Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Zack Greinke is no longer a Royal.  It’s painful to say, and I’m sad to see my favorite player in a long time move on.  You likely already are aware that he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for  Alcides Escobar (SS), Lorenzo Cain (CF), Jeremy Jeffress (RHP) and Jake Odorizzi (RHP).  I know that everyone really likes to read people’s opinions on which team “won” and which team “lost” any given trade and there’s plenty of that all over the internet and Twitter.  If you must know my feelings, I like the trade.  The Royals had to trade Greinke at some point and they got multiple quality players in return.  At the very least, I don’t think many people could in good faith suggest that this trade is a total bomb.  So instead of trying to sell you on why I like the trade or why you should like the trade, let’s talk about what just got a whole heck of a lot more interesting: the 2011 season.

Like anyone else who roots for the Royals, I want to see more wins on the field, and frankly I don’t care how they accomplish it.  Barring a bunch of extra wins, I’d like to at least watch a team that interests me.  Honestly, the last couple of years have been some of the least interesting and hard to root for Royals teams that I can remember.  They were filled with boring players who had no future with the Royals organization.  It was like watching a bunch of hired guns who couldn’t really shoot all that well.  Going out to see Zack Greinke pitch, Joakim Soria close or Billy Butler hit were the lone reasons to get excited.  The Royals did lose one of those marquee names today, but the team just became much more interesting.

For the past year and a half (it seems so much longer) we’ve been watching Yuniesky Betancourt play sub par defense and hit with a woeful bat.  He’s been a daily reminder of the fact that the Royals gave up Minor League talent in order to get, at best a replacement level shortstop.  For many of us, he was the embodiment of a front office who can’t really identify quality Major League talent and over-values certain aspects of player evaluation.  Now that Betancourt is heading to Milwaukee and the Royals got Alcides Escobar in return, the position just became interesting.  Escobar is known as a very good defender who has the ability to be elite.  He has struggled throughout his career with the bat, but did show some signs of putting it together in the upper Minors.  He’ll never likely hit for any power, but he only needs to be near average offensively for a SS and he becomes very exciting.  Either way, he just turned twenty four and likely represents the Royals shortstop for the next five years.  This season we will get a chance to see him every single day, hopefully making spectacular plays and also developing as a Major League hitter.  I knew what we had in Yuniesky Betancourt, I’m not sure what we have yet in Escobar, but I’m pretty interested in finding out.

The Royals farm system is light on outfield prospects, and very few are close to Major League ready.  So, we’ve gotten used to Dayton Moore acquiring some free agents on one year “show me” contracts who at best can be flipped for prospects at the trade deadline.  These are mercenaries of the highest degree, and usually pretty low-rent mercenaries at that.  There isn’t anything particularly exciting about going to see Scott Podsednik Rick Ankiel, Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur for one season in a Royals uniform.  We can still dream on Alex Gordon some, but he is running out of future projection.  Prior to this move, the most exciting part of the outfield was hoping that speedster Jarrod Dyson would get some playing time and suddenly become a completely different hitter.  Once again, after the trade things have been shaken up.  Lorenzo Cain is thrust into the mix, and he’s a 24 year old speedster who has a good glove but also a track record of being able to hit the ball.  In his first Major League season he hit .306/.348/.415.  Not bad for someone who plays a premium defensive position and can swipe some bases.  He’s young, fast and could take a really positive step developmentally in 2011.  When was the last time we could say that about a Royal center fielder?

The bullpen is always a mish-mash of new and old guys, and in general is only exciting when you don’t want it to be exciting.  Watching Joakim Soria come in and close games is one of the true joys of being a Royals fan, so there always that.  However, there is a good chance that newly acquired pitcher Jeremy Jeffress will be a part of that bullpen in 2011 as well.  He can hit 100 m.p.h. on the radar gun and is compared to Joel Zumaya.  I don’t think that he’s a guy I’d want to rely on to close games just yet, but to have him available in the 7th or 8th inning is pretty cool if you ask me.

Last, but not least, the Royals also got starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.  While he is almost certainly not going to make the Major League team any more interesting, there’s a chance he’s the best part of this whole trade.  He’s a right handed starter who potentially has four “plus” pitches and would have been the top prospect in the Brewers farm system.  How he pitches this year, and how he progresses through the system, along with guys like Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Aaron Crow and Mike Montgomery will be worth watching.  This farm system just went from being a once in a decade type of system to a once in a generation one.

I know that people will still want to debate whether or not this was good enough return for the 2009 Cy Young winning pitcher.  Honestly, I’ll still do it myself.  However, the deal is done and we have to live with it.  I think it’s time to stop using the franchises past errors and bad luck to judge how things are going to go in the future.  The state of the world as it stands today is that the Royals have more talent than any other franchise in baseball, an owner who has been much more open to spending money, and no real financial obligations in the near future.  In other words, they have talent, financial flexibility and money to spend.  When was the last time they had even one of those?  It really is a wonderful time to be a Royals fan, and 2011 is the start.

You’ve heard by now…

The reports are the Royals have shipped Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee in exchange for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. There is some confusion as to whether or not Jeffress is in the deal at this time.  There are rumors it may be a PTBNL.

There are also reports the Royals are sending $2 million to the Brewers as part of the deal.  Consider that a penalty for employing the Yunigma for the last couple of seasons.

The move addresses the Royals needs by securing youth up the middle.  Cain is a speedy center fielder and Escobar is a plus defender at short.  Offensively, I have my doubts.  Escobar struggled to get on base last summer (.288 OBP) but Cain did alright in a brief turn in the majors (.340 OBP) and also posted a line of .317/.402/.432 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

So, it happened… And less than a week after the Cliff Lee deal.  My initial reaction was one of disappointment, as I have been focused on the potential haul from New York, Texas and even Toronto.  Turns out the Brewers were the “Mystery Team.”  I didn’t think they had the prospects to pull this off.  But with Dayton Moore specifically looking for defense up the middle, this move is one that fits.  Although I have to wonder if there’s a bit of Allard Baird Syndrome involved – where the GM becomes so focused on filling a need, he ignores potentially better deals.

Still, as one who has griped (and griped) about the Royals lack of defense over the last several seasons, I’m pleased GMDM is making a move like this.  Plus, as deep as the Royals minor league system is, there aren’t a ton of plus defenders coming through the pipeline. (See Eric Hosmer winning an award as the system’s best defender.)

I posted my initial reaction to the deal on Twitter and got a bunch of replies that this is a very good deal for the Royals.  I’m still sifting through my thoughts and I’m sure Clark and Nick will chime in throughout the day.  In the meantime… What do you think?

Episode #037 – Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus joins me to discuss Royals prospects, Starcraft in Korea, Kane County Cougars and other baseball related issues.  I also touch on the Melky Cabrera and Jeffy Lockerroom signings.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs037.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_goldstein also check out his Up & In podcast and his articles at Baseball Prospectus.  You should also pre-order the Baseball Prospectus 2011book for good measure.

Music used in this podcast:

Real Estate – Beach Comber

Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane

Ahmad Jamal – But Not For Me

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Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

I have spent the last forty-eight hours basically in bed and out of touch.   Not that I expect anyone to care that I was sick, but only to explain that my mind is something of a blur this morning as I try to catch up on the rumor mill and, what was that other thing?  Oh yeah, actual work that pays actual money.

At any rate, I had a dream/hallucination that the Royals signed Seth Smith yesterday.   How tortured are we as Royals’ fans that a ‘dream’ is to sign a serviceable but hardly earth shattering part-time outfielder?   See, I really was sick!

Anyway, the Royals did designate Philip Humber for assignment to make room for the new slim downed Jeff Franceour.   Nothing too earth shattering there.   Humber had some moments late last season, but I can see the organizational logic in letting go of him over some of the other marginal, yet younger, relievers on the current 40 man roster.  

Another roster move is pending to make room for Melky Cabrera.   Although some out there are guessing that it might be Joaquin Arias, my speculation is that it will be another of the rather obvious group of pitchers who Humber was once a part of.   On the other hand, it could be Zack Grienke…

As Craig wrote yesterday, he predicted Greinke would be gone a week after the end of the Winter Meetings.   I have maintained that he will be gone by Christmas.    While the rumors have cooled off the last couple of days, that is sometimes the sign that actual work is being done between teams.   Either that, or the Royals’ asking price has simply been deemed too much for the rest of major league baseball.

Some of the ‘supposed’ interest in Felix Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano and Fausto Carmona might be generated, at least in part, to see how firm the Royals’ stance may be on their expected return for Greinke.  

Truthfully, the Mariners are not about to trade Hernandez.   They have Ichiro and a lot of money invested in Chone Figgins and at least the hope that their ‘process’ has them in contention this year or next.

Carlos Zambrano?   Hey, if the Yankees are concerned about Greinke pitching in New York and not concerned about Zambrano in their dugout, then go right ahead and pursue that avenue at your own risk.

All that said, it may be 2011 before the Royals move Greinke.   As Craig also indicated yesterday, if rumors are not your cup of tea, don’t click on any baseball sites for the next thirty days.

While we are sitting here talking a lot and going nowhere, the one non-rumor, truly intriguing quote of the off-season by Dayton Moore has been that Everett Teaford, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow will all get a look this spring at possibly breaking camp in the big league rotation.   I think it is a longshot that any of the three lock down the number five spot, but that they are getting a shot at all is something of a positive sign.

I say that because it means that the organization’s long standing ‘we won’t rush anyone, they all need to spend plenty of time at each level’ development plan is not a hard and fast rule.   Sure, you can rush a guy and really hurt him (see Gordon, Alex or even Franceour, Jeff), but you can also push a guy and get great results (see Saberhagen, Bret and Gubicza, Mark or even Greinke, Zack – at least in terms of onfield performance).   I like the idea that not every player is the same and I also like the idea that in adhering to ‘The Process’, Dayton Moore also realizes that good teams are made up of players of different levels of experience.

Having Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow a year or even half a year ahead of Mike Montgomery and John Lamb makes perfect sense.    Just as having Mike Moustakas up four months before Eric Hosmer, who will likely be up four or five months before Wil Myers, does.   It helps from an experience factor and when it comes to future contract considerations.    

Having Moustakas and Duffy arbitration and free agent eligible even just a year apart from Hosmer and Montgomery can make a world of difference in how many of those guys the Royals can keep around.   If The Process is in it for the long term and not just one or two years of glory (i.e. the Marlins’ model), then spacing these prospects out both via experience and financially is smart.

So, in a roundabout way, who would you like to see as the Royals fifth starter in April of 2011? 

  • Everett Teaford – an under the radar guy who might not ever be great, but who has been solid at every level.
  • Danny Duffy – talented, but who quit the game just a year ago.    A guy who has simply dominated at every level, but is shy on overall innings.
  • Aaron Crow – simply had a horrific minor league campaign statistically as he worked on some things, but who may (as doublestix speculated) be ready to take a big leap forward.
  • Player X – probably a veteran innings eater who is on the backside of an average career.   If you can’t name at least five of these guys signed by the Royals over the last six years you’re not trying.

All of those above options are assuming that Zack Greinke gets traded.  If Greinke is the Royals’ Opening Day guy, then I think your rotation, for better or worse, is Greinke, Hochevar, Mazarro, Davies and O’Sullivan.  

Don’t worry, 2012 is just a season away.

Just ahead of the Winter Meetings, I wrote that I believed Zack Greinke was on his way out of town by December 16.  The logic behind that date was it was a full week following the meetings and once Cliff Lee signed his deal (at those meetings I thought) it would take Dayton Moore less than one week to size up the potential trade partners and pull the trigger.

So, I was wrong on the date, but only by a handful of days.  However, I’m now a little uncertain that Greinke is going to be dealt this month.

The reason for that is the Philadelphia Phillies.

The last minute “mystery team” the Phillies can only be described as the surprise winner in the Lee Sweepstakes.  If you’re like me and believe that Greinke will be traded this off season, the Phillies winning bid can only be described as good news for the Royals.  That’s because it keeps the two most likely trade partners – the Rangers and the Yankees – very much in the game.

(I know there’s been much discussion about how Greinke would do in New York.  The discussion has evolved something like this:

The Yankees are interested in Greinke. Greinke would waive his no-trade clause. The Yankees don’t believe Grienke could handle New York. Of course Greinke could handle New York.

It’s been kind of a bizarro on again/off again trade rumor.  Yesterday in the aftermath of the Lee signing, there was a flurry of activity on Twitter that Greinke would do just fine pitching for the Yankees and wouldn’t have any of those old issues.  Can I split the difference?  I think he would do fine, but I don’t think he would necessarily enjoy the experience.)

Now GMDM has a decision to make.  He has to weigh some offers – and much like a player’s agent during the free agent process – he will have to play the angles to get the best deal possible for his star pitcher.  A few weeks ago when I made my prediction on Greinke’s departure, it was with the thought either the Yankees or Rangers would win the Lee Sweepstakes, effectively eliminating that team from the market for Greinke.  Now both those teams are still in the mix.  Add the resurgent Blue Jays and the crazy uncle Washington Nationals (what are they doing?) and you have four potential trade partners.  All four have the pieces to make this deal.  It will come down to who jumps the furthest.

And let’s not discount the beloved mystery team.  Think back to the courtship of Lee and how it was all about the Rangers and the Yankees.  And Yankees and Rangers.  Hell, six months ago it was preordained that the Yankees would land Lee.  The Rangers were in the mix only because they traded for him and had new ownership with extremely deep pockets.  (A sweetheart TV deal certainly helps.)  While the Phillies were one of Lee’s former employers, their payroll and rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels meant they weren’t really on most people’s radar.  And look what happened.

Maybe when we’re handicapping the Greinke trade, we should look at the known suitors and just add one.  If that’s truly the case, GMDM currently has five potential trade partners for his ace.

You couldn’t come up with a better scenario.

With so many teams interested in the services of the Royals ace, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of GMDM to net a huge return.  With the minor league system set to start churning out some quality for the first time in years, the Greinke deal won’t make or break the franchise.  But it could certainly help or hinder The Process.  Make the right deal and the Royals strong minor league depth just got stronger and deeper.  And it buys GMDM even more time and more goodwill among the fans.  (Obviously the initial reaction to any Greinke deal from the general fanbase will be harsh.  I know.  I’ve visited the Royals Facebook page.) Make the wrong deal and…  I don’t even want to think about that.

If you don’t like trade rumors, this may be the time to hibernate.  For the Royals, the heat just got kicked up a notch on the hot stove.

This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position.  You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview),  first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and center field.

First, as usual, we’ll take a look at the players who got the lion’s share of playing time in right field, and how they hit when they played the position.

Prior to his injury, David Dejesus was having a great year at the plate.  He was getting on base at a high clip, but not hitting for a ton of power.  He was a valuable offensive and defensive asset.  Mitch Maier filled in well when his number was called as well.  He was roughly an average offensive right fielder and from what I saw he was a good fielder taboot.  Willie Bloomquist was Willie Bloomquist, subbing in whenever and wherever he was needed and held his own in the amount of time he was given.  Jose Guillen was surviving his final, very expensive season with the Royals in 2010.  Finally, the Royals realized he no longer had the range to play in the outfield regularly and he only got 21 games at the position.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that the American League right fielders are a pretty good hitting group.  A wOBA of .344 would be good for 7th place among left fielders, but it’s 11th for right fielders.  That seems to be a drastic difference.  The Royals right fielders as a unit were in the lower half of  offensive production in the American League, but they were pretty close to being average.  Slugging was a concern, particularly for a corner outfield spot.  Usually, teams like to get some pop from right and left field.

After looking at all of the different fielding positions now, it is clear that the outfield is clearly an area for improvement.  Center field and right field both were below average offensive positions for the Royals in 2010 and were mostly manned by players who likely don’t have a long future with the team.  With that in mind, obtaining an upgrade at one or both positions in free agency is likely a quick way to improve the team.  In fact, that’s exactly what Dayton Moore did at the winter meetings, by acquiring both Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera.

Francouer, however is actually an offensive downgrade from what the Royals did in 2010.  His career wOBA is .314 which would only have been better than the Athletics as a team last year.  It seems pretty likely that Francouer will get the bulk of the playing time in right field in 2011, and while he may be a decent glove, he is an offensive downgrade.

Melky Cabrera will likely be put in center field, but he wasn’t signed when I wrote that review so I’ll just comment on him here.  Offensively, center field was very anemic for the Royals in 2010, so nearly any player would be an upgrade at that spot.  The Royals signed Melky Cabrera to fill that role in 2011 and if he is better, it’s marginal.  In 2010 the Royals center fielders put up a .211 wOBA and Cabrera’s career wOBA is .312.  Cabrera has been inconsistent though, putting up wOBAs in excess of .330 twice (2006, 2009) and sub .300 twice (2010, 2008).  If Cabrera is closer to the .330 than the .300 mark, then he could be a real upgrade offensively at center field in 2011.

The outfield is one of the weaker positions in the Royals minor league system, particularly impact corner outfield bats.  The closest to Major League ready is likely David Lough, who could make a September call up or might make the team sooner if there is an injury or other moves.

Given that the Royals’ public relations department has not tweeted about Yuniesky Betancourt since the end of the season, I am not quite sure why this topic ruminated in my mind for most of the weekend.   I do have to say that I have half expected something along the lines of ‘Yuniesky Betancourt is third among active shortstops in scheduled off-season batting cage hours’.   That, of course, would bring the inevitable re-tweet by a radio host who should know better trumpeting ‘See!  I told all you basement dwellers that Yuni’s the real deal!’  

Truthfully, that is only a slight exaggeration of the just plain silliness that surrounded Yunieksy Betancourt last year.     Silly is the operative term, because here is the complete and total list of positives by Betancourt in 2010:

  • He hit 16 home runs (6th among all shortstops)
  • He drove in 78 runs (5th among all shortstops, because ‘real’ baseball men know that RBI is telling stat)
  • He played in 151 games

That’s it – three bullet points.   After that, any support of Betancourt was generally responded to with criticism of other players.    To the best of my recollection, after crowing about Yuni’s 16 home runs, these were the common phrases of support for the Royals’ shortstop: 

  • Mike Aviles doesn’t walk, either (true, but Mike’s on-base percentage was 47 points higher nonetheless – oh, and by the way, Aviles’ slugging percentage actually ended up higher than Betancourt’s as well)
  • The Royals don’t have anyone better (this is actually valid, but no one was really thinking Yuni should be benched.  Instead, we all were simply pointing out that he probably didn’t warrant a tweet and press release every time the ball managed to find his bat)
  • Billy Butler hits into too many double plays
  • Zack Greinke is disinterested
  • Alex Gordon is a bust

Okay, have you noticed it is Monday and I’m a little bit cynical?   It is, after all, 11 degrees here in Huskerland and the soccer moms that drop off their kids at the same time I drop off my middle daughter really annoyed me this morning.

I will go on record right now as being totally understanding of why the Betancourt trade happened.   The Royals were peeved at Mike Aviles for not revealing his injury in the spring of 2009 and, quite logically, were concerned that he might not ever be able to play short again.   Hey, right now, we don’t know if Mike’s arm can hold up to an everyday diet of shortstop.  

At the time of the acquisition, Jeff Bianchi was breaking out….in High A ball.    As it turns out, perhaps the single greatest reason to acquire Yuni, was something no one knew yet:  that Jeff Bianchi would miss all of the 2010 season with Tommy John surgery.    Although you can give Dayton Moore no credit for this, it certainly made me more accepting of the deal after the fact.

If I was Royals’ GM (and you all know that I wish I was), this deal is probably not made.   Given where the team stood on July 1st of 2009, I might have soldiered on with Luis Hernandez and, yes I’m going to say it, Willie Bloomquist.   That said, with Dan Cortes all but stalled out in AA ball and apparently something of a troublemaker/confused kid/assclown, I don’t hate this deal.   Even if Cortes becomes an effective power reliever for the Mariners, the Royals have not been irreparably harmed by the presence of Yuniesky Betancourt.

That said, let’s not fool ourselves:  Betancourt is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

In 2010, Betancourt’s slash line was .259/.288/.405/.692.   He hit 29 doubles and 16 home runs (in case you hadn’t heard) on his way to compiling an OPS+ of just 88 and, according to Fangraphs, a WAR of just 0.6.   Mainly because of the home run total, several of which were admittedly clutch bombs, it led some to believe this was the best season by a Royals shortstop since…well, in a long time.   

That is kind of the classic ‘woe is me, faithful Royals fan’ lament which ignores the fact that there were two far better seasons by shortstops in the last seven years.   Notably, Mike Aviles in 2008 went .325/.354/.480/.833 with an OPS+ of 121.   He smacked 10 home runs in 102 games and 41 extra base hits in total on his way to a WAR of 3.7.

Prior to that, a guy named Angel Berroa in 2003  played in 158 games.   He hit .287/.338/.451 with 28 doubles, 7 triples and 17 home runs (and 73 RBI for those traditionalist out there).   Angel threw in 21 steals and posted an OPS+ of 101 with a WAR of 2.7.

Heck, there is a shockingly small difference between what Yuniesky Betancourt did last season and what Angel Berroa did in 2005, when all of us were ready (understandably) to run him out of town.   In 2005, Berroa had 37 extra base hits, including 11 homers, on his way to a very substandard line of .270/.305/.375/.680.   Betancourt’s 2010 line, once more: .259/.288/.405/.692.

So, can we really just get over this Yuni-love?

Now, Yuniesky Betancourt will be the Royals everyday shortstop to start 2011 and, contrary to the criticism I have leveled above, that is fine with me.   I say this trusting that the Royals are smart enough (I know, that’s a leap of faith) to know that Mike Aviles’ needs to be in the lineup somewhere.   I advocate Betancourt at short because I think it is unlikely that Chris Getz can hit a lick simultaneously with Wilson Betemit hitting like he did last year AND not taking an ax out to play defense.

Maybe at some point this year, the Royals will tire of Betancourt’s well below average defense (use metrics or your eyes, IT IS BELOW AVERAGE) and Tony Pena Jr. like on-base percentage and give Mike Aviles a real chance to show if he is the guy that played short in 2008 or not.   All the while, we can eagerly watch Christian Colon’s second professional season and hope the currently tenuous similarity to Troy Tulowitzki’s career continues to hold true.

Should Colon not be ready by 2012 or not be able to stick at short.   Should Mike Aviles not be able to handle the load defensively and should, as is likely, Jeff Bianchi is also not ready or able.   Well, then we might hear more of the idea of picking of Yuniesky Betancourt’s option for 2012.     That would be an absolute unequivocal mistake.

Yunieksy Betancourt is not that good.   He has been a marginally serviceable stopgap on a couple of bad Royals’ teams.   Let’s let the campaign to make him anything more than that end with final game of last season.   Dayton Moore is currently correct to be looking for middle infield prospects in any trade for Zack Greinke.   Let’s hope, unlike the pr machines that surround the club, that Moore does not fall prey to both his ego and moderately decent home run total during the 2011 season.

Yuni now?  Okay.  

Yuni later?  Stop it.

From 2008 through 2010, these are the worst players ranked by OPS+ who have accumulated at least 1,500 plate appearances:

Pedro Feliz – 72
Jason Kendall – 72
Yunisky Betancourt – 80
Melky Cabrera – 82
Ryan Theriot – 82
Jeff Francoeur – 83

Dayton Moore has done it again.  (He may not be finished.  Feliz bats right-handed and is a free agent.  He will probably have to outbid Jack Z in Seattle.)  Somehow he has added players to replace areas where the Royals were getting below average offensive production (I’m talking the overall outfield here) and made the team worse.

Sure, Francoeur is just 27. He’s in his prime, right?  Well, sometimes players just aren’t good.  Over his last five seasons, he’s hit .265/.307/.414, averaged 31 walks and 17 home runs.  And even those numbers are misleading… His home run average is elevated by a career high 29 in 2006.  He hasn’t topped 20 home runs since.  Maybe part of that is his outright lack of plate discipline.  Only Francoeur and Vladi Guerrero swung at more than 60% of pitches they saw last year.

Bottom line… He’s just not a good ballplayer.  And with over 3,000 plate appearances since 2006, we know exactly where his true talent level lives.  He may be in his prime, but he’s not going to improve.  He’s reached his ceiling.

Cabrera is equally disappointing.  Over the last four seasons, he’s hit just .264/.321/.377, averaging eight home runs and 39 walks a season.  He’s going to be 26 next year, but his career has been in neutral since 2007.  (Of course, this deal isn’t final at the time of my writing.  Still… I have faith in GMDM.)  Last year, his defense was abysmal and his plate discipline was non existent.  He doesn’t get on base, he lacks power and his speed isn’t all that great.  Why would anyone sign him unless he was a final option?

Dayton Moore just signed a pair of out machines.  Both players received the change of scenery, and both failed.  Again.  There’s no reason to think they will thrive or even be average in Kansas City.

Obviously, I don’t like these signings.  I also don’t like some of the justification I’ve seen from some people trying to explain these moves.  A couple of these need to be debunked…

In the grand scheme of things, these moves just don’t matter.

Normally, I would agree with that, but this is a lineup Dayton Moore has acquired for the “grand scheme” either through free agency or trade:

RF – Jose Guillen
1B – Mike Jacobs
DH – Miguel Olivo
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
C – Jason Kendall
CF – Ryan Freel
3B – Willie Bloomquist
2B – Tony Pena, Jr.

The “grand scheme” does nothing but illuminate how inept GMDM is at acquiring the services of major league talent.  Am I the only one this troubles?  Surely not.  This scares the hell out of me.  The general manager has been so tone deaf as to how to assemble a major league team since day one.  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t mattered because the Royals haven’t been close to third place during this time.  But what happens when the Royals are poised to contend?  We know that successful teams are a blend of home grown players, savvy trades and solid free agent signings to plug a hole or two.  So far, Dayton’s trades haven’t been especially savvy and his free agent signings haven’t plug holes on the roster… They’ve created massive sinkholes.

This is a “lost year” anyway, so what does it matter that the Royals fill their roster with below average players?

To me, this falls to personal preference.  Do you want to watch Mitch Maier do his impersonation of vanilla, or do you want to watch Jeff Francoeur make outs?  My issue here is GMDM has acquired so many boring (and predictable) players over the last couple of years, this is just more of the same.  I’m a fan, first and foremost. I enjoy watching some players more than others… Guys who will take a strike when a pitcher is struggling to locate.  Fielders who glide to the ball.  Heads up base runners.  I love the statistical side of the game, but when I watch the game, I want to see something that entertains and excites me.

The ilk of the Yunigma, Olivo, Kendall and now Francoeur and Melky do neither.

The Royals just parted ways with a player like that… David DeJesus

Frankly, this makes the l’affaire DeJesus look much, much worse.  DeJesus was due $6 million for next season.  Now the Royals have apparently committed close to $4 million for two players who combined won’t provide the production the team would have received from DeJesus.

Fine.  DeJesus wasn’t part of the long-term plan.  He wasn’t going to be around when Project 2012 takes flight.  Here’s the thing… Neither are Francoeur and Cabrera.  These guys aren’t part of any future in Kansas City.

There’s a net savings of $2 million.  And for what?  Wouldn’t it have been preferable to hang on to DeJesus until the trade deadline?  Sure, he got injured last year, squelching any deal GMDM had in the works, but them’s the breaks.  It happens.  Sometimes luck isn’t on your side.  Would the same thing have happened in 2011?  Who knows.  The other option would have been to play out the year with DeJesus, offer him arbitration and collect the draft picks.  He was on the border between Type A and Type B, so with a solid season he would have moved to the positive side.  Would that have been worth the gamble?  I think so.

If there’s one thing GMDM and his scouts have shown they can do, it’s draft.  I’d take the trade of picks over the bounty of Vin Mazarro and Justin Marks.

(Besides, how bad does this trade look right now?  I just feels like GMDM sold low, especially when making the deal prior to the Werth and Crawford signings.  Not that DeJesus is on par with those two… He’s not.  It’s just that the bar creeps higher all the time.  Perhaps by delaying until after some of the top free agents signed, Moore could have upped his return.  Obviously, it’s all speculation… But I can’t help but think that Moore’s continual desire to move at breakneck speed to open the off season has hurt the team.  Again.)

Maybe these guys can be flipped for prospects at the trade deadline.

Of course the best case scenario has Dayton Moore flipping Francoeur and Cabrera at the deadline for a couple of prospects, in the same vein as the Podsednik and Ankiel deals.  Nobody in their right mind (except maybe GMDM) wants the Scare Pair around for an entire season.  That ignores a pair of salient facts.  First, Podsednik, for all his flaws, actually brought some value offensively to the team.  Ankiel wouldn’t have returned a bucket of batting practice balls if it weren’t for Farnsworth, who was packaged with him in the deal.

If Frenchy and Melky perform up to expectations, there won’t be suitors lining up at the deadline.

And finally Dayton Moore has turned his roster math into advance calculus.

You want a low-OBP outfielder, who bats from the right side with no pop, fine.  Get one.  But two?  Why?  Where do they both fit?  Are we going to platoon (give up on) Alex Gordon?  Is Gregor Blanco on the outs?  Mitch Maier doesn’t excite anyone, but he would probably provide more value than either of the new guys at a fraction of the cost.

The Francoeur to Kansas City move was preordained from the day Dayton took the reigns of the franchise.  Then Melky?  Jeez, pick one and go forward.

This is like Dayton’s recent utility infielder waiver claimpalooza where he picked up Joaquin Arias (who incidentally, was traded for Francoeur at the trade deadline last summer) and Lance Zawadzki.  One… It’s not ideal, but fine.  Two?  Overkill.

Or how about last winter when Dayton signed Ankiel, Podsednik and Brian Anderson to contracts.  Again, this made no sense.

The verdict

There just isn’t any reason to think that Dayton Moore can assemble what could be considered a complete 25-man roster.  Any hope we had of that evaporated a couple of years ago.  By signing Francoeur and Cabrera, it just underscores our lost hope.  A reminder of sorts.

Meanwhile, the minor league system is flush with talent.  We had better hope that a high percentage of that talent hits, and hits big.  Because if the Royals are in a position where they have to surround one or two studs with complimentary players, we know how that’s going to go.  Think Greinke.

The Process is multifaceted.  There’s The Process at the minor league and player development level.  And there’s The Process in the major leagues.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Baseball’s winter meetings concluded this morning and most of the general managers are likely in the air this afternoon.   Expect a light news cycle for all of you/us who have been clicking on Twitter and MLBTradeRumors eighteen times an hour for the past four days.

The meetings ended without the Royals ‘officially’ signing outfielder Melky Cabrera.   That said, you can pretty much book that contract (1 year/$1.25 million) as discussion of it appears via Royals.com.    Nothing gets on there without something coming out of the organization itself.   Besides, do you really think there is another GM out there who is going to swoop in and steal Melky Cabrera out from under the Royals?

I was actually holding off on this commentary until some corresponding roster moves were made, but then read that the Royals do not have to add the officially signed Jeff Francoeur to the 40 man roster until Monday.   So, even with the Rule 5 drafting of Nathan Adcock, the team is officially just at forty players.   Now, come Monday when Francoeur and, almost certianly, Cabrera are added, Kansas City will have to make room for both of them.

That might be an interesting exercise as the usual group of ‘Victor Marte’ types no longer populate the 40 man roster.   While I am not sure that signing Cabrera and Francoeur necessarily improves the Royals, at least the idea that finding room for them will lead to some semi-hard choices does indicate at least incremental progress.   Sort of..

Anyway, back to Melky Cabrera.    Mention was made by Dick Kaegel that Cabrera (a switch-hitter mind you) ‘could figure as the righthanded half of a platoon with Alex Gordon’.   Let me be among the many to say:  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

For his career, Gordon does have a striking platoon disadvantage (80 OPS+ vs. LHP, 108 OPS+ vs. RHP), but in an admittedly small sample size in 2010 actually posted a 105 OPS+ versus lefties in 2010 (70 at-bats) and only a 77 OPS+ against right handers.   That could just be a fluke or it could be a sign of improvement.   No matter which, not playing Alex Gordon everyday would be a colossal waste of yet another year in ‘finding out’ about the one time phenom once and for all.

Need we even discuss the fact that the switchitting Cabrera actually has a slightly better platoon split vs RIGHT handed pitching as opposed to when he faces southpaws?   No, I didn’t think so.

Here is the bottom line:  Dayton Moore to free agent outfielders is much the same as my wife at Famous Footwear.   Why buy just one when you can get the second pair (or second outfielder) for half off?   Thus, we have Francoeur and Cabrera when probably just one – and I don’t really care which one – would be enough.

While an outfield of Gordon-Cabrera-Francoeur (which is the only alignment that makes sense, unless the Royals really did just pay over one million dollars for Melky to be an fourth outfielder when they already had two cheaper versions on the roster) is probably better than the Gordon-Blanco-Maier alignment they entered the week with, it is not enough better to warrant any delusions of grandeur.   For that matter, it is not enough better to avoid the scorn of all us hated bloggers and commenters.

Truthfully, I can live with Cabrera if the only real price is losing Mitch Maier and blocking Gregor Blanco and Jarrod Dyson.   I cannot live with it, if it means Alex Gordon in a platoon situation.   That maneuever is completely non-sensical for a team that will have to overachieve just to avoid 95 losses.

Now, onto our newest Rule Fiver:  Nathan Adcock.   He’s a big kid, with three pitches – one of which is supposedly a very good curveball.   Throws kind of hard, but not as hard as Elvin Ramirez, taken right behind Adcock, or Aneury Rodriguez who fell to eighth after being projected as a possible first pick overall.  Either of those guys would seem to have a better chance of sticking as the seventh man in the bullpen more than Adcock, who at age twenty-two has yet to throw an inning above A ball.

The above makes me think that the Royals really have no intention of Nathan Adcock sticking on their 25 man roster and either think the Pirates will not want him back when offered or intend to work out some deal next spring to keep him without Rule 5 restrictions.  (You know, like trading Mitch Maier or Gregor Blanco to the Pirates)

All in all, the Rule 5 is a roll of the dice and for all I know Adcock will throw 60 inning of garbage work in the majors next season – there will be, after all, plenty of garbage time to go around.   He has some potential as a back of the rotation starter and it never hurts to have a farm system full of arms, so I do not despise the selection of Adcock, but am simply skeptical of it.    Let’s put it this way, when the first of January comes around and I do my monthly projection of the 2011 Opening Day roster, Nathan Adcock will not be on it.

By the way, that January 1 post:   don’t expect Zack Greinke to be on it, either.

This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position.  You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview),  first base, second base, third base, shortstop and left field.

Let’s take a look at the how the players who got the bulk of the time at center field hit when they manned that position.

There clearly was a lot of shuffling around in center this year.  No single player got even  half of the games at the position.  Mitch Maier was as close to a “regular” at the position as there was in 2010.  Gregor Blanco was acquired via trade, Rick Ankiel was injured and then traded and Jarrod Dyson was a late season call up.    One of the things that jump out at me is the fact that Rick Ankiel only played center for 24 games in 2010.  I complained so much about him, that it sure seemed like he was out there more than he was.  Ankiel, was a somewhat effective hitter in center field though.  His 117 sOPS+ is due mostly to a decent slugging percentage, but still if you can get that out of a center fielder regularly, I’d think you’d take it.  Mitch Maier and Gregor Blanco seem to be guys destined as filler, players who manned the position when there weren’t any other options.  They didn’t embarrass themselves or the club, but they weren’t something special.Defensively, and just judging by what I’ve seen, I think Jarrod Dyson has the most upside, Maier was the best in 2010 and he was followed by Blanco and Ankiel.

Let’s see how the unit stacked up against the rest of the American League.

This isn’t a particularly surprising chart.  The Royals clearly were a sub-par offensive team in center field.  Whether you prefer judging by wOBA or OPS, the rank can move up or down by a couple of slots, but it’s still nothing to get excited about.  One category which the Royals center fielders seemed to excel was in walk rate.  Their 9.1% rate was  third in the American League (hey, it’s something).

2011 will be a very interesting year for the center field position.  I imagine there will be a pretty steady rotation throughout the season with Jarrod Dyson possibly getting the bulk of the time if he can show a decent bat when he does get a chance.  I’m not convinced that the long-term answer to the position will be on the roster in 2011, but Derrick Robinson, who could be a September call-up has the best chance.

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