The Royals did not have an enjoyable weekend in Chicago and probably tempered some of the talk of contention that was swirling about the club for much of the week.   That was to be expected given that Kansas City has not one, but three teams in front of them to begin with, and a fair amount of history working against them as well.  

Simply put, the list of teams who approached the All-Star Break with records like the Royals and who were as far back as this team was and then actually did end up playing in the post-season is very, very short.   Without doing any research whatsoever, I am pretty confident the few teams that did manage the feat did not have to accomplish the act without their numbers one, two and three starting pitchers.

That said, had the Royals swept Chicago this weekend instead of being obliterated, I would have still written this column. 

You see, I can make a case for nottrading every player on this team, save one.   It is easy to make a case to keep David DeJesus.   It is plausible to make an argument to stick with Scott Podsednik and, if one tries hard enough, you can even come up with reasons to hang onto Kyle Farnsworth.      The one player for whom I cannot generate an argument to keep is Jose Guillen.

In Guillen, the Royals have a 34 year old with a history of injuries and tempestuous behavior who will be a free agent at season’s end.   While Jose is hitting a solid .279/.340/.467, which is actually a cut above his career line of .272/.323/.442.    You could make a case that a team desperate for power should hang onto the one guy on the team on pace to hit almost thirty home runs, this year.    Despite the home runs, however, Guillen’s slugging percentage is just .007 higher than that of David DeJesus, a player widely condemned for ‘not having any pop’, and is sixteen points behind Billy Butler.

Certainly, the value of the home run goes beyond just pure slugging percentage and without a doubt, Guillen currently is the player on the roster most likely to hit one.     It is noteworthy, however, that seven of Jose’s homers came in the month of April.   That is a big month and Guillen is known to have big months now and then.    More precisely, he has one big month per year.

In June of 2008, Guillen also hit seven home runs.   He never topped four dingers in any other month that season.   During the 2007 season, Jose hit six homers in May, but no more than four any other month.   In 2006, like his injury plagued 2009 campaign, Guillen did not have the ‘big’ month.    Back in 2005, however, Guillen did hit six home runs in April and five more in both June and August, while in 2004 he hit six or more homers in a month three times.

Unless you are willing to believe that Guillen has reverted to the form he exhibited when he was 28 years old, then the odds are against Jose hitting more than four home runs in any of the remaining months of this season.   One other home run tidbit:  Guillen has not hit more than three home runs in September since 2003.

No matter what you think of Jose Guillen and what he brings to the Kansas City Royals, I have one simple question.    If Omaha was the AAA affiliate of some other organization and that organization offered you Kila Kaa’ihue for Jose Guillen, would you make that deal?

If you cannot get past the Royals’ front office constant harping on Kaa’ihue’s supposed ‘slider bat speed’ comments, then would you trade Jose Guillen for a guy who:

  • Owns a .278/.421/.510 line in 239 AAA games (with 46 home runs)
  • Despite a dismal first six seasons in the minors, still owns a career .390 on-base percentage
  • Posted batting lines of .314/.456/.628 in 2008, .252/.392/.433 in 2009 and .306/.463/.584 thus far in 2010?

Of course, no team is going to offer one of the better hitters in AAA baseball (even if he is twenty-six years old) for a three month rental of Jose Guillen.    They won’t do it even if the Royals pay most, if not all of Guillen’s remaining salary.   The thing is, they don’t have to offer such a player for the trade to make sense for Kansas City.

One way or another, the money due Guillen is out the door and whether the Royals are paying him to play in KC or somewhere else is pretty irrelevant.   What is relevant is how Kila Kaa’ihue figures into the club’s future.

The Royals are not going to contend with Jose Guillen or Kila Kaa’ihue at designated hitter in 2010, but they might (with some breaks) contend with Kaa’ihue in the lineup in 2011…..maybe.    Right now, none of us, not Dayton Moore, not Ned Yost, not me, not my kids and not even Kila Kaa’ihue know if he can be a big league hitter.

Should the Royals be so desperate to win 76 games instead of 72 that they stick with Jose Guillen in August and September?  Or should they get Kaa’ihue 250 to 300 at-bats from here on out to discover if he can be an on-base machine with decent power in the majors?  (I envision a Nick Johns0n type minus the constant injuries, by the way).

Best case scenario is that Kila hits in the majors as he has the last three years in the minors.   Worst case, he falls flat and the Royals have the entire off-season to find someone to man the designated hitter position in 2011.     Better to have Kila hit .185/.250/.310 in August and September of 2010 for a club that might threaten to reach 80 wins than to have him do it in April and May of 2011 for a team that has a shot at contending for the A.L. Central.

Given Guillen’s recent ‘minor’ injury, whatever market there was for him has faded considerably and almost certainly has taken most National League clubs out of the picture.   That said, the Royals don’t have to trade Jose Guillen for a good AAA hitter, they just have to trade him.     What they get in return is really just a bonus to getting Kila Kaa’ihue on the big league roster and in the everyday lineup.

So again I ask the question:  would you trade Jose Guillen for Kila Kaa’ihue?