Monday, December 29, 2008

Baseball Purgatory

Just when you can't imagine it getting any worse, this happens...

Nothing.

The Royals apparently take Christmas vacation, leaving us fans to sit here and suffer while we have to chew on their offseason moves, mulling over dubious acquisitions and free agents choosing to sign elsewhere. Hell, the Royals haven't even been linked to any news on MLB Trade Rumors in coming up on six days.

That little baby wasn't born in a manger in the Middle East in June so that you guys could sit on your laurels. Isn't there some guy out there with a lower OBP than Mike Jacobs that needs a home? You guys realized that Corey Patterson signed a minor league contract, right? A. Minor. League. Contract. He totally could have replicated his 2008 numbers in Omaha while we paid him somewhere around $800,000, but you guys were nowhere to be found.

I guess things could be worse. It could be 2002 again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What the Mark Teixeira signing means to the Royals

Next to nothing.

There. I said it.

I know a lot of Royals fans--or fans of other small-market teams--would like to make a big deal about this shameless spending spree the Yankees have embarked upon this offseason. CarstenCharles Sabathia and Mark Teixeira join Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter atop the list of the four highest paid players in baseball. A.J. Burnett and his $16.5 million per year makes him, what, the fifth or sixth highest paid player on the team?

As much as we all want to villify them for spending money that the Royals could only dream about spending in three seasons, the fact of the matter is that this is their modus operandi. It has been since at least the 2001 offseason, when they were coming off their crushing World Series defeat at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since they signed Jason Giambi to his seven year, $120 million contract they have won exactly zero World Series.

Each offseason, the Yankees go out and patch all of their perceived holes by throwing money at the problem. They are baseball's equivalent of the rich father who has deluded himself into thinking he can correct his socialite daughter's promiscuous ways buying her a bunch of condoms. Sure, she the disease's she contracts will probably be limited to little more than crabs, but she's still gonna have a drug problem and condoms won't keep her out of Promises.

So this past month has seen the Yankees tie up $423.5 million amongst three players. Of course, it could be less if Sabathia elects to opt out after three years, but either way the Yankees are probably screwed with the Sabathia contract. In the opt-out scenario, they would simply have to pay him more money to retain his services. If he elects to keep the contract he has, that more than likely means that he hasn't pitched well enough to have earned it.

As for A.J. Burnett, my feelings on him are right here. I just do not see a future in which A.J. Burnett pitches to the expectations of that contract, and I would be shocked if he is healthy for more than 60% of the next five years.

With Teixeira, the Yankees could actually get the best return on their investment. For the first four or five years of that deal, he could actually be worth that money. As a complete package, he is obviously a major upgrade from what they would have been throwing out onto the field at first--Nick Swisher, who will likely take Melky Cabrera's place in the outfield--but he will be 37 years old by the end of this contract. He will not be the player he is now at 34, let alone 37.

Now if one wanted to debate the merits of paying a first baseman this kind of money for that amount of time whose name is not Albert Pujols, they could certainly make their case, but this contract may have the least risk involved of any of the three they have handed out this December. After all, he isn't the pitcher who has surpassed the 200 innings mark only three times in his ten-year career. He also isn't the most egregiously abused pitcher in baseball over the past two seasons. That's who A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia are, and they'll be making $16.5 and $23 million for at least the next three years, possibly the next five.

While I have now spent a fair portion of time questioning the wisdom of these three moves, these contracts are not the issue; the flawed philosophy is. For seven offseasons, the Yankees have attempted to win the championship by buying talent at any cost. They have gotten 30-somethings via free agency and trades, electing to mortgage their future on players on the downturn of their careers while depleting their system of any young talent they have before those players have reached their peak.

How many players that have been keys to the Yankees' success have they developed from within since 2001? They had Alfonso Soriano for his first two years with an OPS+ over 120, but he's had three seasons since then (including his only 40/40 season) with OPS+ of 120 or more. The book is still out on Joba "DUI" Chamberlain and Philip Hughes, I suppose (I am not quite ready to consider Ian Kennedy in the potential superstar conversation), and Robinson Cano and/or Melky Cabrera could conceivably right the ship. Of course there has been talk all offseason of the Yankees looking to deal Cabrera, who has regressed for two seasons to be fair, for the likes of Mike Cameron, simply illustrating their preference for impatience over developing youth.

Moreover, these Yankees are by and large defensively deficient. The addition of Teixeira helps to be sure, but their outfield is not about to win any Gold Gloves (or more respectably, Fielding Bible Awards). And maybe you're already aware of this, but I've heard that their shortstop is pretty awful with the glove.

Regardless, their flawed logic in team building will not get them into the winner's circle, just like it hasn't for the past seven years.

But to return to the point as to how this reckless spending affects the Royals, quite simply, the Royals are in the AL Central. The Wild Card was probably going to come out of the AL East regardless as the Devil Rays and Red Sox are more than likely going to remain in the race with the Yankees for the next few seasons. If this were the White Sox, Twins, Tigers, or Indians spending like this, maybe there would be justification for concern (or not, as was the case with the Tigers, who should have learned their lesson last season). As it is, the Royals just need to worry about getting in. Once you're in, you can win. Unless you're the Yankees since their meltdown against Arizona.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quick thoughts

From time to time, there must be a little deviation from the norm here at Royalscentricity. While this blog will always be about baseball, there will be a very occasional mention of non-Royals baseball thoughts. What follows are some of those:

  1. At my other blog, Inconsiderate Prick, I wrote an entry about Frank Deford's book, The Old Ball Game: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball. The book was a great read. For more info, go here.
  2. Dock Ellis died last week. He was one of the more colorful characters in post-WWII baseball, as is illuminated here and here. Trust me, you want to read about Dock Ellis.
As for the Royals, they seem to be maintaining their exorbitant asking price for Zack Greinke allowing for all Royals fans to breathe a huge sigh of relief. If he should happen to begin next season in another uniform, it shouldn't be for lack of having gotten enough in return.

They also appear to have shown no interest in Jack Wilson. Good.

They have shown interest in Joe Nelson, who if signed for the right price would more than likely be solid in their pen.

Luke Hudson was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to Surprise, AZ, and Royals' spring training. Low-risk signing that could yield dividends if he manages to stay healthy and can recapture the essence of his 2006 season. Well, maybe not that 11 runs (10 earned) in 1/3 IP outing against the Indians...

And just a reminder in the it-could-be-worse department, let's just think back to a day in which Ambiorix Burgos still pitched for the Royals. Regardless of how Brian Bannister may have pitched last season, he didn't pummel his girlfriend in a hotel near Shea Stadium and he didn't kill any pedestrians in the Dominican Republic with his SUV. None of this is news, of course, but every once in a while we need a reminder to help us keep a positive spin on things. Brian Bannister, to our knowledge, does not run girls over for refusing to go out on dates with him.

My apologies for the lack of cohesiveness to this post. There's just not much news right now.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Ridiculed Deal Revisited Two Years Later and Two Years Wiser

While we all grasp desperately for shreds of information that might lead us to see what Dayton Moore has seen thus far this offseason, I felt maybe it was time for a slight departure. In this offseason, I have personally had to resort to citing Mike Jacobs' uncharacteristically low BABIP* last season to candy-coat his numbers in making the well-he-is-not-really-that-bad argument; hoping that Coco Crisp's first two seasons in Boston were the aberrations and that Kansas City sees the Covelli of 2004, '05, and '08; and rationalizing the Kyle Farnsworth signing (the player, not the money) by falling back on his K-rates and hoping he can recapture his 2005 season**. I could go on in that train of thought, but rather than playing the part of Dayton Moore apologist--or at least playing the part of the Governor, staying the execution of the General Manager on death row for so many--I'd like to retroactively give credit where credit has been due.

*I'd like to thank the guys over at The Hardball Times for proving my point for me with their new work on Expected BABIP that was referenced on the latest entry over at Ye Olde Royals Authority. Last season, Mike Jacobs was the 13th most unlucky hitter in Major League Baseball. His x-BABIP under their much more accurate revision upon the generally accepted x-BABIP formula ended up being .041 points higher than his BABIP was last season. They have gone back to 2005 and looked at their new x-BABIP in relation to actual BABIP, keying on the grossest outliers each season, and more often than not, luck worked everything back toward the expected numbers the next year.

**As for that, even I know that is not going to happen. And while I certainly didn't mind signing him in theory, that price tag is ridiculous.

Two years ago at about this time--December 7th, to be exact--Dayton Moore and the Royals were the laughingstocks of Major League Baseball after signing Gil Meche to a 5 year, $55 million contract. Past that linkage, I would imagine I don't need to refresh the memories of too many Royals fans out there. I also do not need to remind anyone how Gil Meche has pitched since he signed that contract. In light of the Carlos Silva (having posted an ERA+ of 65 in year one of his four year, $48 million contract), Jeff Suppan (his ERA+ fell to 87 in the second year of his four year, $45 million contract and I can't think of a Brewers fan out there that was feeling confident when he was pitching down the stretch last year), and A.J. Burnett contracts signed since, Moore's offer to Meche seems prescient. You can probably see where I'm going with this...

For the sake of consolation, I am going to look at A.J. Burnett's contract in comparison to Gil Meche's. If you managed to miss it, A.J. Burnett was signed by John D. Rockefeller--or was it Andrew Carnegie--oh, wait it was the New York Yankees--for a contract that will last five years and will yield A.J. Burnett $82.5 million.

Now a mere three years ago, A.J. Burnett signed a five year, $55 million contract at roughly the same time in his career that Gil Meche signed his deal for the same amount. At the time, Burnett was a 49-50 pitcher with a penchant for throwing his organization and manager under the bus in addition to winding up on the DL in all but one season. Sure, Burnett was in possession of a 98 MPH fastball but at the time no one was giving out contracts this long. But the Blue Jays, much like the Royals the next year, were intent upon pumping up their payroll by throwing money at free agents who would spend significant time on the disabled list (the other big signing that offseason being the oft-injured B.J. Ryan).

Now obviously, Burnett's track record was a bit better than Meche's, but his injury history was at least as extensive and at their respective dates of signing, Burnett was nine months older than Meche. All in all, both the Blue Jays and the Royals were diving into risky waters, but the waters were financially identical (well, from what I remember and have been able to find online* Meche doesn't have an option attached to the contract while it would seem to me that A.J. Burnett has to have had a player option--not that I'm going to do the legwork to figure this out because this post is turning into a behemoth quickly--because I'd be shocked if the Blue Jays exercised a team option the offseason after getting their only year with more than 25 starts from Burnett in the three years he was a Jay, making the Royals deal (if I'm right here) more advantageous if in both situations their leaps worked out for the best). Each team was gambling on young pitchers with somewhat worrisome injury histories but their stuff was enticing.

*There was also an interesting little tidbit in that article about their new Rule V steal Joakim Soria with Moore saying, "Not that we're going to make him a closer, but the great thing about him is he can compete for a variety of roles."

Well, two years into the Meche deal, he has surpassed 200 innings twice--with breathing room, I might add--and posted an ERA+ of 128 in 2007 and 107 in 2008. After year three of his Jays contract, Burnett has seasons of 135 2/3, 167 2/3, and 221 1/3 innings pitched with the last season of that deal being the third season in ten that he passed the 200 IP plateau. That is one more season (not counting his first in which I would assume and seem to recall that he was called up midseason but also cannot be bothered to actually look it up because of the ever-growing nature of this entry) than his seasons in which he did not hit triple digits in innings pitched after giving the benefit of the doubt on the first one, and you can add two more into the mix in which he did not pass by the 150-mark.

Despite these facts, the New York Yankees in the midst of their aggressive pursuit of eternal ownership of the evil empire mantle saw fit to offer an A.J. Burnett who is 21 months older than Gil Meche at the date of signing a deal averaging $16.5 million per year.

This offer means that Brian Cashman (was ever a name more appropriate than his?) and Company have, in essence if not consciously, deemed Gil Meche two-thirds the pitcher that A.J. Burnett is.

Now, clearly with the Yankees, it is an entirely different ballgame. Steinbrenner II and his father have been playing with house money. The Royals have been trying to compete with the pocket change they can get from beneath the driver's seat in their 1970 AMC Gremlin because they already checked the couch twice and found nothing.

Regardless, the Yankees had to outbid other teams to get Burnett at this price, and they're not in the habit of recklessly outbidding teams, unlike the Rangers circa December of 2000. So this is the value that the market deemed A.J. Burnett worthy of.

The shocking part about this newest Burnett deal is that in Burnett's last two seasons--the two seasons in which Meche and Burnett were playing under the same salary umbrella--his ERA+(-es?) were 119 and 105. In 39 1/3 innings fewer.

Clearly, if Meche were to file for free agency, his past two seasons would warrant a comparable contract, but I have a feeling that he would manage to get less money despite the apparent superiority--and I do understand that ERA+ is not the end-all, be-all, but it is a fairly decent system by which to derive some semblance of value--at least when you factor in health over the past two seasons, because of a wide-spread perception that A.J. Burnett is an ace because of a fastball that is about four miles-per-hour faster.

So, thanks to Dayton Moore's promethean December of 2006, the Royals are getting a pitcher for the next three seasons (barring a trade) at two-thirds the cost of A.J. Burnett, who at least for the past two seasons has been the better and more durable pitcher. And at more than a year-and-a-half younger, Meche is by a reasonable expectation more likely to make it through these next three seasons with better health at 66.67% the cost.

Now, I had nothing but the blind faith of a hopeful Royals fan to guide me through the trying time of trying to come to terms with a resoundingly ridiculed contract. It got me through in 2006.

Here's to hoping that the 2009 season proves the lot of us doubters and naysayers wrong...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Furcal-less

Though at this point it is not especially shocking, Rafael Furcal has apparently re-upped with the Dodgers--just days after reports hitting nearly every media outlet to the contrary, saying he was a Brave again. Regardless, for the past week or so, the writing has been on the wall for Royals fans. Anyone holding their breath can release now, assuming they have not died.

The deal is apparently three years, $30 million, with a vesting option for a fourth year at $13 million that kicks in if Furcal reaches 600 plate appearances in year three. Fantasy owners of the shortstop in keeper leagues will probably want to mark down early August of 2011 as a must-trade date for Furcal to best fleece their opponents, as I would be shocked if the Dodgers at that point are going to want to be paying him that kind of money in 2012.

If the rumors of the Royals offering somewhere in the four years, $44 million range had any truth to them, they have once again been passed over by a top-tier free agent for one of the major market teams.

Much like when Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones elected to sign in California and Los Angeles, respectively, I can't say I'm especially bent out of shape over the slight. I am hard-pressed to imagine a team wanting to take on Jose Guillen's albatross of a contract, which would have almost have to have happened for the Royals to afford Furcal under their reported payroll constraints. Additionally, I have a hard time envisioning a stretch of four healthy years in Furcal's immediate future, since he is nearing the point--or may already be there--at which middle infielders tend to have fairly drastic drop-offs in performance and health (he did miss almost the entire 2008 season, after all). While a healthy Rafael Furcal at the top of the order would certainly help the Royals, I just worry that tying up that kind of money in a player coming off a 36 game campaign is a luxury this year's Royals cannot afford--not that Guillen's contract was one either.

As for Moore's other signings of late limiting their potential offer to Furcal, I really don't think they were anything more than a secondary team to Furcal & Co., serving solely to drive up offers from the real suitors. As was made abundantly clear last year, the Royals can offer up obscene amounts of cash--in excess of contract offers from the perceived major players--but that doesn't mean a player is going to sign with them.

We have, ultimately, chosen to stick with a team that is largely viewed as a laughingstock--deservedly so, at this point--within the sport they play, and while we want to believe that things are looking up, the rest of the baseball world, and more importantly the big-name free agents, have yet to see sufficient evidence to support what we so desperately want to be the case.

Addendum at 11:15 PM:
Apparently the Braves are shopping Kelly Johnson for an outfielder. I would personally love to have Austin native Kelly Johnson in blue while Jose Guillen mans their outfield. Dayton, do this for us. Please...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bale's Back!!!

Glory be to God! Praise be to Allah! Ganesh is ga-reat! Yay for Yahweh!

Sorry if I left anyone out there, but the Royals have apparently signed John Bale to a one-year deal. He was non-tendered so that the Royals could avoid arbitration and then signed to a new deal a few days later. I won't waste anyone's time with his numbers or analysis of his performance (unless it turns out he was given Farnsworth money to be Doug Waechter). Hopefully, once terms of the deal are released, he has been penalized for being a hot-headed moron and has signed a contract for less money than his last one (or better yet, a minor league deal).

I'd imagine it is a relatively safe assumption that Bale won't be trotted out there for another three dismal starts this season, because while he's a semi-capable reliever, he is no starting pitcher.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Le Roi est mort...

Obviously, this is not a Chiefs blog, but I would venture to guess that this blog is frequented by more than its fair share of Chiefs fans, as Chiefs fandom and Royals fandom is about as close to conjoined twindom* as it gets.

*Yes, I am aware that 'twindom' is more than likely not a word.

Today, I got the best text message I have ever received. It contained information for which I had been thirsting for longer than I have been getting laid, longer than I have been drinking alcohol, longer than I have been driving, longer than I have been dodging the trappings of an adult life. In fact, for my entire adult life, I have wanted one thing more than anything else (other than of course a championship from one of my teams): Carl Peterson to cede control of the Kansas City Chiefs to anyone else.

Time and time again, Carl Peterson's vision for the Chiefs has led them to a place that is short of being a great team. Sometimes greatness was approached only to be ripped away from the fans--turning each Chiefs fan into a contemporary Tantalus, with our thirst for greatness and our hunger for a champion being snapped away at the last second, only our roles in this modern Tantalus myth are much more tragic, as our transgressions come far short of cannibalism and parricide, our transgression is limited to merely being foolish enough to be a Chiefs fan. Sometimes greatness was nearly visible in the not-too-distant future. And now greatness is being spat upon, shat upon, doused with lighter fluid, set afire, and shat upon again for good measure.

These Chiefs--the culmination of Carl Peterson's 20-year reign atop his throne--are the worst team I have ever had the displeasure of watching. They have followed their abysmal 4-12 season of a year ago with a 2-12 campaign through 15 weeks that has put their shit showing from a year ago to shame.

His reign has been marred by consistently sub-standard free agent acquisition, catastrophically bad drafting especially in the early rounds, shockingly unbalanced teams that see-sawed between being great on one side of the ball or the other without ever being competent on the other side, and horribly behaved players filling up the roster. Maybe the last shortcoming is indicative of a greater problem in the NFL, but it certainly seems like the problem has been front-and-center in Kansas City for longer than it has been a league-wide epidemic.

Peterson's track record has been anything but sterling, and I, for one, was elated to see the words I had been waiting for since, to be kind 1996. I don't necessarily feel great about rooting so hard for someone to lose their job, but I don't know if there has been one single person who has caused me more distress in my adult life than Carl Peterson, and we are just finishing up an eight-year George W. Bush presidency.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh, and... (updated)

The player to be named later in the Tyler Lumsden deal was outfielder Jordan Parraz. This was announced Friday, finalizing the deal.

Parraz turned 24 in October and was deemed by Baseball America to have the best arm in the Astros organization going into last season. In his minor league career, he has flashed decent speed, converting 101 of 132 stolen base attempts, but has shown little power, topping out with single season highs of 14 homers (Class-A Lexington in 2007) and 31 doubles (High-A Salem in 2008). He does have an OBP of .372, which is nice but all at High-A ball or lower.

Regardless, his numbers are a whole helluva lot sexier than what Tyler Lumsden was sure to put up in his third straight year at AAA-Omaha.

*****************************************************************

The Royals also signed right-hander Doug Waechter. His ERA+ was 115 as a reliever for Florida last season, so despite the slightly unimpressive K numbers (5.30 K/9 career, 6.54 K/9 as a reliever last season) he was effective out of the pen. According to Moore, the Royals' scouts "feel he has better days ahead of him.” Waechter seems like a signing that might work out unexpectedly well for the Royals. Hopefully that is the case for Farnsworth as well...

Tender is the night

Hopefully Jairo Cuevas didn't unpack anything this time around. To make room for acquisitions--both on the 40-man roster and on the payroll--the Royals non-tendered Joey Gathright, John Bale, Jason Smith, and the aforementioned Cuevas. This allows those four players to seek out enlightenment wherever they might like. None of the moves were particularly surprising in light of the off-season developments like trading for Coco Crisp, the signing of Horacio Ramirez, and the one-year deal agreed upon by Esteban German.

The absence of John Buck on the list is somewhat puzzling, and one would think that if the Royals were seriously interested in signing Rafael Furcal* that perhaps Mark Teahen's salary would have been expendable.

*Again, I am not crazy about tying that much money up in Rafael Furcal, but the Royals' desire to sign him would logically lead me to believe that they should have been saving that money, not spending $9.25 million on Kyle Farnsworth over the next two years. If David Glass is not going to require that Dayton Moore adhere strictly to the $70 million payroll figure that has so often been bandied about, then I am not as bent out of shape over this erred money management. I would like to reiterate that I would like the Royals to make a charge at Orlando Hudson's glove and OBP rather than Furcal, even taking into account Hudson's lack of Furcal-ic speed.

As for the acquisition of Kyle Farnsworth, I am not crazy about what they paid for him. As I said before, I think he can be useful--and of the dregs they were looking at he was the most desirable to me--but at that price tag I wonder what they were thinking, all things (read: payroll constraints) considered.

Maybe the Royals are that close to contending (as some are speculating Moore may believe). If they are, it is tough for we fans to see that. As much as we would like to, that is what is most discouraging about this offseason thus far. The issues that were deemed to be in need of addressing by the front office have since been ignored to varying degrees.

Obviously, the offseason is far from over. If there has been anything that can be deciphered from Dayton Moore's history so far, it would be that the Royals roster as they exit spring training will not be the roster with which they enter June.

Perhaps the Royals will be able to deal from their areas of relative wealth as the Hot Stove continues to smolder. Maybe the Royals know their not really in the running for Rafael Furcal--which may very well be the case despite their offer--but want to keep up appearances as players in the free agent market, both to potential signings and fans. If there is one thing that I am reticent to do, it is to evaluate the whole of the offseason without proper scope for such appraisals and while the offseason is still in the making.

If there is one thing to take solace in thus far, it is that the Royals find themselves with an outfield in which Mark Teahen is their reserve. Regardless of what is to be said about Jose Guillen--and there is plenty--his addition, along with that of Crisp, have made this outfield much deeper than it has been in recent memory. As a primary corner outfielder, Teahen is underwhelming, but if he is the Royals' utility outfielder that does speak to a markedly improved roster, regardless of how disappointing Teahen has been since that fabled August and September a few decades ago.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Short...

Jeff Passan is reporting that the Royals are trying to clear payroll (read: Jose Guillen) to make a real run at Rafael Furcal, with Orlando Cabrera being their fallback.

Honestly, I am not crazy about either one. Furcal's speed is enticing, but he did just miss almost the entire 2008 season. Given that he does have that speed, he does have the knock against him that he has spent a lot of at-bats chasing the long ball while throwing caution to the wind in terms of walking. His on-base percentage (career .352) has never been particularly in line with what a team would hope to get from their lead-off hitter, and 93.2% of his at-bats have been in the lead-off slot. He obviously has a cannon, but I do worry about 4 years at $11 million for a 31-year-old middle infielder.

The backup plan, Orlando Cabrera, has a career OBP .030 points lower than Furcal (although in all fairness, his OBP has been up above .335 for the past three years), is three years older than Furcal, but is the better defensive option of the two.

Neither would seem to address the Royals central offensive deficiency--that cursed on-base percentage--and Cabrera is rumored to be asking for $9 million a year for three years. To me, tying up that much money in a shortstop on the wrong side of 30 for a team like the Royals is perhaps excessive. Given a choice, I would probably take either of these two guys to the alternative of Jose Guillen for a myriad of obvious reasons, but personally I'd prefer to have the Royals decide to make a run at another Orlando, Orlando Hudson.

His OBP for the past three years has been .354, .376, and .364. He doesn't necessarily have the speed of Furcal, or even Cabrera, but neither of them are nearly as committed to getting on base, and I'm more than willing to let Aviles go back out to short every day next season and see what they have in him while trotting a gold-glove caliber second baseman out there.

But, if they can find someone to bite on Guillen's albatross of a contract, any of those three options would be preferable.

Una Vez Mas (Squared, as well)

Dick Kaegel is reporting that Dayton Moore has confirmed the signing of Horacio Ramirez, giving him a shot at the rotation come next spring.

It has been well-documented that Dayton Moore has wanted a southpaw for a rotation that featured only righties by the, what, third week of this past season after the failure that was The John Bale Experience, who fit into the rotation about as well as my size 13 feet would squeeze into a women size 6 pair of glass slippers using a crowbar for a shoehorn. Obviously, there is merit to having a lefty in that rotation. Unfortunately, Horacio Ramirez has never been particularly impressive as a starter. His ERA+ has only been above 100 as a starter once when logging at least 65 innings and that was in his rookie season. His absurdly low K/9 of 4.13 and absurdly high BB/9 of 3.44 over the course of his career when coupled with his career WHIP of 1.47 obviously point toward him not being a very good pitcher.

I am all for a los-cost, low-risk middle relief trial again for Horacio Ramirez, but in all fairness, even his stint as a reliever in Chicago after the Royals traded him to the White Sox was abysmal. While a Royal, he somehow managed to strike out 11 while only walking one in 24 1/3 innings with the uncharacteristically low walk-rate being largely responsible for his WHIP of 0.90. After the trade, his ERA leaped back up to 7.62 with a WHIP of 2.46 with a K:BB ratio of 2:8 in 13 IP.

Perhaps some of the difference was the result of coaching or having been handled differently by his catcher, but I think hoping for his performance as a Royal to somehow be replicated is absolutely foolish, especially as a starter. Once his numbers in Chicago are combined with his atypically impressive Royals stats, you are looking at ratios very much in line with his career numbers. I have a very strong feeling that the Horacio Ramirez we saw in blue last season is not anything we will see this coming season, even in a relief role.

If Moore can somehow swing him around for another prospect to add organizational depth, hooray. Expecting that to happen twice is a perversely optimistic, but as a middle reliever/swing man/emergency spot starter he could be somewhat useful.

********************************************************************

Elsewhere in realm of Royal returns, let's welcome Jairo Cuevas back into the fold. For the second time this off-season, the Royals claimed the righty off of waivers from the Braves. He'll likely not be able to pitch until July or so after having surgery on his shoulder. From what I can tell from his minor league numbers, he has a live arm--bolstering an 8.51 K/9--but has been hit-or-miss year-in and year-out. He is also turning 25 in just over a month, so that combined with the fact that he has never pitched above high-A ball would seem to indicate to me that it would take a lot of good fortune for him to turn into much of anything.

Despite the fact that Cuevas' minor league career has consisted of him being used as a starter, I would not be surprised to see the Royals try to turn him into a reliever, as he would seem to have the ability to overpower players, although some of that may be the result of being slightly older than many of his peers.

Regardless, the Braves' and Royals' front offices seem to think highly enough of the kid to continue this waiver dance, so there must be something there.

And with those two additions, the Royals are back up to a full 40-man roster.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Vegas Squared

I shall echo the seeming unanimity in lamenting the retirement of a long-time favorite, Greg Maddux. In addition to being a Royals fan for as long as memory serves, I became a Braves fan the summer I turned 12, during their amazing worst-to-first season. What enabled my fandom to continue to thrive was the franchise's commitment to pitching, and at the crux of that commitment was their 1993 acquisition of one Greg Maddux.

While Smoltz was always my favorite (for reasons related to personality and duration in a Braves uniform), Maddux was clearly the best. My admiration for his skills knows no limits, and I truly believe he was the best pitcher of my lifetime. Despite--or perhaps more appropriately because of--Pedro's, Clemens', and Johnson's obvious edge in skills at their respective primes, Maddux's pitching was in my mind more impressive. He never had the heat that any of them possessed, but his longevity at the top when factoring in his lack of a dominant outpitch (i.e. Pedro's curve) or overpowering stuff (i.e. Johnson or Clemens' fastballs). Without a high-90's heater, Maddux still finds himself 10th all-time in strikeouts at the date of his retirement, with Schilling and Pedro both sitting over 200 behind him and Smoltz 300+ back. They are the next closest "active" pitchers, and two of the three may very likely be forced out of the game with career-ending injuries while it would likely take Pedro three years to approach him at his current rate of innings pitched per season.

Sure, Maddux did not pitch particularly well since (generously) 2003, but his absence will leave the game without one of its best on-field mentors. He shall be missed.

*****************************************************************************

In the interest of full-disclosure, the following Royals related information was initially aggregated at MLB Trade Rumors--the reactions are, of course, my own:

According to Dick Kaegel, the Royals will be talking with the agent for Craig Counsell, Brandon Lyon, and Kyle Farnsworth. Personally, I've always been disturbed by Brandon Lyon's low K/9 rate, which isn't everything, but I'm generally averse to relievers whose K/9 sit below 6. As for Counsell, he isn't exactly the sexiest pick-up and a full season of watching him bat--even intermittently--might be enough to drive me insane (and if they're going to go around looking for middle infield help on the free agent market, I'd much prefer Orlando Hudson, regardless of injury history). My inkling is that the initial reports that the Royals could likely look at Kyle Farnsworth are the primary reason that Barry Meister is being contacted, and I do think that his control can show a modicum of improvement outside of the pressure of the Big Apple and Yankee Stadium.

Bob Dutton reports that in addition to the impending talks concerning the potential signing of Farnsworth, the Royals will also talk with 40-year-old righty Russ Springer. Usually the age would worry me, but a one-year deal with an option would not upset me in the least, especially since Springer is coming off arguably his best two seasons as a reliever but his age should lead to a more reasonable price tag than if he were even four or five years younger. Historically, he has also relied much more heavily upon the strikeout than Brandon Lyon.

Reports also continue to pour in (in too many places to even attempt to cite) that the Royals do not want to trade either DeJesus or Teahen, while they are apparently in efforts to pawn off Jose Guillen onto the first team that will have him. Obviously, this makes the most sense for the Royals in almost every way imaginable. Even if the Royals have to eat part of his contract, his exit seems like it almost has to happen. It would also seem to frame Dayton Moore's statement regarding Mark Teahen's surprising importance to the team in 2009 in a more reasonable light (if the statement was not--as I'd earlier speculated--intended to simply drive up his value). Keeping that in mind, I do not believe that Jose Guillen will struggle from the plate as much next season as he did last season. He did play roughly 60% of the season battling injuries, which surely hampered his productivity, and we all know exactly how well Jose Guillen was capable of playing when healthy. Granted, the baseball season is long, but to expect as little healthy playing time as he had last year would be exceedingly pessimistic. Honestly, I'd be shocked if his ratios didn't jump by .010/.030/.035 next season, even with what should be an age-expected decline in skills/health. It just seems increasingly likely that such a recovery will happen in another setting. If so, his clubhouse presence will more than likely not be missed.

And, finally, it would appear as though Zack Greinke is going nowhere, as the Royals are asking for five players in return in any deal involving their ace (of the present and future?).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Absence of Malice

My apologies for my two day absence. I was without internet for unexpected and entirely retarded reasons.

For starters, I should thank Ray W over at Royals on Radio Etc. for the opportunity to be interviewed. I can safely say this is the only reason I've been interviewed for anything other than a job in my adult life. I'm sure it's the last, as well.

Speaking of Royals blogs, Rany gives a favorable appraisal of David Glass over the past year while looking optimistically towards the Royals' future. His linking of the current economic crisis to the potential changes in the AL Central landscape is, I hope, astute and gives reason to hope. The increase in payroll (up roughly $12 million already from last year) is certainly encouraging.

Ken Rosenthal (thanks Tim Dierkes) is saying that the Royals may make a run at Kyle Farnsworth. At least no one would charge the mound on the famed ass-kicking reliever. Rosenthal's speculation does make sense, knowing Dayton Moore's affection for signing player formerly associated with the Braves franchise. Honestly, I can't say I'd complain if he's signed at the right price. Maybe Moore's association with him in 2005--his last solid season--can be revisited. A David Riske-type contract could mean good things for the Royals this next season and could be turned into (at the very least) a compensatory draft pick in the event that he plays himself into a scenario where he can afford to decline offered arbitration because he played himself into a bigger payday in 2010.

On the Greinke front, it appears as though Moore seems to be leaning more towards trying to sign him to a long-term deal. I hope that's the case...

And in that MLB Trade Rumors section, apparently, Moore is no longer interested in Jeff Francoeur. I personally think he'll rebound, but I don't care for the Royals to try to be the team to find out that he will.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Note on Mark Teahen

During a Q&A at MLB, Dayton Moore was asked the following:

goroyals21: I've heard numerous rumors about Mark Teahen getting traded. Are any of those rumors true?

To which he responded:

Moore: Obviously, I was very disturbed about some of the rumors that have been in print concerning Mark Teahen being traded. It is not my style to comment on rumors concerning our players, but I would say that Mark Teahen, in my mind, is more important to our team today then he was in all of 2008 -- and he was very important to our team in '08.

I really have to believe this is simply an instance of Moore trying to drive the value of a player up. If he is being sincere and truly believes that Teahen is more important now than he was last year, then I am absolutely clueless as to what is going to happen this year. Maybe they're really going to work Teahen out at second base, giving all those fans salivating over the notion after Alex Gordon seemed certain to start the year in the bigs something meaty to sink their teeth into. If that isn't the plan--and honestly, I think he is more valuable to the Royals if he's traded to the Cubs for a middle infielder-- then maybe Dayton thinks he has found a new home for Jose Guillen.

Wouldn't that be great?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Grudz

First off, thanks to Ray W over at Royals on Radio Etc. for the linkage. Potentially more to come on that front...

On to Royals-relevant news:

Mark Grudzielanek was offered arbitration, which he will likely decline. It appears as though the offer of arbitration followed by the player declining will end up with the Royals getting the compensatory sandwich pick between the first and second rounds if Grudzielanek signs somewhere else in MLB.

After this past season's much heralded draft, more picks in the early goings of the draft cannot be misconstrued as a bad thing. The Royals have set a precedent under the reign of Dayton Moore that they will spend money on the draft. This past year money was spent was in record fashion, when the Glass family signed bonus checks to the tune of $11.1 million and the Royals drafted three players at a first round talent level to first rounder money who Baseball America have already placed in the Royals' top five organizational prospects.

As for Grudzielanek, his rationale for wanting to play on a contender in what figure to be his final couple of seasons is entirely understandable, and I don't think anyone can hold that against him. Barring a fairly major miracle, it would seem that the Royals are not there yet, and his having been offered arbitration only to decline would seem to leave the Royals better off next year in terms of both the draft and overall salary expenditures.