I told myself I wasn’t going to get too worked up about this Yunigma nonsense. I told myself that the Royals surely didn’t think he was going to play much – if any. I told myself not to worry.
But I can’t help myself…
I think Yuni will start three or four times a week,” Yost said, “and we’ll be able to keep everybody strong in that infield. I don’t think we’re going to lose a beat. It’s a perfect scenario.”
A perfect scenario? Maybe it is for someone like Lifto – the circus freak who likes to put nails through his scrotum. Me? Not so much. So the thought of Yuni starting three to four times a week is kind of the same thing on my scale of pain threshold.
Reading between the lines, you’d figure Yost is thinking of playing the Yunigma as a “rover.” He’ll play for Mike Moustakas on Tuesday, sit Wednesday, play for Alcides Escobar on Friday and then for Johnny Giavotella on Sunday. Normally, this kind of strategy doesn’t bother me too much. It’s a good idea to give the regulars a break. It’s a long season, after all.
Except we’re talking about Yuniesky Betancourt.
The quote about his playing time wasn’t even the best part of the article. Check out this gem:
Club officials never accepted the general sabermetric view on Betancourt, which contends he is a liability in the field because of limited range and at the plate because of a .292 career on-base percentage.
I’d love to know what Jin Wong and Mike Groopman think of the Betancourt signing. I mean what they really think, because obviously, if you asked them you’d get the company line. But if I was either of those guys, I’d be insulted. Because the general sabermetric view is dead accurate on Betancourt: He’s among the worst players to draw a paycheck in the majors.
That .292 career OBP? It’s powered by his early career, believe it or not. Over the last three seasons, his OBP is .277. In 1,680 plate appearances. While you may have thought he couldn’t get much worse than three years ago, think again. He’s sinking. This isn’t even about sabermetrics. This is about being bad at baseball.
And defensively, we’ve seen him enough to know the defensive metrics proclaiming him to be horrible are pretty much spot-on as well. Sure, I’ve seen him make the spectacular play. Then I’ve seen him fail to reach grounders two steps to his left. The amazing does not make up for falling short at the routine.
Dayton Moore is on the record as saying he likes the fact Betancourt hits with “some power.” Yeah, that’s great he can reach double digits in home runs. Except the whole OBP issue kind of clouds any gains in power he may realize.
For some perspective, league average OPS was .730 last year. Betancourt, despite clubbing 43 extra base hits, posted a .652 OPS. So for him to be league average if he’s not going to improve his OBP (which as you read earlier, doesn’t matter to the Royals) would need to add 11 home runs to his totals. It’s not a Ruthian task, but it is kind of a tall order for someone who’s never hit more than 16 in a season in his career. And we’re just talking about being average here. Not an All-Star, not an MVP candidate… Average.
Of course there are those of you who will urge me to calm down. The Yunigma is a utility guy… Someone not to be troubled with. There are larger issues to worry about. Fine. Continue to live in denial that Dayton Moore and his brain trust struggles with constructing the best 25 man roster possible. Don’t worry about their inability to evaluate major league talent. Hey, the minor league system rocks, so who cares about some utility infielder we tossed a couple of million at to warm the bench?
Some will urge me not to sweat the small stuff. I will argue that it’s the small stuff that will ultimately undermine The Process. Everything matters. Everything. Leave nothing to chance.
The Royals committed $2 million to a player who, according to Fangraphs, was worth -0.3 WAR over the last four seasons. He’s not good. Or even average. He’s awful.
The Betancourt situation smells like the same one we faced with Willie Bloomquist. I remember at the time of his signing, I said the Bloomquist deal wasn’t anything to get worked up about as long as he had fewer than 250 plate appearances. Naturally, in his first season with the Royals he had 468 plate appearances. Ugh. I continue to stand by my assertion that Johnny Giavotella will break camp as the Royals starting second baseman, but will be supplanted by the Yunigma by mid-May. If you’re fine with watching Betancourt for most of the summer, be my guest. I figured we were done with the guy when he was shipped to Milwaukee. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d return. Apparently I’m not as diabolical as Dayton.
Yuni isn’t the end of baseball in Kansas City. And it won’t derail or even delay The Process. Yet his presence on this roster is a symptom of a much larger issue facing the Royals.
Someday the Royals will be in contention. And someday they’ll need to hit the market to patch a hole or two in their roster. I’m not talking about a utility guy… I’m talking about an important cog to the team. Maybe a leadoff hitter, or a frontline starting pitcher. Do you have confidence they can find the right guy at the right price? Do you think the Royals can evaluate and project the best option to round out a winning ballclub?
Based on the evidence we have, I sure don’t.
And that’s what The Yunigma is about.