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Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Jose Guillen

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, center field and right field.

First, let’s take a look at how the players who manned the DH position hit when they were in the lineup as a DH.

Click to Enlarge

Jose Guillen got the bulk of the duty at DH, which frankly is where he should have been for the last two years because of lingering leg injuries.  In the 84 games which Guillen hit in the DH slot, he was pretty average.  It’s not what one would hope for $12 million a season,  however he wasn’t exactly the glaring hole some assumed he was.

The only other players who had more than nominal DH duty were Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue, the two players who will most likely get the vast majority of the starts at the position in 2011.  It shouldn’t shock anyone at this point that Billy Butler can hit the ball, and 2010 was no exception.  Kila’s line is instructive. He was pretty close to an average DH offensively, but he does in in an unorthodox manner.  His OBP would have been 6th in the chart below and his slugging percentage would be 8th, however his batting average would have been thirteenth.

As a unit, the Royals designated hitters ranked 7th in the American League.  Once again the Royals find themselves pretty close to the middle offensively.  Doing this exercise opened my eyes to the fact that the offense was not that bad in 2010.  Jose Guillen is the biggest influence on those numbers, and it’s clear by the low walk rate, high strikeout rate and decent slugging.

2011 will be completely different with Jose Guillen gone and Butler and Ka’aihue likely to take the at bats.  2011 will be in many ways a make-or-break year for Kila.  The Royals are beginning to graduate some of their impact corner bats like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and even Clint Robinson.  Kila is likely to get all of 2011 to showcase his talents to the Royals and the rest of the MLB.  If he can repeat his minor league performance, the Royals will have a very difficult decision to make in regards to their future at first base and designated hitter.

Either way, 2011 will be interesting to watch because they will have a young legitimate hitter at both first and DH.  If they can anchor the middle of the lineup, it’s possible the Royals could improve offensively.  Clearly, they’ll need to to overcome the recent loss of Zack Greinke from the pitching rotation.

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.

Episode #034 – Sam Mellinger from the Kansas City Star stops by and discusses Jose Guillen’s tigers and $12,000 floor mats, honesty with baseball players, trading Zack Greinke and how exactly to grade Dayton Moore.  Nick also touches on baseball ratings and the 2010 catching corps.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs034.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Sam on Twitter @mellinger, check out his work at the Kansas City Star or read his blog.

Music used in this podcast:

Ray Charles – Never Ending Song Of Love

Stephen Malkmus – The Hook

Sun Ra – Images

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Baseball is a year-round activity.  Throughout the fall and winter, there are the winter leagues, the winter meetings, trades, free agent acquisitions and the Fan Fest.  I know that for many of you, baseball isn’t something that occupies your thoughts over the winter, so I’m going to try and put together some quick n0tes and links concerning the Royals, baseball and even some things unrelated to baseball.  This way you can keep checking in over here and keep up to date with anything you’ve missed and to get that quick much-needed baseball fix.

  • In his latest blog post (ESPN Insider required), Buster Olney says that the Royals “intend to listen to any and all offers” for Zack Greinke.  This really isn’t anything new.  I’d imagine any general manager in baseball would listen to any offer for any player, it’s what a GM does.  What may be different is the fact that this information probably came from high up in the Royals organization, to get the word out to other general managers around baseball.  Until Greinke is either re-signed or traded, this kind of talk will just keep bubbling up.
  • Speaking of the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, here is a great article about Ned Yost heading down to check out the young Royals prospects in Puerto Rico.  I really liked this gesture by the Royals manager.  I’ve always maintained that at least 60% of a managers job is off the field.  Earning the respect of your players before they even come to the Majors seems like a really good idea to me.
  • The Royals announced that they acquired pitcher Kevin Pucetas from the San Francisco Gians to complete the Jose Guillen trade.  Here is an article with some quotes from Pucetas on the trade.  Pucetas is a 25 year old right-handed pitcher with a 3.73 ERA in 120 Minor League innings.
  • Conor Glassey at Baseball America has a scouting report on 5th round pick Jason Adam from Blue Valley.  The velocity on his fastball (91-94 touching 97) is something to be very excited about.  He still needs work on his off-speed stuff, but so do most 18 year olds.
  • Billy Butler got a new agent, and is now with Greg Genske Legacy Sports.  It’s a pretty big name in the business, and Butler will be going through arbitration for the first time this winter.
  • The guys over at I-70 Baseball are going to be taking a look back at the 1985 World Series in honor of the anniversary.  I’m pretty excited to check it out.

Even when something is inevitable, it can still feel great when it actually happens.

The Royals designated Jose Guillen for assignment on Thursday.

Kick ass.  Great news.

Let’s check the carnage:

340 games
1383 plate appearances
.256 batting average
.308 on base percentage
.420 slugging percentage
45 home runs
94 OPS+
-2.0 WAR

The epitome of replacement level.  At a cost of $36 million.

Buh-bye.

Let’s flashback to December of 2007.  Rumors were flying around everywhere about the Royals and their involvement with Guillen.  He was signed.  Then he wasn’t.  Then the Mets were involved.  It seemed to drag forever.  Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part, but I really don’t want to see the Royals sign Guillen.  It flies in the face of everything Dayton Moore has laid out as his vision for the Royals.  GMDM is preparing to commit too much cash to a player who is already in the decline phase of his career.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that something will happen to put a kibosh on this deal.

Score one for the blogger!

About that decline phase?

I chose ISO because Guillen was brought to Kansas City under the assumption he would provide power.  This is just one graph but they all look like that.

Guillen was Dayton Moore’s second big free agent acquisition, but it hasn’t been the only time GMDM has bought high, only to be sold a bag of bricks. He bought high because he viewed Guillen’s 2007 season where he hit .290/.353/.460 to be in the neighborhood of his true production.  I can’t say I know that for a fact.  But if it wasn’t GMDM’s expectation, why would have signed him to such a deal?

To be fair, GMDM wasn’t really throwing money around like a crazy person that winter. Guillen was viewed by many as one of the better bats available.  In August of that year, Dave Cameron at USS Mariner thought the Mariners should re-up Guillen for three years at $30 million.  By the time free agency rolled around, it was thought the best Guillen could do would be a two year contract in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 million per year.  GMDM worked his magic and got him the extra year, just like in the Meche deal.  Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

I had what was probably a typical Royal fan relationship with Guillen.  I was annoyed when he showed up to his first spring training with the team out of shape.  I enjoyed his random outbursts.  I defended him against those who said he didn’t hustle.  Then I got tired of his lack of baseball ability.

While it’s a great thing Dayton Moore recognizes a sunk cost and is willing to cut the cord, we must remember who gave him a three year contract in the first place.  Hopefully, this is a sign he’s learned a lesson from this fiasco – it’s never a good idea to give a multi-year deal to a player whose best days are in the rearview mirror.  Never.

The joy of the Guillen departure means Kila is finally free.  Like I’ve said about Alex Gordon, there is no excuse for Ned to pencil Ka’aihue’s name into the lineup almost every single game from now until the end of the season.

We are now inching closer and closer to the ideal lineup for the rest of the season.

C – Pena
1B – Butler/Ka’aihue
2B – Getz
SS – Aviles
3B – Betemit
LF – Gordon
CF – Blanco
RF – Maier
DH – Ka’aihue/Butler

I know that the whole Brayan Pena should get playing time thing is a lost cause.  I’m not going there.  But I’d like to see it.

However, you’re next, Betancourt.

Of course the Guillen news was eclipsed by Zack Greinke presenting the Royals with his Nuclear Option:

“It’s not real exciting to have to go through it again,” he said. “It’s been six years with me, and most people (who are Royals fans) have been through a lot more than I have. But for me, it’s the third complete re-start/rebuilding phase.”
Would he be happier elsewhere?
“I like Kansas City,” Greinke said. “It’s a town that fits me pretty well. But I don’t know…at least put a team together that has a fighting chance (to win).”

I know there’s going to be a huge uproar over his comments, but did he really say anything we should be surprised about?  Put yourself in his shoes – or any Royal who signs a multi-year deal.  They all want to win (everyone, except for Rick Ankiel) so the only reason – the only reason – they sign with the Royals is because they buy the sales pitch offered by GMDM and the rest of the front office brain trust.  In Greinke’s case, he committed to the team because he thought they were making progress.  Of course, this street runs both ways – in order for the team to be competitive, Greinke has to do his share.  I’d say he’s delivered.  The brain trust?  Not so much.

So I can’t blame the guy for saying what we all figured was on his mind:  Losing sucks, no matter how much money you make.

Besides, we all know how uber-competitive Greinke is.  Apparently, he’ll turn anything into a competition.  He signed a four year deal with the expectation this team would compete.  They aren’t any closer to .500 than the day he signed his contract.

Also, he spoke to the elephant in the room.  Banking on prospects is risky business:

“There’s no reason for me to get real excited about it,” he said, “because the chance of more than one of them making a major impact by the time my contract is up is pretty slim.”

He used Alex Gordon as an example.  And it’s a fair one.  No matter how highly ranked these prospects are, ultimately no one has a clue how they will actually fare once they get to the majors.  Greinke also pointed to Delmon Young.  Young was in Gordon’s rookie class.  They were both supposed to compete for the Rookie Of The Year Award.  Neither of them did, and now, four years later, Young is finally beginning to fulfill his promise.  Gordon?  We all know the jury is still out on that one.

Some people are going to complain, and say that Greinke should keep his mouth shut.  He’s paid to pitch, not play GM, they’ll say.  I would counter by saying Greinke, as the leader and longest tenured Royal, has his opinions and has the right – and the obligation – to speak to those opinions. I think Greinke would commit to another extension, but he will need to see some definite progress.  I can’t say that I blame him. The problem for the Royals – his contract is running out which means the window for GMDM to prove this team is making progress  is closing.  No one who plays the game wants to end up like Mike Sweeney – hanging on well past his prime before hooking onto a potential contender in a utility role.

The only thing Greinke did on Wednesday is speak the truth.

The trades made by Dayton Moore this weekend pointed out the wide disparity of opinions that one fan base can have.   While the majority of us blogging about the team and those who read what we spew out were in favor of moving veterans like Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, it was interesting to read or hear the reactions of many other fans (casual or serious) who hated the moves.  

While finding a united opinion amongst a fan base might be impossible, I would wager that if you went back in time to early 2007, we Royals’ fans had visions of lots of series like this:

  • Friday night – a walkoff home run by Alex Gordon
  • Saturday night – a two run go ahead homer by Billy Butler in the 8th
  • Sunday afternoon – a run scoring double in the first from Butler and a home run from Gordon in the fourth

Never mind that the games were against the Orioles and never mind that the sweep only got the Royals within 15 games of .500:  THIS is what we thought/hoped would be the norm by now.   Maybe it was just a good weekend against a bad team, but maybe, just maybe, it is the start of something good.

At any rate, for most of us, this was a fun weekend to be a fan of the Kansas City Royals.   In addition to the Gordon-Butler heroics, we saw the organization, for maybe the first time, really embrace the future as opposed to paying it just lip service.

Alberto Callaspo and Scott Podsednik were both good enough players that the Royals could have kept them, ran out the ‘not enough value coming back to trade’ line and ground out a couple of more wins between now and October, but instead they shipped them out for four younger players.   One of those younger players is Sean O’Sullivan, who 11 innings into his Royals’ career, I am already more confident in than Brian Bannister or Kyle Davies.

What the above two moves really did, however, was solidify an everyday spot in the lineup for Alex Gordon’s next last chance and opened up third base for Mike Moustakas whenever he is ready to take on major league pitching (the over under is May 22, 2011, who’s in?).

Dayton Moore followed up those two deals by doing what all the old crusty columnists say cannot be done:  trade garbage for value.   Nothing personally against, Ankiel and Farnsworth, but they have enough warts on their professional baseball resumes that trading them seemed pretty illogical.   Instead, Moore went to the Braves’ well once more and pulled out an unconventional reliever with real upside (Tim Collins) and a serviceable centerfielder (Gregor Blanco), plus another reliever.   Return aside, the upside of that deal is that it clears out one more veteran who was just going to take at-bats from players who need them (Maier, for example) and another who was in the way of letting the Royals have a look at the crop of young relievers coming up in the system.

After all that, the Royals still found themselves with one Jose Guillen too many, but that did not deter them from recalling Kila Kaa’ihue from Omaha.   The long awaited and much deserved promotion was welcome news, even if the plan to get him at-bats was less than pleasing.   

This will be a test of what Ned Yost is about as, fresh off signing a two year deal to manage the Royals, he should be ready to find at-bats for Kaa’ihue at the expense of Jose Guillen and, to a smaller extent, Willie Bloomquist (which means Guillen in right field, but who doesn’t need to see that a couple times a week?!).    With the trade of Podsednik, it’s easy to put Gordon in left and ‘find out’, but it’s going to take a little intestinal fortitude to right Kaa’ihue in the lineup everyday with Jose Guillen glaring at you from across the locker room.

Of course, the idea of trading Guillen in August is very much alive.   With all the activity over the weekend, there are teams out there who woke up Sunday morning and wondered if they could have/should have done more.   Guillen will clear waivers and hence tradable all the way through August to whomever might be in panic mode.   The key for Yost and Moore is to not wait for Guillen to be moved before installing Kaa’ihue in the everyday lineup.    

Hey, no one said being general manager or manager of a major league team is all sunshine and roses (although it has to be pretty sweet gig).   Sometimes you have to get called an SOB by an angry veteran for the good of the team’s future.    You got the new contract Ned – now go out there and write down the lineup that will help you win meaningful games in 2011 and 2012 and not meaningless games this August.

Here are the Royals top five contributors this season as ranked by WAR:

David DeJesus – 2.9
Billy Butler – 2.6
Jose Guillen – 1.4
Scott Podsednik – 1.3
Alberto Callaspo – 1.2

You don’t need me to tell you, but three of those guys aren’t playing for this team anymore.

As such, we need to adjust our expectations.  With those guys, the Royals were a fourth place team.  Without them, the Royals are a fifth place team.

(The Royals were probably a fifth place team even with those guys.  Check their run differential.  They’re at -113.  Granted, they weren’t that low before their epic string of beatdowns this week.  Still…)

For those of you who concern yourself with the standings (which, if you truly are a Royals fan is so 1988… get over it.) this is a huge loss.  Those of you who follow The Process and prefer to look at the big picture, this isn’t a big deal.  While I don’t fully buy into The Process (I remain unconvinced GMDM can construct a 25-man roster – we’re on version 3.0 of the eight man bullpen.) I subscribe to the latter.  Yes, the Royals are going to lose a lot of games over the final two months, but this is an opportunity.  It’s an opportunity to look forward.

(By the way, I know Clark linked to Minda’s post sampling Facebook reaction to the Podsednik trade, but I’m going to serve it up again.  Not only is it hilarious, it serves as a  reminder those of us in the blogosphere are serving a niche of a niche.  The majority of fans see Scotty Pods’ .310 batting average and 30 steals and wonder why the guy isn’t talked about as a candidate for MVP.  It’s true.)

Going forward, here’s what I’d like to see from The Process for the rest of 2010:

— The release (because a trade seems unlikely) of Jose Guillen.
He serves no purpose.  He’s not part of the future.  He’s a sunk cost in that if the Royals were to deal him away, they’d have to pick up a chunk of his salary.

The Royals should put him on waivers after the deadline and hope that one team is dumb desperate enough to claim him.  In the likely event he goes unclaimed, cut him.

— Alex Gordon has to play in left field every day the rest of the way.
He can have one day off – August 11 when the Royals finish up a nine game west coast road trip with a day game against Los Angeles.  The way the rest of the schedule sets up over the final two months, that’s all he’ll need for rest.

— Willie Bloomquist needs to be traded or kept in a utility role where his appearances are limited.
Credit to Yost for taking this long before falling for Wee Willie’s obvious charms.  If he gets 100 plate appearances between now and the end of the season, it will come at the expense of Maier and Gordon.  This cannot happen.

And batting him leadoff is inexcusable. I don’t care we don’t have a “true” leadoff man now that Podsednik is gone. (Pods wasn’t a “true” leadoff man either, but now that he’s gone that’s the Dodgers problem.)

– Play Chris Getz everyday. While I’m pretty sure I know what the Royals have in Getz (not much), I’d still like to see him for the final two months.  Move Aviles over to short – his arm has to be able to handle it by now – and let Getz play out the season at second.  If anything, you would improve the defense up the middle.

– No clue what to do about the pitching. The Royals hands are kind of tied there.  This has to be the end of the line for Kyle Davies who surrendered four walks in five innings to the team who takes the fewest walks in the AL.  It’s gotten to the point where if he’s pitching, I’m watching something else.  I would probably be fine just pitching Farnsworth, Tejeda and Soria out of the pen for the rest of the season if only because I don’t want to watch Wood groove fastballs anymore.

– Free Kila. ‘Nuff said.

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.

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.

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’?

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