players in the American League barely made the list. Alex Gordon was given three 10th place votes by the BBWAA writers. First, I’m shocked that three voters decided him worthy of mention, but 10th place? The guy was one of the best defensive left fielders in the AL and he was easily one of the top hitters in the AL with his 9th place wOBA. I’m not saying that Gordon should have won the award, but he should’ve been above guys like Mark .248/.341/.494 Teixeira. There literally isn’t a single thing that Teixeira did better than Alex Gordon. The ONLY reason that he got more recognition is because he played in New York.

It wasn’t just Alex Gordon who got the shaft. Alex Avila had an offensive output roughly the same as Alex Gordon, but he did it while also being a superior defensive catcher.  He got a little bit more love than Gordon, but nobody picked him above 7th. Meanwhile six different voters had Michael Young on their ballot higher than Avila. One of these voters had Young at the top of his or her list. Michael Young, who ranked 15th in wOBA and played poor defense at an unimportant position. He’s the MOST valuable player?

I know, I know, it’s just a vote for a stupid award. I shouldn’t care so much. But these awards will stand forever and I want guys like Alex Gordon who deserve recognition to get it. If the lesser players in New York get more recognition, then it’s just another reason for players to flee the smaller markets and head to the larger ones. Does anyone think that if Gordon or Avila had been in Boston that they wouldn’t have gotten more than a few first place votes?

If you’re still not convinced, look at the last name on the list. David Robertson. You might be saying right now outloud to your computer “But Nick, the guy is an NBA hall of famer, he has to be like 50 or something and he pitched excellent for the Yankees. The dude deserved it.”

Hold on there a second, that’s not The Admiral from the San Antonio Spurs, it’s some guy named David RobERTson. He pitched 66 innings in relief for the New York Yankees and some insane person put him on the ballot instead of Alex Gordon. Some person who gets paid to watch baseball decided, using his own brain that this Robertson character was a better player than Alex freaking Gordon. The thought that any pitcher could be more valuable than Gordon or damn near any other regular position player in only 66 innings is the height of insanity.

The only way I’d give an MVP vote for 66 innings is if Doc Ellis made a return from the dead, dropped acid and pitched 66 consecutive innings of no-hit baseball, walked off the field and consumed the brains of the bench coach (because he is a zombie after all). Even then, I’d pause before putting him on the ballot because, you know its still only 66 innings in a 162 game season. I’m not too familiar with David Robertson, but I’m pretty darn sure it’s not a pseudonym for zombie-Doc Ellis. Therefore NO VOTE FOR YOU!

 

 

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.

Virtually every off-season discussion surrounding the Kansas City Royals has centered (rightfully so) on starting pitching.    The acquisition of Jonathan Sanchez was just step one in what most Royals’ fans assume will be at least a two, maybe even three, step process.  With the bullpen well stocked and eight of nine positions locked in, Dayton Moore certainly should be spending the bulk of his time focused on improving a starting rotation that was second worst in the American League last season.

That said, what about the ninth position?   I refer to second base, of course.

While most people believe and I tend to agree that Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack at being the team’s regular second baseman in 2012, he is hardly a sure thing.    While Johnny possesses a minor league resume that is probably better than those carried by Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez, he lacks the one thing all three of those players possess:  a plus defensive skill.

Save for a magical stretch in mid-summer, Escobar hit sporadically at best for most of the year, but because he played a premium defensive position and played it very well, Alcides came home with a fWAR of 2.2.   Salvador Perez hit well for the Royals in his limited time, but more importantly displayed the type of defensive abilities behind the plate that will keep him in the lineup and allow him to be a positive impact even if he does not hit.   The jury is out on what type of defender Cain will be in the majors, but all indications are that he will be a plus defender if not more.   At one point there was some talk about Cain’s routes to the ball, but those were mostly due to his relatively late start in baseball and I heard little about that being a problem this past season in Omaha.

Bottom line, all three have at least one ‘plus’ skill and all three have athletic upside.   Giavotella, who made some spectacular defensive plays in 2011, is never likely to become more than an average second baseman, if that.   His body type does not lead one to envision the ever elusive ‘projection’ that we prospect hounds crave and Johnny is not  tremendously athletic.   All of those things lead us to a player that will have to hit and hit early or the organization will begin looking elsewhere.    Alex Gordon could hit .195 as a rookie and you could still look at him and say ‘that guy should get better’.   If Giavotella hits .195 in his first 300 at-bats this year, people are rightly going to start thinking ‘well, this is who is’.

Now, I am 100% willing to give Giavotella a bunch of at-bats to either prove he it the .305/.375/.437 hitter his career minor league line reflects.   He just might be the player who in four full minor league seasons (all at A ball and above) never posted an on-base percentage below .351.   While Johnny’s numbers have benefitted from playing the last two years in hitter-friendly parks, he managed a respectable .258/.351/.380 in the hitter’s graveyard that is Wilmington.   Frankly, if Giavotella could hit .260/.350/.400 and not terribly screw-up in the field, that might be good enough playing between a Gold Glove shortstop and hopefully MVP level first baseman.

The current alternative to Giavotella is Chris Getz.     When the Royals acquired Getz for Mark Teahen, I defended him (yes, I actually was on the GETZ TRAIN) by pointing out that his minor league numbers (.286/.363/.380) and partial first major league season were remarkably similar to those of Brian Roberts.   Heck, Robinson Freaking Cano had similar minor league numbers!   Truthfully, it was worth a shot and the Royals have won that trade simply because Teahen cost real money while giving the White Sox not much more, if any more,  than Getz has given the Royals.

Getz, for his part, hit .237/.302/.277 in 2010 and followed that up with a .255/.313/.287 line in 2011.   He did post his best fielding numbers (by any metric) of his career in 2011.   If you believe that three years of fielding data is equal to one year of batting data, then Getz is slightly above average in UZR and decidedly below in Defensive Runs Saved.  There cases to be made for both metrics, but let’s blend them and say he is an average defensive second baseman.   Watching him, that would be my uneducated analysis.   

While Getz appears to be a guy who will work the count and get on base, he simply has not done it over the long haul.  I am not sure there is a place in modern baseball for a player who cannot slug over .300 (in fact, I am almost certain there is not), but I KNOW there is no room for a player with zero power who gets on base at a .315 clip (career mark) and plays just average or a tick above average defense.

I can make a case that Getz, because he can run and handle the bat (yes, every once in a while I can see the need for a sacrifice bunt – I really can!), could be a nice utility player.  Except, Getz has little experience playing shortstop or third base and is widely considered to have neither the arm nor the range to handle the left side of the infield.   Unlike some, I don’t have a problem bringing Getz to spring training, but he has done his best to prove he cannot be a regular major league second baseman and simply has not shown he can be more than an emergency fill in at any other position.

After the above two players, one of who will almost certainly be in the opening day lineup at second, the Royals offer Irving Falu, who has spent nine seasons in the organization, played everywhere and only kind of hit (.275/.342/.350).   You have to like his versatility and on a young team where the lineup is going to be basically the same every day, I could see Falu being on the Royals’ bench in early 2012.  This is not a player whose development you are concerned with stunting and you could buy yourself another roster spot simply because Falu could not only be your utility infielder, but also serve as your fifth outfielder.

Of more promise at the AAA level is Yamaico Navarro, acquired for Mike Aviles late in the summer.   Now, Yamaico is a shortstop with some pop (.430 minor league slugging), who has some time at third, short and even a little in the outfield.  He has the look of someone with potential.   The downside is that Navarro has played 312 minor league games at short and just 23 at second.   If I had to guess, Navarro starts 2012 in Omaha and plays shortstop more than second as insurance against an Escobar injury or, and this is actually possible, the chance that Alcides hits .201/.240/.260.

I say the above, because I believe that the organization still has high hopes for Christian Colon (keep in mind, this organization has a pretty broad stubborn streak) despite hitting an unimpressive .257/.325/.342 in Northwest Arkansas.    Drafted as a shortstop, Colon moved over to play 15 games at second last season and I have to imagine he will spend most of his time there in 2012.  Truthfully, he has yet to show anyone much of anything to make one believe Colon is going to be a major league regular.

Down the line one more tick is Rey Navarro.  It is quite possible he is the best defender (at second or short) of anyone we have talked about today.  In 2011, Navarro hit an outstanding .285/.337/.484 in Wilmington and a pretty mundane .271/.332/.330 in Northwest Arkansas.    Prior to this past season, Navarro really had not hit anywhere and so I doubt there is a risk of losing him in the Rule 5 draft (as has been postulated in various spots).    I have not seen enough to get on the Navarro bandwagon yet and I think it is more likely that he becomes Irving Falu than anything resembling a major league regular.   Certainly we have not seen enough to consign him to the minor league journeyman scrap heap, but there is plenty that remains for him to show before we start our ‘Free Rey’ campaign.

This discussion, again, leads us back to the ‘can the Royals contend in 2012 or not’ debate.   If not, then you see what happens with what you have.  If you believe 2012 is a contending year, however, then you almost have to address second base.   With a young team, plugging in a Rafael Furcal or someone similar as a veteran presence at second might make some real sense.    I probably will take the chicken way out here and say the Royals should give Giavotella a shot and, should he be struggling but the team contending in July, THEN make your move for a veteran second baseman.

Without question, Kansas City is going to have a number of in-house options at second base over the next two to three years, I am just not convinced any of them will turn out to be good options.

xxx

 

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