Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Can you imagine what the Royals’ corner of the Internet would be like if the team actually turns into a contender one of these years?   Where else could the trade of a nice (not to be confused with a ‘good’) player on a one year deal getting traded generate this level of interest?

Greg Schaum broke down the prospects shortly after the trade of Scott Podsednik went down and Matt Klaasen over at FanGraphs  gave us his analysis of the trade not much later.  Minda Haas had a great post on the musings of the casual fan and it’s always fun to read the comment strings over at Royals Review.    Plus, we had Nick’s podcast up (see below) as well and all of that is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Having newly integrated myself into the Twitter lifestyle (cfosroyalsauth by the way), I spent enough time following the feed last night on my phone that my wife was certain I had a couple of girlfriends.  (Doesn’t she know I have an entirely different phone for them?!!!)   At any rate, I cannot offer much more insight than more astute writers already have to what I am considering a ‘good trade’.

Very quickly, the Royals gave up a decent player in Podsednik having a decent year (.310/.353/.400), but his 12 caught stealing and 3 pick-offs (none of which, I believe, were the result of botched hit and runs or missed signs on a sacrifice bunt) mitigate that batting average down to .270 with a .316 on-base percentage.   Now, that ‘mitigation’ is the result of some pretty rudimentary statistical analysis, but just let it go, Pods is gone.

In return the Royals acquired a AAA catcher of marginal prospect status with some pop.   Now, like everyone else, Luke May has no doubt benefited from playing in Albuquerque (.296/.352/.496), but he also hit .306/.390/.468 in Chattanooga last year.   He is still learning the game behind the plate, having converted from shortstop in 2008, but he gives the Royals another high minor catcher to pair with Manny Pina.   Frankly, both guys have another full year of watching Jason Kendall play every day in the majors to refine their games.

Dayton Moore also added another young arm in Elisaul Pimentel, who has raised his strikeout rate in each of his last three stops in the minors.   I view Pimentel as another guy to put into the ‘second wave of pitchers’ behind the almost unbelievable AA rotation of Montgomery, Duffy, Crow, Dwyer and Lamb.   Pimentel fits in with Melville, Sample and recently acquired Will Smith.    Hey, you really cannot have enough young arms.

Heck, on this feel good Thursday, I have even reconciled myself to the Royals’ apparent move to a 13 man pitching staff in the short term.   While the promotion of Bryan Bullington was at best uninspired and at worst unimaginative, all signs are pointing towards the promotion of reliever Greg Holland (an ACTUAL PROSPECT) to Kansas City.     Holland is a power arm who, after getting a rude welcome to AAA, has been lights out since then.     He was going to have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter, so Holland needed a 40 man roster spot sooner and later.  Plus, as I have been advocating recently, the Royals need to spread out the experience factor of the trio of quality relievers they had in Omaha (Holland, Hardy and Coleman).   Chances are that this 13 man staff is a temporary deal, as the Royals continue to market Kyle Farnsworth and might well have seen about all the need to out of Blake Wood and/or Dusty Hughes.

Further helping the mood today, are the statements in the Kansas City Star and on WHB radio this morning of Dayton Moore indicating that Kila Kaa’ihue’s long awaited promition to and installation in the Royals’ everyday lineup ‘can be expected to happen shortly’.   Hopefully Giants’ GM Brian Sabean will panic that the Dodgers added Podsednik and offer something, anything, for Jose Guillen.   Really, Brian, ANYTHING will do, just offer.

At any rate, it at last just feels like the organization is positioning this team with an eye towards the future.    Another look at Alex Gordon, a first look at Greg Holland and a chance for Kila Kaa’ihue are all a start.  

Now, Mr. Moore, let’s keep the ball rolling.

Episode #027 – Nick reacts to the Podsednik trade, discusses Meche’s surgery, weighs the criticisms and praises of Dayton Moore and says FREE KILA.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs027.mp3|titles=BBS

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I’m here to write the epitaph on Gil Meche’s career with the Royals.

Yes, he’s only out for the season and he’s signed through next year, but you can’t honestly expect him to pitch again for this team.  I think he’s done as a Royal.

(It’s possible I could be jumping the gun on this. Nobody will know exactly his timetable for return until he goes under the knife and the surgeons poke around.  Given his history though, and past recovery times, I’m betting his days in Kansas City are over.)

If, in fact, Meche has thrown his final pitch as a Royal, he will always be remembered for his start on June 16, 2009 – A 132 pitch shutout against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  It’s fitting he’ll be remembered for that game, because it was his finest start as a Royal.

9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO

It was worth a Game Score of 84.  Hell, according to Game Score, it was the best game of his career.

We’ll always have the Diamondback game.

Ironic isn’t it, that the best game of Meche’s career was the beginning of the end.  He was shelled in his next start.  And again…  Then came the fateful “dead arm” and subsequent 121 pitch outing just two days after a bullpen session.

Here’s how Meche fared in his career as a Royal.  I’ve broken them down in two parts.  One, Before Shutout (BS) – which actually includes that start. The other, After Shutout (AS).

I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again.  It wasn’t the 132 pitch outing that spelled doom for Meche. That 132 pitch outing on June 16, 2009 was borderline insane, but it wasn’t the nail in the coffin.  The nails were pounded in over the next several starts when Meche couldn’t pitch past the fifth inning.  The final nail was on July 1 when, just two days removed from throwing a bullpen session to test his “dead arm” Meche was allowed to throw 121 pitches in a start against the Twins.

I won’t fault Dayton Moore for spending big to bring Meche to Kansas City prior to the 2007 season, signing him to a five year deal.  It was derided by many, including famously by JP Riccardi the then General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. “When a guy talks about coming to our place where he has a chance to win… and then he goes to a place like Kansas City, that’s an eye opener.” (Ha! I’ve said the same about Rick Ankiel.)

The 2007 season was Meche’s age 28 season.  He wasn’t a great – or even good – pitcher at that point, but his strikeouts were rising, his walk rate was falling and so was his hit rate.  Couple the improvement with his relative youth and you’re signing a guy like this based on potential.  It’s a gamble.  Probably no more of a gamble than any other free agent signing, but still… The Royals have little margin for error.  Remember, this was back in the day prior everyone learning The Process would take eight to ten years.  Most of us figured it would be four years.  Maybe five.  If that was to be the case, then inking Meche to those kind of terms was the kind of gamble that could pay huge dividends.  By his final year of the contract, he would be 32.  With the proper care and usage, it was possible he could be in the prime of his career.

Sometimes the best laid plans…

Don’t get me wrong.  The blood is on everyone’s hands.  No one gets out of this with a clear conscience.  Blame Dayton Moore for not stepping in following the 132 pitch shutout and making sure his field staff handled him with care.  Blame GMDM again for not doing the same following his “dead arm” that came several starts post-shutout.  Blame the medical staff for failing to grasp the gravity of the issue.  Of course you can blame Trey Hillman.  I couldn’t believe what I saw in the game following his “dead arm” bullpen session when Meche was allowed to return to the mound after throwing 99 pitches through five innings.  I thought then that what Hillman did that afternoon was a fireable offense. Oh, you can also blame Meche for all of this.  I get the feeling he was less than truthful with the Royals medical staff and management.  Sure, it’s one thing to be a “warrrior” who “takes the ball every fifth day,” but Meche – who had missed two full seasons with shoulder ailments in the early part of the decade – should have known better.

Fangraphs has a nifty little formula where they assign a dollar amount to a player based on his performance for the season.  Kind of the opposite way MLB contracts work – they pay based on past performance.  Here’s how Meche has done in his time with the Royals.

According to this formula, Meche has been worth $46.8 million to the Royals over the last three and a half years.  He’s roughly $8.2 million short.  Maybe GMDM, Hillman and Meche can divide the bill three ways to make amends.  If only it were that simple…

Many of us will wonder why it took the Royals and Meche so long to come to the conclusion that surgery was the only option.  The numbers make it clear he had been hurting for quite some time.  By delaying what seemed inevitable, the Royals and Meche have almost certainly assured he’s thrown his last pitch as a Royal.  The Royals termed surgery as a “last resort.”  It usually is.

I’m not a doctor (I didn’t even take biology in college) so I’m not in the position to be overly critical here, but I certainly understand wanting to avoid surgery.  The recovery will be long and painful.  The Royals are paying Meche a princely sum, so they want something – anything – from their starter. Losing days to the disabled list isn’t a way to recoup your investment.  Still, you have to wonder if the Royals were just deluding themselves in this situation.  Hoping for the best when all the evidence points to the worst does a disservice to everyone involved.

What a shame.  What a waste.

If you listen to my podcast, which is posted here at Royals Authority and elsewhere, then you probably know that I am not the biggest fan of Scott Podsednik.  We probably all have our own personal favorites and not-so-favorites on the team, its just part of being a fan.  However, sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due, and Scott Podsednik has been on fire lately.

I know he has a 13 game hitting streak, but I kind of thought it was one of those empty streaks with lots of 1 single games.  Not only  does he have 6 multi-hit games during his streak, seven of his 21 hits during the streak have been for extra bases.  He has 3 doubles, 2 triples and 2 homeruns.  During his 13 game hitting streak, Podsednik is hitting .375/.407/.607.

The thing that absolutely blew me away though, was the fact that his streak would be 23 games if not for a single game with no hits on July 7th.  If you look at all of his games from June 21st through yesterday, you have over a month of Podsednik putting up All-Star numbers.  I mean literally All-Star or better type offensive numbers.  Over his last 28 games, Podsednik is hitting .364/.395/.496 for an OPS of .891.  That is excellent production out of the leadoff spot for the Royals.

During the off-season, the Royals signed a bunch of outfielders.  They inked Brian Anderson, Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik.  At the time, I thought it was a little crazy, but my guess is that Dayton Moore figured that hopefully one of these guys would end up being productive and instead of just trying to guess which one it would be, he signed all three and hedged his bet.  Brian Anderson is becoming a pitcher, Rick Ankeil has been injured most of the year and I have to admit, Podsednik has been a valuable player.  We know that in most offseasons, the Royals don’t have the money to go out and sign a top flight free agent who has great odds of panning out, so in lieu of that, a great strategy would be to get a bunch of decent guys and hope one has a career year while jettisoning the rest.

On top of that, if the team ends up struggling then you can hopefully trade off the guy who is performing well and net some young talent in return. And that is exactly what may happen. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports last night Tweeted:

Source: Royals getting bombarded with sudden interest in Podsednik from NL West contenders. Would fit for #Giants, #Padres, #Dodgers.

If the Royals can turn Scott Podsednik into some young talent, then it easily will be the best off-season signing of the year for Dayton Moore.  Sometimes as fans we have trouble seeing the forest for the trees, and I think that for me the signing of a bunch of outfielders in this last off-season was one of those times.  Now, if he can only stay healthy until he can be traded.

You can contact Nick at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/brokenbatsingle

After two rain delays and three losses in New York, how many of you are tired of hearing that song?  Anyway….

On Sunday afternoon, Royals’ fans got their first look at newly acquired Sean O’Sullivan:  five innings, seven hits, five runs, no walks and three strikeouts.   O’Sullivan was a bit unlucky in the four run Yankee third inning as Mark Teixeira’s desperation reach went from foul ball to infield single and Scott Podsednik struggled with a ball in the left field corner that combined to lead to two more runs.   Of course, O’Sullivan also surrendered three early shots to the warning track in deep right center as well that happened to stay up long enough to be caught.

I saw a lot of what prospect reports had indicated we might see out of O’Sullivan.   Baseball America two years ago wondered if Sean’s lack of an ‘out pitch’ would make it difficult for him to succeed at the higher levels and there were several reports recently that O’Sullivan’s stuff becomes less effective the second and third times through a batting order.  We saw evidence of both on Sunday.

That said, O’Sullivan has some decent movement on all three pitches and seemed willing to throw fastball, curve or change in just about any count.   His fastball topped out at just under 93 mph and he tossed in some off-speed offerings as low as 74 mph, so O’Sullivan has the ability to mess with a hitter’s timing (his change-up averaged 78 mph, twelve less than his average fastball).   Keeping in mind that he was facing the Yankees for the second time in a week, Sunday’s performance was not totally discouraging.

However, Sunday was another discouraging outing for reliever Blake Wood.   As Craig astutely called about four weeks ago, Wood was simply not getting enough swings and misses to survive in the bigs and yesterday he could not find the strike zone either.   In his last ten outings spanning just over eight innings, Wood has allowed 17 hits and 11 runs, while walking 5 and striking out just 4.   Excluding the intentional walk to Jeter, Wood threw sixteen pitches on Sunday and fifteen were fastballs.    Nobody has that good a fastball.

With three young relievers pitching well in Omaha (Blaine Hardy, Louis Coleman and Greg Holland) it may be time to give Wood some time to work on a secondary pitch in AAA and give one of those three a chance in the bigs.   Such a move would also allow the Royals to stagger the experience of their future bullpen so they don’t suddenly find themselves relying on three rookies in the middle innings or, in the alternative, spending money on a veteran middle guy because they don’t want to rely on three rookies in 2011.

Onto the curiosity of the afternoon.   Ned Yost played Yuniesky Betancourt for the tenth consecutive game since coming out of the All-Star Break, while sitting Billy Butler and resting Mike Aviles on Saturday.   In doing so, he managed to basically play three of his four infielders out of position.   Now, Wilson Betemit is fine at first if you want to give Butler a rest, but why not Getz at second (his natural position) and Aviles at third (given that Mike has not played his natural position of shortstop more than a handful of games as it is)?     Just me being critical, I’m sure.

Okay, if you get all agitated about trade rumors and the fact that most never come true, then stop reading now.  

MLBTradeRumors had some juicy morsels this weekend starting with the Royals interest in Jeff Francouer.    That then expanded into a crazy jumble of Mets-Royals potential dealings that I am simply calling ‘five guys I hate and Gil Meche’.   In some combination, the Mets were reportedly discussing Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Francouer while the Royals were talking about Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth and Gil Meche.      Some of the commenters over at Royals Review were trying to make some sense of how all that might work out, but I decided to just start drinking instead.

Also out in the wind is some Zack Greinke to Tampa talk.    If you look at the haul that the THREE Cliff Lee deals and the Roy Halladay deal generated (not to mention Erik Bedard a few years back), then this gets interesting.  However, the rather modest bounty paid by the Angels for Dan Haren certainly put a damper on any speculation that this is something the Royals should pursue.

Another nugget that has been rumbling around put got some more juice early this morning was Jon Heyman’s note that the Yankees made a ‘major proposal’ in an attempt to nab Joakim Soria.   I don’t know what to make of this other than New York’s top prospects are mostly all catchers (if you are willing to believe Jesus Montero can actually stick there) or pitchers who certainly would not crack the top five in the Royals’ system.     

Speaking as a guy who has written a trade Soria column or two in the recent past, it would seem to me that the Yankees would have to offer someone off their current major league roster in addition to Montero or Romine, plus an arm for this deal to make sense to the Royals.   That is a hefty price to pay for a closer, even one as good as Joakim Soria.

Without question, this will be a wild week of speculation and rumors.   It will be interesting to see what actually ends up happening by Saturday.

Ouch!

12 comments

Looks like I was correct on the trade value of David DeJesus.  He’s not going anywhere after running into the center field wall chasing after Derek Jeter’s deep fly ball.  He led with his right (glove) wrist and it bent back as it met the wall.

You could tell immediately that he injured himself on the play.  Post-game, it was revealed that while X-rays were negative, he suffered a “severe thumb sprain.”  Bob Dutton tweeted late Thursday that DeJesus was off to see a hand specialist in Cleveland and “might be out awhile.”

Perfect.

UPDATE: DeJesus to the 15 day DL and Alex Gordon called up from Omaha.  OK… We have arrived at the most recent test for Royals management.  Gordon must – MUST – play everyday for the rest of the season.

So now we get an outfield of Scotty Pods, Rick Ankiel and Mitch Maier?

Even though Alberto Callaspo was moved earlier in the evening, I still thought dealing DeJesus was a long shot.   I figured the Royals would overvalue him, ask for too much and ultimately fail to make a trade.

What really hurts is with DeJesus out of the lineup, (and Callaspo to a lesser extent) we’re edging closer to the suckfest of 2008 without gaining any upside.  Hopefully, DeJesus’ injury isn’t serious (although that sounds unlikely) and he’ll return quickly.   Of course, there’s the requisite snark that the Royals waited too long to make the trade. Really?  First, who’s to say the Royals were offered what would be considered “fair” value for DeJesus?  Second, who the hell knew he was going to run into a wall a week before the deadline?  Things like this happen (yes, more to the Royals it seems than anyone else) so you just move on.  It makes this winter interesting as the Royals hold the option for DeJesus for 2011 at $6 million.  He was on the road to becoming a Type A player, so if the Royals had declined the option, it’s possible they could have collected draft picks.  He was a borderline “A,” so it will be interesting to see how he’s rated if he misses an extended period of time.

Maybe the Royals will use this opportunity to recall Alex Gordon.  Or Kila Ka’ahuie.  Or both.  This is the perfect time: Bring up Gordon when DeJesus hits the DL and play him in the outfield.  While you’re busy making moves, dump Guillen and bring up Kila.  (Although if that happens, it will be in August when the Royals place Guillen on waivers.  If some team claims him, he’s gone.  If no one is dumb enough to do that, hopefully they cut him once he clears.) That’s about the only thing that can improve the current situation.

Only the Royals.

Meanwhile, some of you are wondering why the Royals recalled Ankiel and not Gordon when it came time to make a move to replace Callaspo on the roster.  It’s simple: Ankiel was on a minor league rehab assignment so the Royals had to recall him.  Rehab assignments are based on time and time was running out.  He can’t stay in the minors because he’s out of options.

Of course, the Royals could just cut him and eat his $2.75 salary. Like that would happen.

Nope… He’s back and he’s going to play.

Episode #026 – Nick discusses the Callaspo trade, why on earth Rick Ankiel is back on the team, would it matter if Yost is gone after the season and what keeps you interested in Royals games?

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs026.mp3|titles=BBS

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Well, let’s be nice to the blogger… I was off on my trade odds.  By just a bit.

So the Alberto Callaspo to the Angels rumor was pretty darn accurate as the Royals ship their starting third baseman to LA for Sean O’Sullivan and Will Smith. (No, I’m not going to make a joke about his name.)

I had a couple of reactions to the news the Royals were losing Bert:

– Dayton Moore really should have shopped him last winter when his trade value was highest.  Today, it’s probably as low as it’s been in his tenure with the Royals.

– This trade is basically a deal where the Royals are sending a player who will earn a raise by being eligible for arbitration next winter, for a pair of cost-controlled arms.  Callaspo isn’t part of the future here.  Not by a long shot.  Short-term, this doesn’t help the team, but who cares if this is the difference between fourth or fifth.

– Kind of makes one wonder if the Royals should have gone to all that trouble moving Alex Gordon to the outfield.  Again, short-term this hurts.  Long-term, who cares… Mike Moustakas is going to be playing this position within a year and a half.  Maybe sooner.

– I really like the Callaspo deal when Dayton made the trade a couple of years ago.  Love the contact.  He was really good last year, but this year his walks are down and his strikeouts are static.  He lost a little power – which was expected – and overall, he’s much less valuable as an offensive player this year.  If the Royals were trying to win games (because they were in contention) they would have been better served by playing Gordon at third and putting Callaspo on the bench.

–  O’Sullivan was once Baseball America’s number five prospect, so there’s that.  Clark doesn’t really like him (and proposed Trevor Bell) and I’ll defer to his opinion of lacking potential.  Plus, his Triple-A numbers: 3.3 BB/9, 6.1 SO/9 and a 4.76 ERA seem to back that up.  Fifth starter who will wear out I-29 until he’s out of options.

– Smith is the definition of “fringe” and has appeared at just about every level of the minors for the Angels this year.  He was pitching for the Double-A team and the Royals will assign him to High-A Wilmington.

Thoughts?

Most years, about this time, I write a column where I wake up one July morning and find myself General Manager of the Kansas City Royals.  To be totally candid, I wake up most mornings thinking I am in that position, but that’s a whole separate physiatric session.    The basic premise of this scenario is that one wakes up on July 22nd to find themselves as the GM, inheriting the situation ‘as-is’ with all the perceived constraints of ownership, money and at least some basis of reality. 

This exercise lost any semblance of fun last summer with the  Yuniesky Betancourt deal and hence I did not bother.  The July, however,  before I donned the GM hat and traded Ron Mahay for Chris Carter (then with the  Red Sox), Kyle Davies for Nelson Cruz (at the time toiling in AAA) and Blake Johnson (plus someone else) for Joaquin Arias.   All in all, that would not have been a horrible summer simply based upon acquiring Cruz.    Let’s see how I do this July.

The first day of my reign at the top begins with the inheritance of a team that has won two of its last three games, but lost seven of its last nine.   The Royals are closer to last than to first and have done so with a roster that really is not that young.   My predecessor has left a farm system that is much stronger than what he inherited.   Frankly, dare we say it, ‘the process’ was starting to work – just not in 2010 and probably not for a fair portion of 2011.  

As a general manager, I find myself faced with two options (three, actually, if you are willing to stay drunk and high for three months and believe the Royals can contend this season).   So, two options:

  1. Stay the course and wait for Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers to become everyday regulars, while Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow move into my starting rotation.
  2. Try to accelerate ‘the process’ and, at the same time, buy a little insurance in case some of the highly touted prospects do not develop into major leaguers.

Pretty obviously, the answer is yes to both options:  stay the course, but push it along at a quicker pace if you can do so without jeopardizing the future.  Easier said that done, even for a blogger.

Prior to departing, Dayton Moore may have been presented with a couple of trade offers.   The first would have sent Alberto Callaspo to the Angels for Sean O’Sullivan and a ‘fringe’ prospect.   The second was David DeJesus to the Braves for Kris Medlen and a AAA reliever.   Neither offer quite rings my bell.

O’Sullivan was the Angels’ number five rated prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2009 season, but lacks a true out pitch and has struggled against better hitting.    While he did have a nice start upon his recent recall (6IP, 2ER) and I am faced with the looming spectre of Bryan Bullington starting on Sunday, the 23 year old O’Sullivan just doesn’t seem to offer enough potential for my tastes.    However, the Angels are truly interested in Callaspo and while he is a good hitter having a somewhat down year, I just don’t see Alberto as a building block for a contending team.

I counter the Angels’ offer by asking for pitcher Trevor Bell, their 10th rated prospect prior to this season who has been obliterated in brief appearances in the majors, and a ‘fringe prospect’.   Bell comes with a good fastball and good control and, if not an upgrade over Bannister and Davies, he is at least younger than both (23) and is almost certainly a better option than Bryan Bullington or Anthony Lerew.  

The discussion turns to the ‘fringe prospect’ and begins to bog down.   Every name I produce is not ‘fringy’ enough to the Angels and the line ‘well, if you want him, then you have to take O’Sullivan instead of Bell’ comes up often.   In the end, I remind myself that I am trading a third baseman with a .308 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage barely over .400.

The deal is made:  Callaspo to the Angels for Bell and a player to be named later.   When the dust settles, the PTBNL ends up being catcher Brian Walker.    Bell, for now, takes his place as the Royals number five starter, while Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles take up the bulk of the innings at third base.   This gives us a chance to see some more Chris Getz at second without taking Aviles’ bat out of the lineup.   Can Getz play or not, who knows?   This gives us a chance to find out.

Now, while I like Kris Medlen, I like David DeJesus a lot better.  Truthfully, any hopes/prayers of being competitive in 2011 probably include having DeJesus in the Royals’ outfield.    His option is affordable for next year and the compensation picks, while nice, would still be a player or players that are at least two years away from contributing in the majors.   Plus, DeJesus is still likely to be an effective everyday player for the next three or four years and seems like a guy that the Royals could resign after the 2011 season.   Heck, I might even entertain extension talks after the season to lock him down through the 2013 campaign.

Given that, we will continue to market DeJesus just in case someone gets really desperate and really silly, but the organizational thought will be to keep David, exercise the option and know that we have at least one major league outfielder set for 2011.

Although there has been interest in Joakim Soria, moving a closer of his effectiveness with what may be the best contract in baseball right now does not excite me at all.   Frankly, any hope of catching lightning in a bottle and contending in 2011 instead of 2012 includes having Joakim in the Royals’ pen.   Again, we’ll be happy to listen, but if the Yankees or whoever really want Soria, they will have to overpay by a factor of two to even make me answer the phone.

Of course, the real problem I have inherited is that Jose Guillen is blocking Kila Kaa’ihue, Scott Podsednik is blocking Alex Gordon and Rick Ankiel is healthy.   It would actually be so much easier if Guillen was limping along with a sub-.300 on-base percentage and not much power or Podsednik was hitting .270 instead of .300.   One could simply release the older players and ‘find out’ about younger players yet this year.    As it stands right now, however, both Podsednik (especially) and Guillen (to some extent) have some value to the Royals and have played just well enough to make even me think they ought to have some trade value as well.

I don’t dislike Podsednik: he is what he is on the field and is a good veteran guy in the clubhouse.   I’ll let his name float around as July 31st approaches.   In the case of Guillen, he would almost certainly pass through waivers and be tradeable in August, but the urgency is in getting Kila Kaa’ihue to the majors so I can find out if he can hit.     Yet, I have an owner who is not going to just release a player with 15 home runs and $5 million still coming.

I look once more to the evil empire because they have a gigantic hole at designated hitter, even with Jorge Posada spending most of the time there recently, – big enough to make Guillen’s .278/.339/.461 look appealing – and a clubhouse that could certainly contain any of Jose’s ‘quirks’.    What’s Jose going to do when he is not in the lineup for three days?   Spout off to Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera?

After cornering David Glass in an elevator, I wear him down with the logic of giving up some money to move Guillen and open a spot for Kaa’ihue.   It helps that it was 105 degrees in the elevator and Glass  had to go the bathroom.   He agrees to pay $4 million of Jose’s remaining salary.

The deal is Jose Guillen to the Yankees for minor league outfielder Ray Kruml, a 24 year old still toiling in A ball.  Kila Kaa’ihue is promoted immediately and bats fifth on Sunday afternoon in Yankee Stadium.   Sure, he goes zero for four and Trevor Bell gives up five runs in four innings that day, but I still feel better.

The Royals return home on July 26th and I continue to work the phones.   The Reds are looking for bullpen help to ease the workload on their relievers.  Obviously, Kyle Farnsworth is the name I shop to them.  He has been much better this season and the last time he pitched in the National League (Braves-2005), Kyle fashioned a 1.98 earned run average in 27 innings of work.   Despite having signed Russ Springer and the ghost of Jason Isringhausen, the Reds are still interested.

Who I want in return is currently injured outfielder Chris Dickerson.  Now twenty-eight years old and nursing a bad wrist, some of the luster has worn off Dickerson, but not enough to net him straight up for Farnsworth.   The Reds, however, are in a pennant race and, for all his faults, Willie Bloomquist is a guy that would certainly have a spot on a National League team.   Bloomquist’s skill set also gloves nicely with the Reds’ other utility player, Miguel Cairo.

The deal gets done:  Farnsworth and Bloomquist to the Reds for Chris Dickerson.   While Dickerson’s injury pretty much means he will be in rehab mode for a while, he adds another player to the outfield mix for 2011.   Maybe it all comes together for Chris, maybe not, but the Royals have given up two free agents to be and the Reds have gotten a couple of veteran guys to help them in their pursuit of St. Louis without really damaging their future.

Veteran minor-leaguer Ed Lucas gets the call to replace Bloomquist and Blaine Hardy gets a shot to replace Farnsworth in the bullpen.   At the same time, Victor Marte is sent down in favor of Louis Coleman.   Getting a good look at Hardy and Coleman this year will go a long way in determining how much of the Royals’ precious resources will have to be devoted to the bullpen in the off-season.  The hope, obviously, would be ‘none’.

Now, the trade deadline is right in front of us and Boston, while still after every outfielder available has not been able to make a deal.   Sure, they would ‘love to take DeJesus’ off our hands, but the return is not enough.  My asking price starts with Casey Kelley and that generally grinds the conversation to a stop right there.  

The Red Sox have been decimated by injuries and currently bat Darnell McDonald in the lead-off spot and are playing Bill Hall (.735 OPS) at second base.   While McDonald has been decent and Daniel Nava a revelation, is Theo Epstein really ready to make a run at the playoffs with them?   You see, I’ve got a guy with a World Series ring who happens to play leftfield and bat lead-off that just might be of interest to him.

By now, we are deep into the morning of July 31st and the Red Sox have pretty much stood pat as they tried to make ‘the big deal’.  It has become obvious that the asking prices for top shelf outfielders are exorbitant and so we begin to discuss Podsednik.  The match-ups don’t seem to be working out until we begin to include middle infielders in the discussion. 

I snicker when I offer Yuniesky Betancourt and Epstein flat out laughs and calls me an unprintable name.  However, the real name in the discussion is Mike Aviles.   I love Aviles, love his story and think he is likely to gravitate towards a performance line somewhere in between his fabulous rookie season and what he is doing for the Royals right now.   He can fill in at second until Dustin Pedroia is healthy and help out at shortstop where the Sox have turned to rookie Jed Lowrie.

What’s Podsednik AND Aviles worth to you, I ask?   Not Jose Iglesias is the first answer.

However, how about pitcher Kyle Weiland?  Now, that’s a start.

The name of AA outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin comes up at my prompting.   He is a cut below the prime outfield prospects in the Sox system (Westmoreland, Kalish and Fuentes), but is 21 year old in AA who has as many walks as strikeouts.  

There is some hemming and hawing on the other end as the clock ticks closer to the deadline.  Finally, the deal is done:  Podsednik and Aviles for Che-Hsuan Lin and Weiland.   With that, the trade deadline comes to a close.

When the dust has settled, the Royals have an August 1st roster of:

C – Kendall, Pena

1b – Butler, Kaaihue

2b – Getz

ss – Betancourt

3b – Betemit (as we await the September call-up of Mike Moustakas)

Util – Ed Lucas

OF – DeJesus, Maier, Ankiel (sorry), Gordon (to replace Podsednik) and hopefully Dickerson in short order.

SP – Greinke, Chen, Bannister, Davies, Bell (with Hochevar & Meche hopefully soon to follow)

RP – Soria, Tejeda, Wood, Hardy, Coleman, Hughes, Texeira

The minor leagues have been strengthened with the addition of Weiland and Lin, plus some organizational depth in Kruml and Walker.

Perhaps most importantly, it gives us two full months to gauge whether Kaa’ihue, Gordon, Hardy, Coleman and even Dickerson can be projected as regulars on a major league roster building to contend.   Simply knowing those answers will allow me, as general manager, to have a pretty accurate guide as to what needs to be fixed in the off-season.  

Now, it’s your turn, tell me if this makes sense or not?   Are the Royals in better shape after these moves or just ‘more of the same’?

So, we’re about 10 days from the trade deadline, so why not handicap the Royals and the chances they’ll be moved in the next week and a half.

Kyle Farnsworth – 35%

Kerosene Kyle has been effective out of the pen this year and teams are always looking for relief.  He could get dealt for a grade C prospect.

Jose Guillen – 5%

It’s not that Dayton Moore won’t trade him.  It’s that he can’t trade him.

Alberto Callaspo – 20%

Reports on Tuesday had the Angels offering Sean O’Sullivan and a fringe prospect.  Once upon a time, O’Sullivan was the Angels fifth rated prospect, but has struggled since moving past Single-A.  I don’t blame Dayton – if the reports are true and he turned this offer down.  However, if that’s the best bounty Callaspo will bring, he’s not going anywhere.  Although the Angels seem like a fit.

Willie Bloomquist – 15%

He would return a PTBNL.  At most.

Zack Greinke, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies – 0%

The rotation is thin with Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar on the DL.  There’s absolutely zero chance Dayton guts his rotation.

Joakim Soria – 5%

He’s signed at to a club-friendly deal and is a closer.  Both points matter a great deal to management.  Those Soria to New York rumors (and for Jesus Montero!) were so laughable, I’m not even sure they need to be addressed.

Bottom line: This is baseball’s silly season.  I get the feeling there are a few national writers who scour losing teams for quality players on low dollar contracts.  In other words, bargains.  And those writers immediately throw those names into the trade cauldron.  We get it… The Royals are the chum and the Yankees are the sharks.  It’s lazy and unprofessional and total B.S.  It’s like closing your eyes and throwing a dart and guessing where it will land.  So the Yankees covet Soria.  Really?  If I had to guess, I’d say there are 28 other teams who covet the guy.

Soria isn’t going anywhere. Yet.

David DeJesus – 20%

This is the one guy who the Royals are willing to part with (although no one on this team should be “untouchable”) and he’s the one who would net the greatest return, so his odds are the highest outside of Farnsworth.

I could see him headed to Tampa or the Giants.  And yes, I could see him in Boston.  The Royals will have to lower their asking price though.  No, he’s not a fourth outfielder, but he’s much more valuable to the Royals than he would be to say the Rays.  That’s not a knock on DeJesus, it’s just a fact.  And because that’s the case, teams aren’t going to want to give up a ton.  Although if Jeff Passan’s report that the Royals are seeking a major league ready prospect and a mid level prospect is accurate, that seems fair to me.

It will take a savvy GM to get a team to pony up what the Royals are looking for.  I don’t think we have that GM.

The Field – 15%

Overall, I think the odds that GMDM and the Royals make a trade is around 15%.  I just don’t see much happening at the deadline.

I hope I’m wrong.

—————————————————————————————————————

Really not much to analyze in a 13-1 beatdown.

— It was one of those nights when Anthony Lerew looked like a Triple-A pitcher and the Blue Jays looked like the team leading the AL in home runs and second in slugging.  The Jays were ripping Lerew all over the park.  It was the Laser Show prelude to the Lightening Show.

It was only a matter of time before someone lined one up the middle and off the pitcher.  Honestly, Lerew was throwing BP out there – he probably should have had the screen in front of him.  At the time, I thought that was the last thing the Jays wanted to do… Why knock out the pitcher who has nothing?  Turns out it didn’t hurt as Kanekoa Texeira wasn’t any better, allowing both inherited runners to score before allowing two more to plate in the third inning.

Early word on Lerew was a bruised rib cage and bicep.  I bet.  He’s feeling the pain right about now.

— Speaking of BP, that was exactly what Blake Wood was throwing.  That 95 mph on a string… No way a slugging team like the Jays doesn’t just crush the ball against a pitcher like Wood.  And crush him they did.  Bautista smoked a double off the Royals reliever and Lind hit a liner that bounced off the top of the wall for a home run.  In both instances, the hitters were sitting fastball.  In both instances, Wood obliged.

— If you were a major league player and your best chance at getting on base was to make like a fastpitch softball player and execute a swinging bunt, would you be embarrassed?  Just asking…

—  There was a Brayan Pena sighting as he entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner for Jose Guillen with the Royals down by 10 at that point.  Love the strategic maneuvering.  Gotta keep Guillen fresh.  And it was muddy out there, too.  Gotta keep him safe.

—  If you love spectacular defensive plays, this was your game.  The Jays had Web Gems all around the infield on Tuesday.  And Alberto Callaspo turned in a couple of nifty plays to his left as well.

— The Blue Jays had 16 hits, while the Royals had 11.  Yet the Jays scored 13 runs, while the Royals could only muster a run.

Perhaps the difference was that the Jays had 10 extra base hits to the Royals one.

That seems to be the story of the Royals offense in a nutshell.

When I hear someone say Kevin Seitzer has done a great job with this team, I just shake my head.  Not that he’s done anything wrong or horrible… But he hasn’t done anything to really make a bit of difference with this offense.

The point of the offense is to score runs.  The end.  I could care less that the Royals are leading the league in batting average.  They’re second to last in walks and their 4.37 runs per game are 10th.  They rank seventh in OBP (at .335, which is actually a surprise given the lack of walks… And a good thing) and 11th in slugging at .402.

It’s not like Seitzer can teach guys power, so I’m not going to dock him points for the Royals team slugging percentage.  But when you depend on guys to string together three singles to score one run, it’s going to be difficult to get the runs across the plate.

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