Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Jose Guillen

Now the draft is complete, we can focus on the next date on the Royals calendar… The trade deadline.

My task for you is to rank the top three in order, from most likely to be traded to least likely.  Here are the candidates:

Jose Guillen

No one runs hotter or colder than Guillen.  He’s been decent of late, with a line of .246/.367/.523 over his last 19 games. Of course, that only means that starting about June 15 or so, he’s going to go into hibernation until the All-Star Break.

And whether you like it or not, Guillen is the premier power threat on this team.  He leads the Royals with a .229 ISO and his 13 home runs are almost double the second place hitter (Alberto Callaspo has seven.)

The Royals would have to eat the balance of his salary and would probably net a B-level prospect at best.  I don’t think GMDM has the stomach to get so little in return.

The downside to all of this is that under the current Elias rankings as provided by MLB Trade Rumors, the Royals wouldn’t get any compensation for Guillen when he departs as a free agent this winter.  Not that they would anyway… Even if Guillen were classified as a Type A or B, the Royals would have to offer arbitration.  And since there’s no way Guillen will top $10 million in salary next year, there’s no way he’d turn that down.  This is the ultimate lose-lose situation.

David DeJesus

The Royals hold the option on DeJesus next year at $6 million.  He’s already a two win above replacement (WAR) player this year, so at that price tag, if he can maintain his level of performance, he’s a bargain.

Here’s an interesting thought.  Currently, DeJesus is a Type B free agent.  Suppose he goes on a tear and pushes his ranking to a Type A.  Don’t you think it would be possible the Royals decline the option and offer him arbitration instead?  If DeJesus rejects arbitration, he becomes a free agent at a time his value really couldn’t be higher.  That would be the smart play for DeJesus… He could get a three year deal at $20 million, couldn’t he?  Then, the Royals could snag an extra first round pick in a draft that is supposed to be much, much deeper than the one just completed.

Hmmm…

Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria

I listed them together because I can just imagine the riots at the K if either one of them were dealt.  We’ve hashed this out before, but Soria has club options through 2014 so there’s absolutely no way the Royals are sending him anywhere.  2013 and 2014 are the new 2008 and 2009… Years when the team is supposed to contend.  As the only current member signed through those years, he’s going to stick around.

Rick Ankiel

Isn’t this always the way… Do Royal general managers walk around the Winter Meetings with a “kick me” sign taped to their back?  It’s like Reggie Sanders all over again… A “veteran” spare part with no value to a good team, signed to a deal in the hopes the team can spin him to a contender at the deadline, only to miss a huge chunk of the season with an injury.

Albatross.

Yuniesky Betancourt

I wish.  The only GM who thinks he’s any good already has him on his team.

Kyle Farnsworth

His name never comes up in these discussions.  Probably because we like to pretend he isn’t on the team.  I suppose he could net a C level prospect from a team desperate for relief pitching.

Prediction: Whoever trades for him won’t make the playoffs.

Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies

Both are coming up on their third year of arbitration eligibility.  Both are serviceable, back of the rotation starters.  Either one has some (limited) value.

However, I don’t think the Royals will deal either one.  When you have to bring Bruce Chen into your rotation when one of your starters goes down, that’s a serious indication you lack starting pitching depth.  Those guys will stay at least another year until the young arms are ready.  GMDM is keeping his fingers crossed this will be in 2012, because there doesn’t appear to be a backup plan in place.

Willie Bloomquist

Ha!

I left Billy Butler, Mike Aviles and Callaspo out on purpose.  These three aren’t going anywhere.  I could be wrong, so if you disagree, let me know why.

If you forced me to rank the top three, here’s my list:

Guillen
Farnsworth
???

Kind of lame, but I really have no idea.  That’s probably because I put the odds of the Royals making a deal at less than 25%.
Get to ranking.  I’m interested to see what everyone thinks.

A week ago today, I wrote a column speculation on how many players the Royals would need to add right now to become a contender.   The number I came up with was eight.   Some commenters suggested nine (the ninth being a catcher) was the more reasonable number and that may well be true.

Be it eight players or nine players, I summarized that column by pointing out that it is possible that maybe all but one of those positions could be filled by the ever improving farm system.   There are two big problems with that sentence however:

  1. Not all prospects reach their potential.
  2. While prospects develop the major league roster changes.   You might fill one spot, only to have another open up due to contract issues, age, etc.   Basically, it is all fine and good that Mike Montgomery might well be an ace-type pitcher in 2013, but that won’t make the Royals any better if Zack Greinke left via free agency after the 2012 season.

In my mind, Greinke is the crux of the issue.   Unlike Carlos Beltran or Johnny Damon, it is not a lock that Zack will leave the Royals once his current contract expires.   If Kansas City is beginning to look like a winning organization during the 2011 and 2012 seasons and IF management is judicious in allocating salary, the possibility of resigning Greinke is relatively high in my opinion.      

Should the Royals still be floundering along at 70-92 and Greinke is still getting less run support than a college softball pitcher, what would be his incentive to stay?   Sure, he may not want to pitch in New York, but they score lots of runs in Anaheim, Texas, Tampa and Chicago.     

If you want to keep Greinke, then The Process has to be showing real signs of coming to fruition no later than the start of the 2012 season.   In fact, the Royals probably need to be at least looking like contender if not actually contending next season.   

The message:  don’t abandon The Process, but let’s get focused and hurry up.

Now, back to last week’s column.   The eight players that I thought the Royals needed were:

  1. Number two starting pitcher
  2. Number three/four starting pitcher
  3. Middle reliever
  4. A second middle reliever
  5. Impact, corner infield bat
  6. Good defensive middle infielder with an average-plus bat
  7. Good defensive centerfielder with an average-plus bat (or better)
  8. Impact, corner outfield bat

Where can the Royals afford to build from within and where do they need to be aggressive and go find someone to fill those spots from outside the organization?

If the Royals were a better offensive team and Gil Meche was healthy, they probably have a good enough starting five as it is.  That said, better than ‘good enough’ is preferable.  With the return of Danny Duffy (even if 2010 is pretty much a lost year), you have to like the idea of having him, Mike Montgomery and Aaron Crow all within hailing distance of the majors.   I am content to wait for one of those three to emerge as that number two starter by the end of 2011.

The key to making that happen, however, is getting Gil Meche healthy and here’s why.   Meche has zero trade value right now.   The Royals would be wise to take months making sure Gil is really at full strength before running him out to the mound.     There would be nothing wrong with a healthy Gil Meche being your number two starter for the first three months of 2011.    When healthy and right, as he was in 2007 and 2008, Meche truly is a number two starter.   He would buy time for Montgomery and company.   Can he get healthy and right?  Hard to say, but you might as well keep Meche around to find out as opposed to dumping him for little or no value this year.   So, the plan for the number two starter is keep Gil Meche, while you wait for Montogmery, Duffy or Crow to take his spot.   Keep in mind, if this scenario plays out, Meche will have real allure as a trade chip next July.

As for the number four type starter, I again am content to wait for the three guys above to come to the majors.   Behind them comes the John Lamb, Chris Dwyer, Tim Melville, Kelvin Herrera, etc. group of arms, who will also come into consideration as Hochevar, Bannister and Davies begin to become contract issues (or get worse, instead of better).

Truthfully, I like the Royals rotation of the future.   A 2011 crew of Greinke, Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Montgomery/Davies would morph into a 2012 rotation of Greinke, Montgomery, Hochevar, Crow/Duffy, Bannister/Davies and frankly, if you resign Greinke, get better from there.   That statement allows for one of the Crow-Duffy-Montgomery trio to wash out and really counts on just one of the next group of young arms to truly develop into a major league starter.

Anyway, when it comes to the two starting pitchers the Royals need, I will ‘Trust The Process’ and do so without any hint of sarcasm.

When it comes to the two bullpen arms I believe this team needs, Robinson Tejeda might have already filled one of those spots, but let’s be greedy and add two more arms anyway.   Again, I like what the system has to offer in Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Blaine Hardy among others.   Heck, considering I am talking about your fourth and fifth best bullpen arms, I might be willing to see if Dusty Hughes can continue to develop.  

Although Dayton Moore has done a lot the last two years to test my faith that ‘you can always find a competent middle reliever’, I am still going to stick with the organization to fill these roles or a low-cost veteran arm when the time comes.

Whether it is in July or October, the Royals are going to lose Jose Guillen and gain $12 million dollars.   When they do, someone should pin Dayton Moore down and tattoo ‘Kila Kaaihue is my designated hitter for 2011′ on his hand.   It is very possible that Kila might be only a modest (if that) improvement over Guillen, but Kansas City has to finally find out.    Spending time and money to fill this spot is simply a waste, given that one of your number one picks (Eric Hosmer)will be playing first base in AA come 2011.    While Kila is not really fill one of ‘the eight’, he fills a spot so that the organization can actually focus on ‘the eight’.

Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, IS one of ‘the eight’.   Is there anyone out there that is not hoping for a mid-season promotion to AAA, followed by an early season call-up to be the everyday third baseman sometime in 2011?   In the interim, Alberto Callaspo still hits and seems to annoy me a lot less in the field at third than he did at second.   The Royals can take their time with Moustakas, but they don’t have to be deliberate about it either.  I am content to rely on Moustakas to be my impact, corner infielder.

Since we are talking about impact bats, let’s move to the outfield corner.   Do we believe in Alex Gordon here or not?  Do we have a choice?   At some point this year, the Royals will bring Gordon up to play either right or left field.   When they do so, they had better be ready to give him 2011, too.     Kansas City pretty much has to give Alex one more chance to become that impact bat because there is no other outfielder anywhere close in the system that can fill this role.  

The downside to this year and one half commitment is pretty limited in my opinion.   Not only does Guillen salary come off the books this year, Meche’s will be gone after 2011.   Sure, other players (Greinke notably) will be getting paid more, but the Royals could still have some serious spare change in the cushions to go get an established free agent outfield bat after the 2011 season if Gordon washes out.

Okay, so now I am running the risk of being a Dayton Moore apologist, as I have filled six of my eight spots with homegrown talent.   I have done so, however, without counting on every pitcher to develop or speculating on a dramatic rise through the system by Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers.   I may be optimistic, but not euphoric…I don’t think, anyway.

Let’s stay in the outfield for a moment.   As I write this, it becomes clear to me that the Royals should keep David DeJesus and pick up his option for 2011.   We know what we will get from DeJesus and it is, frankly, pretty good baseball.   Having him around in 2011 gives Mitch Maier, David Lough and Jordan Parraz a little extra time to become, well, the next David DeJesus.   Hey, there is nothing wrong with one DeJesus in an outfield – two, however, is one too many.  That takes us to player number seven in our ascension to contention, who happens to be a centerfielder.

I am intriuged by Derrick Robinson, who spent four seasons proving to us that he could not hit, only to revert to his high school batting stance and suddenly pop the ball to the tune of .302/.394/.390 so far this year in AA.  Robinson brings tremendous speed and defense to the table, but two months in a hitters’ league does not a surefire prospect make.

That said, the free agent market the next two years is not exactly ripe with possibilities.   Next year, in fact, is pretty much without any real solution.   After the 2011 season, how do you feel about a 35 year old Carlos Beltran?   What about Nate McLouth or Grady Sizemore, assuming their options don’t get picked up?  I don’t know, man, I just don’t know.

This is a position that I think you go out and try to trade for a prospect or younger player that is, basically, a better prospect than Derrick Robinson.   That takes us back to getting Gil Meche healthy and a viable tradeable commodity at the deadline in 2011.   Perhaps you could package a Brian Bannister and Alberto Callaspo to fill this spot or do you same them for….

….player number eight:  the middle infielder.  

Again, I don’t see a ready solution in the system.  Somewhere between Mike Aviles, Chris Getz (yes, I said CHRIS GETZ), Jeff Bianchi and Johnny Giavotella, you have one solid middle infielder, but I’m not sure you want to base your playoff run on having two of them up the middle.   Maybe, but maybe not.

Truthfully, there is enough potential there that the Royals don’t have to panic (you know, go out and trade for Yuniesky Betancourt or something), but they ought to be looking around.   A guy like Yunel Escobar comes to mind, although his current mental state is pushing him closer to a Betancourt-type player than a real solution-type player.

In a stream of consciousness type of writing style, I find myself wondering what type of young player a team could net if the trade package was Meche (healthy and effective, mind you), Bannister AND Callaspo?   If the Royals made that trade in mid-2011 and the return was a potential star player in centerfield then maybe they can contend with a middle infield of Aviles and Bianchi in 2012.   Or, in the alternative, maybe they could live with Robinson or Lough in center if they had a star shortstop in the making.

Is it possible the Royals are six internal players, one star acquisition and a year and one-half away from contending for a period of years?   If so, is a healthy Gil Meche the single most critical piece of the entire puzzle?  

Honestly, all six of the prospects I am counting on to fill these positions won’t come through.  I think five is more likely, which puts this team one big, good trade and one rather expensive free agent away and all that without dealing with the catching situtation.   That said, I can actually see the future and, rose colored glasses or not, it looks promising. 

I am interested to hear what some of you think about the above scenario or feel free to propose one of your own.   Also, check back for the Royals Authority Annual Mock Draft coming this weekend.

The Royals aren’t good at figuring out this roster business, are they?

Kind of a problem for a baseball team.

News came down yesterday afternoon that the Royals placed Rick Ankiel on the 15 day DL with his quad strain.  The move was retroactive to May 2.  Of course, the move could have been made retroactive to April 24, except SABR Trey used him twice as a pinch hitter in the Tampa series.  Two at bats, two strikeouts.  Awesome.

Big picture, it doesn’t mean anything.  Ankiel isn’t good at baseball, but he’s good for the Royals.  Allegedly.  Really, Mitch Maier is a better defender in center (minus the arm) and is better at getting on base.  So Ankiel’s return will be May 18th at the earliest.  Big deal.  The guy is fragile anyway… I’m betting he won’t be ready to be activated on that date.

Still, it reeks of incompetence that the manager uses a guy who’s not in the starting lineup because of injury as a pinch hitter just prior to landing on the DL just a few days later.  Par for the course when you’re following the Royals.

So Kila Ka’aihue gets the call.  It’s deserved.  The dude is banging .304/.466/.620 this year in Omaha with 7 HR, 24 BB and 17 SO in 103 plate appearances.  Solid.

I know there are a huge number of readers who are members of the Free Kila Society, so I don’t mean to be a downer, but I just get the feeling this guy has been recalled to be Justin Huber, Version 2.0.  Remember back in 2006, when Huber was recalled when Iron Mike Sweeney hit the DL?  We were all excited… Huber was a quality hitting prospect who had done good things in Omaha and the thought was the Royals were going to give him an extended look.  Except the Royals were committed to Doug Mientkiewicz and Matt Stairs.  Huber had 11 plate appearances and was shipped back to Omaha.  Out of site, out of mind.

Of course, those were different times in Kansas City.  The Royals, for some strange reason, thought they had the talent to compete.  Look at some of those lineups.  Dreadful.  With Allard Baird was calling the shots and Buddy Bell was absorbing the losses, it was decided it wouldn’t be fair to Dougie to hand some of his playing time to the rookie Huber.

That brings us to today.  Things are different… sort of.  The names have changed.  We now have Dayton Moore calling the shots and Trey Hillman absorbing the losses.  The team is still old, and they are still under the illusion they can compete, but they really can’t.

Ka’aihue is joining the team, but can he breakthrough a lineup that includes stalwarts such as Jose Guillen?  I guess this is where things are different from 2006.  Guillen is the DH and Billy Butler is the first baseman – the two positions where Ka’aihue plies his trade.  Butler deserves his time and is part of the future.  Guillen has been playing well, but isn’t part of the future.

So where does Kila fit?  The Royals management is a thick bunch, but even they know Butler needs to get as many innings at first as possible.  They’re not about to remove Guillen from the lineup, either.  They could play him in right, but damn that’s just painful to watch.  If they moved Guillen to right, they could slide DeJesus over to center and bench Maier.  That really weakens the outfield defense.  Ideally, they would platoon Ka’aihue and Guillen.  Let Ka’aihue hit against the right handers and Guillen can square off against the lefties.  A solution like this would likely piss Guillen off something fierce, but it’s something the Royals can afford to do since, you know, Guillen is in the final year of his contract and isn’t part of the future. Sadly, I doubt the Royals agree.  Guillen homered on Tuesday, so he remains a valuable cog in the wheel of mediocrity.  He stays in the lineup, Ka’aihue sits.

Keep those corks in your champaign bottles, Kila Krew.  He’s with the big club, which is good.  But with Guillen on the roster, he doesn’t have a spot, which is bad.

Anyway, I’m more interested in Mike Aviles, who is way, waaaaaay better than his counterpart, Yuniesky Betancourt.  Quite the triumphant return for Aviles, bagging three hits including a home run.

Aviles and the rest of the Royals offense overcame a slow start on Tuesday.  In the first three innings, the Royals had a total of eight runners on base with no outs.  Unique way to look at it, no?

Top of the first – DeJesus doubles to lead off followed by a Podsednik bunt single.
Top of the second – Kendall walks, Aviles singles, Maier singles.
Top of the third – Guillen singles, Callaspo singles, Kendall walks.

And of the cavalcade of base runners, the Royals scored exactly two runs.  Two.  One run came on a Billy Butler double play.  The other scored in the second when Chris Getz hit a bases loaded single to plate Kendall.

Offensive malpractice like that normally bits teams in the ass.  A strong performance by Luke Hochevar and a pair of late inning home runs rendered that moot.  More on Luke later in the week…

Remember, back in Spring Training, when I presented a Daily Hillmanism?  Just random nuggets of knowledge from our fearless leader.  It had pretty much run its course and I was prepared to let it go.  Then he unleashed a doozy.

Asked by the traveling reporters if he considered bringing closer Joakim Soria into Tuesday’s seventh inning, Hillman offered this:

“There’s a thought there but, No. 1, it’s a very unusual time for Joakim Soria to pitch in a ballgame. No. 2, you’ve still got those same bats coming up in the ninth in a higher-leverage situation — because it is the ninth, even if there are no runners on base.”

I added the emphasis because Hillman’s use of term “high leverage” is impressive.  It would be more impressive if he knew what the hell he was talking about.

Following his logic, the higher the inning number, the higher the leverage.  Sometimes, it actually works that way.  Other times, like Tuesday, not so much.

To prove this, I’ll present to you the game log, courtesy of FanGraphs.  The bars at the bottom of the graph represent the leverage of that particular plate appearance.  The larger the bar, the greater the leverage.  The red bar means WARNING! high leverage situation.

You’ll see the inning with the highest leverage index was the seventh.  When the bullpen spit the bit.  The top of the ninth had some decent leverage, but it wasn’t even as high as the eighth inning leverage.  This is because in the eighth inning the Royals had more chances to win the game.  There were still six outs remaining.  By the time the ninth inning rolled around, the leverage index dipped just a bit because there were fewer outs, meaning fewer chances for the Royals to take the lead.  Fewer chances meant less pressure on the Tigers to close out the game.

Hillman’s assertion that the ninth inning brings the highest leverage because it’s the ninth inning is just absurd.  Even when Soria nails down a save, the ninth inning doesn’t always bring the highest leverage.  Case in point, Wednesday’s game:

Again, the seventh inning brought the highest leverage.  It was Miguel Cabrera’s at bat with two runners on in a 5-3 ballgame.  He grounded out to end the threat.  The leverage was lower in the eighth in a similar situation because the Royals tacked on another run in their half of the inning.  Leverage is fluid and is dictated by the score and situation of the game.  Two things Hillman has shown an inability to grasp.  No wonder he couldn’t discuss it properly.  Unfortunately, to the casual fan, it probably sounded intelligent.  Kind of like when Dayton Moore says he values on base percentage.

Soria faced a high leverage situation the first week of the season, protecting a one-run lead.  Even then, it wasn’t the highest leverage of the game.  The highest leverage occurred in the eighth, when the Royals rallied for two runs off Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard thanks to a Rick Ankiel single.

There were two outs in the inning when Ankiel came to the plate and the Sox were nursing that one run lead.  I wonder if Terry Francona considered bringing in Jonathan Papelbon?

Maybe I should be concerned that SABR Trey doesn’t understand the concept of leverage.  What does it say about my opinion of him when I’m not the least bit surprised he doesn’t get it.  He just doesn’t get it.  And there’s plenty of evidence he never will.  He’s more concerned about Scotty Pods laying down a sweet sac bunt in the first inning, than he is about leverage.

This brings me to a great side point:  The Royals bullpen is currently stocked with eight pitchers.  Eight!  Do you have any idea how absolutely insane that is, to have a total of 13 pitchers on a 25-man roster?  And only a handful of them are worth anything.  It’s almost as if GMDM and SABR Trey realized they don’t have the quality, so they went with the quantity.  Exactly how is that a solution?

“Hey, most of our relievers suck, what should we do?”

“I know… Let’s add more!”

Finally, I’ll again point this out in defense of the manager:  Hillman had no idea that what conspired in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game would turn out to be the highest leverage situation of the game.  No one did.  We certainly knew it was important, and quite possibly pivotal to the outcome of the game.  But we couldn’t know that a similar situation may evolve in the ninth inning – because we can’t see the future.

However, this is the trap too many managers fall into – they don’t manage the moment, the manage for the future.  They give up outs and sacrifice a big inning for a single run.  Or they keep their closer in the bullpen just in case they need him in the ninth.

Hillman is worried he’ll burn Soria in the seventh (and probably eighth) inning and nursing a one run lead in the ninth, he’ll look to his bullpen and see… Kyle Farnsworth.  Yeah, that should scare the hell out of you.

More from Dutton (who has to thank the newspaper gods everyday for covering the Royals, and not some boring team like the Astros):  Jose Guillen says he almost died from blood clots in his legs last winter.

This is an amazing story, but I have a couple of questions.

— Why did he develop these blood clots?  Were they related to his other injuries from last year? Clearly, this isn’t something that normally happens to an athlete in his mid 30s.

— Guillen didn’t return to the Dominican until late December and his weight dropped to 180 pounds.  He’s listed at 215 pounds and reported to camp on time at the end of February.  I’m assuming he needed a little time to recover before he started what would amount to a rehab.  He didn’t hit for any power this spring, but what did he do to get in shape so quickly?

— Guillen says he was dying and says the doctor started talking about dying (Derrick Thomas is invoked in the story, which is indeed frightening) but I’d like some more context.  I’m sure Guillen felt like he was dying, but was he really on death’s door?  In other words, do we need to look at 2010 as Guillen’s “miracle season?”

I don’t doubt Guillen was ailing and had blood clots.  And I don’t doubt the situation was serious.  It’s just his version of the story just seems… dramatic.

Just another off day for the Royals.

Without question, the most successful free agent signing of the Dayton Moore era was the five year/$55 million deal given out to Gil Meche.   That may sound like an odd statement given that Meche spent the last three months of the 2009 season fighting injuries and has an uncertain status surrounding him for the same reasons as we close in on Opening Day.

However, between his first Kansas City start on Opening Day of 2007 and that fateful 132 pitch shutout on June 16, 2009, Meche started 82 games for the Royals.   Over those starts, Gil threw 511 innings (averaging more than six innings per start), struck out 406 batters while walking 166 and posted a 3.74 earned run average.   During that stretch, the Royals were 39-43 (.475) in games Meche started and just 134-171 (.439) in games he did not start.  

Thirty-five times during that stretch of time, the Royals scored three runs or less.   Not once have we heard Gil Meche complain about lack of run support, despite knowing that over forty percent of the time his team gave him virtually none.   Meche has been a leader for the starting rotation and, perhaps lost in all the Greinke hoopla, he provided valuable stability at the top of the rotation while Greinke developed into a true ace.

I could make a case that if Gil never pitches again, this contract was still worth the money, but I firmly believe that if Gil posts just one more 200 inning season in the next two years there will be absolutely no debate as to the validity of Moore’s long-term commitment.

Therein, however, lies the problem.

To get Meche to Kansas City, Dayton Moore had to give Gil one more year than other teams were offering.   Teams were lined up to give him four years and a little over forty million dollars, but Moore ponied up that fifth year and got the deal done.    From that point forward, the ‘extra year’ has been Moore’s calling card in the free agent market.   He has used it with regularity and when, frankly, he did not need to.

After the 2007 season, Mike Sweeney was off the roster and his big contract thankfully off the books.  Moore was hellbent to sign a slugging outfielder or two.   He, like everyone else in the league, got blown out of the water by the Angels’ offer to Torii Hunter and the Royals dodged a bullet when Andruw Jones turned down their offer to sign with the Dodgers.   That left Jose Guillen as the ‘next best power bat available’.  

While the actual negotiations of a free agent deal are never really known, the widespread belief was that the competition for Guillen was limited.     Would the Royals have inked Guillen if they had offered just a one year deal?  Probably not, but two years might have gotten the deal done in an environment where the few offers out there were of the single year variety. 

Instead, Dayton Moore jumped in with more money per year and MORE YEARS.   If Allard Baird had made this signing, I could have chalked it up to an attempt to rectify losing Raul Ibanez in 2004 over offering two years instead of three.   In Moore’s case, the third year just seems like bad judgment. 

Forget 2008 and 2009, when Guillen was sometimes annoying, sometimes a distraction, often hurt and too commonly awful as a ballplayer.   The third year of this deal is what is killing the Royals.   Put it another way:  how much would having an extra $12 million and a roster spot mean to you right now?

On top of the Guillen signing came two curious multi-year deals the next off-season:  Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth.

Now, Bloomquist gets his share of criticism on Royals’ sites, including this one, but it really is not his fault that Trey Hillman kept putting his name in the lineup last year.   Nor is it Willie’s fault that Dayton Moore gave him two guaranteed years instead of one with an option.   Here is where you can offer the ‘you don’t know what the competition was for Bloomquist’ and ‘Willie does not sign with KC unless he gets a two year deal’.   To that, I say: ‘so what?’

Scan the spring training notes of other ballclubs or read through a couple of pages of MLBTradeRumors and you can easily compile a pretty long list of ‘Willie Bloomquists’ that are available or could be had for basically nothing.   Heck, the Royals have a better Bloomquist in Wilson Betemit than Willie himself.   Frankly, if Bloomquist was not around and Betemit not available would long-time farmhand Irving Falu be that much of a drop off?   Furthermore, if the Royals had not offered the second year to Bloomquist and he had signed elsewhere, would not Tug Hulett have done a competent job in his place last year?

Truth is, you can always find utility infielders….and middle relievers.   Which brings us to Kyle Farnsworth, who is going to collect a cool $4.5 million in this, THE SECOND, year of his contract.   The only way that amount and, more specifically, that second year makes sense is if Kyle throws 165 innings as the teams fifth starter this year and that will validate the contract only thanks to simple dumb luck.

Sure, Dayton Moore had no way of knowing that Juan Cruz would still be available for less money two months after he signed Farnsworth (I’m even going to give Dayton a pass on Cruz’s TWO YEAR deal as it sure seemed like a good one at the time) , but no one other than the Royals were knocking down Kyle’s door.   A one year flyer on Farnsworth to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle was worth a shot, but two years?   Considering that the Royals already had a ‘better Farnsworth’ in Robinson Tejeda already on their roster makes that contract seem even sillier.

We can go back in time and remember that last spring many thought the Royals had a real chance at contention.  Dayton Moore certainly did.   That said, were Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth so key to the Royals’ plan to make a run to the playoffs that they had to commit extra years to deals just to sign those two players?

I am not even going to mention the Yuniesky Betancourt trade or the signing of Brian Anderson (a poor man’s Mitch Maier) this off-season to replace Mitch Maier.   I am willing to let the two-year Jason Kendall deal play out and leave Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik out for now, too.   Let’s just look at Jose Guillen, Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth.

Between those three players and because of a superfluous year added to each of their contracts, the Royals had $18.2 million and three roster spots tied up before the first pitch was thrown this spring.  Ignore the money for now and focus on those three spots.

Without being tied to Guillen and Bloomquist, the Royals could break camp with Mike Aviles (admittedly not ready to play short full-time, but he could DH or play second) on their active roster.   They would have more time to evaluate Mitch Maier to see if that hot spring really is indicative of improved performance in the regular season or at last give Kila Kaaihue a shot.  

Without Farnsworth, the team could easily stash Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna in the bullpen.   Instead of keeping two out of Josh Rupe, John Parrish, Brad Thompson, Anthony Lerew and Blake Wood, they could keep three.  I don’t know if that makes the club any better, but it certainly makes them no worse – not to mention $4.5 million cheaper.    (Really don’t want to go with Robinson Tejeda as a starter if Meche can’t go?  Bet you can find someone better at starting than Farnsworth for that $4.5 mil)

Adding just one more year got the Royals a good starting pitcher who helped and hopefully will continue to help the team.   Sadly, the same strategy has tied Kansas City to three players that it simply does not need in 2010.   The next time you hear anyone from the Royals comment on lack of payroll flexibility we should all remember that they only have themselves to blame.

Jose Guillen is in camp, in shape and healthy after two off-season surgeries (neither done by Jose himself, this time).

On the one hand, good for Jose. He showed up ready to go, saying all the right things about helping the team and, at least on the first day, seems to be motivated to have a good year.

On the other hand, Guillen is ‘not about to concede’ his outfield spot and become the full-time designated hitter. Anyone see some clubhouse outbursts down the line?

Guillen’s prickly personality aside, my real concern lies in what Trey Hillman might do.

Last year, we saw several occasions where Hillman sat David DeJesus against lefties (who David hit 13 points higher against than right handers last year) in favor of Willie Bloomquist. What is he going to do with Jose Guillen, who for all his faults is a better hitter (when healthy and right) than Willie?

Rick Ankiel was promised the centerfield job and Dayton Moore did not go out and sign Scott Podsednik to have him sit the bench. So that leaves DeJesus on the firing line, along with Alberto Callaspo. How long into the season will it be before the Royals trot out a lineup that does not include those two players? Players that just happened to be and probably still are the team’s second and third best hitters.

It is certainly not bad to have options and competition in spring training. Who knows? A market might yet open up that allows Moore to make a move involving one of the above. Right now, however, the thought of Trey having more options to ‘mix and match’ mostly makes my head hurt.

Perhaps, as someone is sure to comment, this is too much worrying about something that has yet to happen. Here’s a better question, which trade would you make on say, March 20th:

  • Guillen for a mid-level (somewhere outside of an organization’s top 15) prospect
  • Callaspo for an untested but near major league level position player (probably outside of an organization’s top 10) and another minor prospect
  • DeJesus for a real prospect emerging from AA and another mid-level prospect from about the same level

Are any of these trade options really realistic? I am frankly not sure, go ahead and comment on that, too. At same time, however, assume that the deals are out there and tell me which one you would do.

One of the first Spring Sunshine stories comes via Brian Bannister who reports his shoulder feels great and he s in top physical condition.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise his shoulder is feeling good. Once it was determined (by a doctor outside the Royals organization) that he didn’t need surgery, it was fairly obvious that a winter of rest followed by a conditioning program would whip his shoulder back into shape. He was suffering from a dead arm. When that happens during the season, the pitcher normally takes a start or two off from the rotation – and in extreme cases can land on the DL for a couple of weeks – before returning as if nothing happened. When the dead arm occurs at the end of the season, like it did with Bannister, the rest period can be followed by conditioning to build strength and stamina.

It really wasn’t a surprise Bannister ended the season on the shelf. Thanks to Trey Hillman s Starting Rotation Chainsaw Massacre, Bannister was pushed to the limit last year. In five starts beginning July 10, he averaged over 111 pitches per start. Previously, he had averaged 95 pitches per start.

I doubt it was coincidence that in his two starts following his stretch of five where he was overworked, he threw a total of 10 innings and allowed 14 runs on 16 hits while striking out only four batters. Hillman didn’t notice anything was amiss or he was negligent as hell as he kept sending Bannister out to work long outings while getting his brains beat in. Bannister finally reached his breaking point on September 2 when he lasted only 1.1 innings. That was four days after he threw a season high 119 pitches in a start in Seattle.

Bannister has exhibited what we ll call a lack of stamina in the past. In his rookie season in 2007, he simply ran out of gas in September when he posted a 7.30 ERA and struck out only six batters while walking eight in his final 25 innings. In 2008, he was pitching OK through June 23 when he had a 4.47 ERA, allowing 11 home runs in 99 innings to that point. However in that start in late June he threw 113 pitches. That came just two starts after throwing a career-high 127 pitches against the Rangers. From that point on, he wasn’t the same pitcher. Over his final 84 innings, he had a 7.29 ERA and allowed 18 home runs.

I could be way off, but I really think the accumulation of starts with high pitch counts hurts Bannister. Say what you will about how pitchers are treated, but understand that not all pitchers are created equal. While someone like Zack Greinke can throw 120 pitches and feel fine, someone like Bannister can throw 100 pitches and feel exhausted.

It s an indictment against the Royals that they apparently haven t figured this out.

More notes:

— Jose Guillen arrived late to camp due to the death of a sibling. Never an easy situation, but apparently the death was unexpected, which can make it even more difficult to deal with. Positive thoughts go out to Guillen and his family.

— Apparently, we’re going to get a new lineup everyday from SABR Trey and the Royals. Maybe they’re using us as a focus group. Here s the latest as reported by Dutton:

Podsednik – LF
Kendall – C
DeJesus – RF
Butler – 1B
Ankiel – CF
Callaspo – DH
Gordon – 3B
Betancourt – SS
Getz – 2B

Honestly, that makes my head hurt.

Hillman just seems kind of slow, doesn t he? No reasonable follower of baseball would construct a lineup like that. However, Hillman will throw that order out for a couple of games in April, the Royals will score less than two runs a game and we ll never see it again.

It s kind of like when he hit Mike Jacobs and Miguel Olivo back to back early last year. That lasted a handful of games before Hillman realized he was short-circuiting any kind of potential rally with a couple of out machines together in the lineup.

He gets it. Eventually.

Yesterday, Clark posted his over/under scenarios for the regular season. Today, I present some questions I have as camp gets set to open. We ll find out some answers almost immediately and others will take a bit longer to sort out.

Hey, the good news is, baseball is in the air. About damn time. On with the questions.

Are Gil Meche and Brian Bannister healthy and ready to make 32 starts for the Royals?

Although both pitchers were felled by Trey Hillman’s Starting Pitcher Chainsaw Massacre, Meche’s troubles began in his first spring training start last year when he reported a stiff back following a one inning outing. If both are healthy and Meche returns to the form he flashed in his first two seasons with the Royals and Bannister can continue to refine his cutter he developed last year, this team has the foundation of a quality starting rotation. As many have pointed out, the CHONE projections have the Royals rotation ranked as the 6th best in baseball.

Take those projections with a grain of salt. Zack Greinke has the highest projected WAR among all pitchers and CHONE is making the assumption that both Meche and Bannister are healthy and at the top of their game. Certainly, the potential is there, but let s not get carried away just yet.

Where will Alberto Callaspo play?

Did you see the Star’s rundown of the 40 man roster on Sunday. Nothing huge, just little capsules on each player along with a one-liner about how they fit on the team. For Chris Getz, the line read, Second base is his job to lose.

Really?

I know Callaspo leaves a lot to be desired with his glove, but this is a team in desperate need for offense, which is something Callaspo provides. If Getz is the starting second baseman, will the Royals slide Callaspo over to DH? I’d be fine with that, but then what happens with Jose Guillen? Honestly, I could care less about what happens with Guillen, but do we really want to hear the inevitable stories about how he’s pissed off? Oh well, this is his last season here, so he may as well go out with some fireworks.

Speaking of Guillen, is there any chance the Royals will get some production out of him in 2010?

I’ve heard various reports about his health and fitness this winter. It’s ranged from good to bad to horrible, so how he’s doing health-wise is anyone s guess.

My hope is, he reports to camp fat and hurt and the Royals decide to immediately end the Guillen era and give him his unconditional release. Hey, we’re out $12 million for 2010 anyway.

Has anyone heard if the Royals found someone to play the part of Sluggerrrr? Maybe the Royals can get their money s worth by having Guillen don the costume. That would be great, but can you imagine the liability when he s performing at a birthday party, drops a handful of f-bombs and then tears his groin while shooting hot dogs?

Is Billy Butler still motivated?

The knock on Butler prior to last season was he lacked a certain amount of maturity that would push him to realize his potential. All he did to dispel that notion was to work all winter on his defense and report to camp in excellent shape.

My question then, did he do something similar this off season? Sometimes, success creates a comfort level and some athletes aren’t able (or willing) to push themselves to maintain that success.

I m not saying Butler is a candidate for regression. There s no evidence he decided to take the winter off and rest on his laurels. I m just saying I hope he’s still working just as hard as he worked last year. I just get the feeling he could have a monster year if he put in the proper work this winter.

Who will set-up Soria?

The Dayton Moore era has been marked with bullpen uncertainty almost since day one. Sometimes, it all works out like it did in 2008. Other times not so much, like last year. Juan Cruz will be looking to bounce back but with Kyle Farnsworth and Robinson Tejeda auditioning for a starting role, there aren t many known commodities currently residing in the back of the bullpen.

(Hopefully the Royals understand Farnsworth isn’t an option to be a set-up man. I fear when it becomes apparent he can t start, the Royals will undoubtedly try him in this role once again.)

Will Alex Gordon be ready for the season?

Last year was supposed to be his breakout year, but now like his free agency, it s been delayed a season.

With newly acquired third baseman Josh Fields in the fold, is it possible the Royals picked him up to apply some pressure to Gordon? The parallels between the two are interesting in that both were highly touted prospects coming out of college and have yet to come close to that potential in the majors. Fields represents a true alternative should Gordon once again falter (through injury or poor performance.) That s something the Royals have never really had at third. Certainly, Teahen could have been that but during his last three years with the team, his services were needed at other positions. This year, Fields doesn’t really fit anywhere on this team.

I think it would be super cool if they threw the third base job wide open. Fields versus Gordon, may the best man win. It’s not like your going to piss Gordon off more than you already have. Besides, competition is healthy. That alone would make spring training infinitely more interesting.

There you go. A few questions for you to ponder as the equipment trucks and players roll into Surprise to get ready for the season.

There have been some over/under type topics on other websites and comments, so apologies to anyone who thinks I stole their idea (it’s possible that I did!).

Here are ten numbers that I think will have a very distinct impact on what the Royals’ 2010 season might become. Hitting the overs on these would, without question, surpass all expectations anyone has for the team this coming season.

  • Zack Greinke’s Win Total

Wins are a horrible indicator of how good a starting pitcher really was (see Zack Greinke circa 2009), but if the Royals are going to have at least an acceptable season, Zack will need to pitch well and be rewarded for it. How many games did he leave last year after giving up two runs or less in six plus innings of work and not get a win? EIGHT.

The over/under for Greinke wins: 18

  • Gil Meche’s Innings

Another key to the Royals’ in 2010 is simply a healthy Gil Meche. You can spin it anyway you want to (and there is major portion of the Royals’ fanbase that simply refuses to believe Meche is good), but not a lot of pitchers can match Meche’s two year run through 2007 and 2008 for innings and performance. Comfortably settled in as the number two pitcher and hopefully healthy, Meche grinding up major innings with an earned run average in the upper threes is a necessity and a very real possibility.

The over/under for Meche innings: 200

  • Alex Gordon Home Runs

Will 2010 be the year that Alex actually breaks out? If not, the chances that there ever will be a breakout season will pretty much be gone. There are a lot of factors that define ‘break out': on-base percentage, lower strikeouts, a decent average, but if Gordon hits with power and posts a big number in this area, I have to believe all those other things will have fallen in line, too.

The over/under for Gordon home runs: 27

  • Mike Aviles Games Played

Unlike so many other players, Aviles will not get to play unless he is actually performing (a novel concept, I know). Plus, playing in a number of games will mean he is truly healthy. Given that a number of organizational favorites that are between Mike and playing time, he will truly earn whatever appearances he is granted. The more Aviles the better, in my book.

Over/under on Aviles games played: 105

  • Chris Getz On-Base Percentage

I am on the Getz bandwagon, for better or worse. Assuming he is the everyday second baseman, which I think is almost pre-ordained, his ability to get on-base is key.

Over/under on Getz OBP: .360

  • Rick Ankiel Slugging Percentage

Ankiel is going to play, barring injury, and his calling card will be power. I don’t care if it’s doubles or home runs and I think we would be be delusional to believe whatever power Rick hits with would be accompanied by batting average and on-base percentage.

Over/under on Ankiel’s ‘Slug': .500

  • Joakim Soria’s Saves

Again, in the world of pitching, saves is not a tremendous indicator of performance. When taken in terms of the team concept, your closer getting major numbers of saves is an indicator of good starting pitching, solid setup and at least enough offense to keep you in the game. In this case, Soria getting enough save opportunities (that he converts them is as safe a bet as there is) will mean that void that existed in innings seven and eight last year has been filled.

Over/under on Soria’s saves: 40

  • Billy Butler’s Doubles

We expect a lot out of Billy this year and with good reason. He might have ‘batting title’ potential. He might hit a ton of home runs. He might be the total hitting package. In the end, if Butler has a ton of doubles, everything else will likely take care of itself.

Over/under on Billy’s doubles: 55

  • Luke Hochevar’s ERA

How nice would it be for Hochevar to simply become solid? I’m not asking for the moon here, just for the former number one pick to settle as a nice middle of the rotation guy. We will assume that Hochevar will get the ball every fifth day this year, so posting something reasonable in this category would be big for the Royals.

Over/under on Hochevar’s earned run average: 4.30

  • Jose Guillen’s Games Played

You can hope that Jose is healthy, content and gets off to a good start, making him tradable or at least tolerable. However, since I tend to live in the real world, I think the best thing that can happen is that Jose simply does not play a lot for whatever reason. Unlike the other nine over/unders, this one is all about hitting the under.

Over/under on Guillen games played: 24

Make the first nine overs and hit the last under and Kansas City might not be a contender, but they at least will be interesting.

This morning, I am going to run through a quick exercise in constructing the Royals’ twenty-five man roster for the coming season. My guess is that almost everyone who reads any Royals’ blog has already done this in one form or another, but I have serious doubts that the Royals’ front office has.

Okay, sure, we know that is total sarcasm, but seriously I think the Royals have a firm idea on the 40 man roster, but only a vague ‘things will work themselves out’ idea as to the 25 they will break camp with. You can make an argument that this is the perfect way to go into spring training and I would generally agree, but I do wonder if a ‘small budget’ club like the Royals can assemble and pay for 30+ guys to compete for their 25 spots?

The catching position is pretty simple: Jason Kendall starts, Brayan Pena watches. The hope is that Kendall is an upgrade defensively and in handling the pitchers, while not just destroying you at the plate. If he can get on base at even a .340 clip, throw runners out and get along with Greinke and Meche, he might be tolerable. In Pena, the Royals have a switch-hitter who might log some time at DH. I wish the team had given Pena two months of everyday duty last year to find out if he really is THAT bad behind the plate, but that ship has sailed. Manny Pina, acquired from Texas last year, is the next in line, but his bat is not ready for the bigs (and may never be). He is, should everything go to hell, probably the best defensive catcher in the organization. At any rate, it’s Kendall and Pean: that’s two.

The corner infield positions are pretty clear: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. What happens after that is a mystery. The Royals acquired Josh Fields as part of the Mark Teahen trade, making rumblings about Fields playing a corner outfield spot, but that has gone by the wayside with the signings of Podsednik and Ankiel. Out of options, Fields will be on the 25 man roster come April, likely as the backup third baseman and part-time designated hitter. That’s three more guys, for a total of five.

We will jump out to the outfield at this point. I shudder to think how the team is going to actually arrange David DeJesus, Rick Ankeil and Scott Podsednik defensively, but we all know that those will be the three outfielders and that they will play everyday. The signing of Ankiel brought out the semi-public announcement that Jose Guillen would be the club’s primary designated hitter – something Jose probably has not yet heard and won’t like when he does. While the ‘just cut him’ plan of action is certainly appealing and maybe even logical, it is hard to see the Royals doing so. There’s four players, four veterans mind you, that will be on the team in April, bringing us to a total of nine on our roster.

Okay, middle infield will be…deep breathe…Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and somebody else. Of course, the Teahen trade also brought Chris Getz over and the expectation is that he will be an upgrade defensively at second over Alberto Callaspo. However, with Guillen moving to DH (not to mention Fields), playing Getz at second leaves few places for Callaspo to play. As much as I hate watching Alberto field, I do love watching him hit. The other glaring problem is that keeping Betancourt, Getz and Callaspo leaves no room for Willie Bloomquist. We all know that’s not going to happen (besides, Willie is the only one who can play short). The wild card in this equation is Mike Aviles. My guess is that Aviles will not be ready at the start of the season and will open the year on the disabled list.

We will assume that the Royals will open the year with a 12 man pitching staff or move to that sooner rather than later. Although he has options left, it is hard for me to believe Dayton Moore traded Mark Teahen for a bench player and a guy who is going to play in Omaha. That leaves Getz on the roster, with Callaspo and Bloomquist who, for all his faults, can fill the role of both fourth outfielder and utility infielder. With Betancourt, that makes four for a total of thirteen.

That means Brian Anderson, all $700,000 of him, is in AAA and Mitch Maier, out of options, might be somewhere else come April. The schedule might allow the team to open with eleven pitchers, so it could be Mitch and the organization a couple of weeks to sort out what to do, but by the end of April, barring a trade or simply cutting bait with Guillen, Mitch will be off the Royals’ big league roster.

Now, onto the pitching staff. The starting rotation right now will be Greinke, Meche, Bannister, Hochevar and either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda. There are rumblings about the Royals fishing for a veteran, which would likely be the end of Davies and push Tejeda back to the pen. Right now, though, my money is on Tejeda as the number five starter. At any rate, that’s five guys, so we are up to eighteen total, now.

The bullpen will have Joakim Soria and Juan Cruz at the backend, with Kyle Farnsworth available for blow-out work (what a fine use of funds, by the way). Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna is all but guaranteed a spot, which fills four of the seven spots.

I would be pretty amazed if veteran journeyman Matt Herges does not get a spot. Just a hunch, but I think he will trade it that number 77 for a real baseball number by April. I am also hoping beyond all hope that the Royals give and Carlos Rosa earns a spot in the bullpen this year. Rosa, performing as I hope he might, is the guy who makes what Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth do irrelevant.

That leaves one final spot (assuming Tejeda is the fifth starter) up for grabs between Ramon Colon, Victor Marte, Dusty Hughes and all the non-roster invitees. Throw Herges into this mix if you want and say this group is fighting for two roster spots. It doesn’t much matter how it ends up, but that’s seven relievers, twelve pitchers and a 25 man roster.

Now, in reading all this, how likely do you think it is that all of Chris Getz, Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo break camp with the Royals? You could throw David DeJesus into that mix as well as he is likely the most tradable of all the Royals’ position players. Barring trades or another free agent signing, I would put pretty good money on the 25 players outlined above.

Part of me is pretty certain Dayton Moore has two more moves on his agenda that will make the real 25 man roster different from the above. All of me is hoping that is the case.

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