Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Royals Rumors: Guillen To Greener Pastures? Bedard To Don Blue?

The New York Daily News printed its second (at least) article in the past week regarding a deal in the early stages of talks between Royals and the Mets. In this deal, Kansas City would be sending Jose Guillen to New York, presumably eating a chunk of his $12 million salary for 2010, for Angel Pagan.

It is no secret that Jose Guillen's contract has been a bit of a disaster. Given his age, physical condition, and injury history, there is a nearly nonexistent chance that he will prove himself worthy of the remaining $12 million on his contract. Clark over at Royals Authority expressed a sentiment I share:
The money's gone no matter what - no one is going to make the Royals an offer that begins with 'we'll pay all of Guillen's salary' - the time is now to get something...anything, and move on.
To get a player like Pagan in return, someone who by defensive metrics like UZR/150 is above average in the corners and average in center and possesses a career .281/.331/.443 split in 829 plate appearances, would be worthy of eating nearly all of Guillen's albatross of a contract. Even if the reports of his attention lapses in the field are accurate, the situation cannot be any worse than having to play Jose Guillen in the field, whose range is limited to a five-foot radius.

The switch-hitting Pagan is also coming off a year in which he hit .306/.350/.487, which was aided by a BABIP of .352 but also came in the power-sapping confines of Citi Field. At 28 (turns 29 in July), Pagan's 2009 season stands out from the rest, which doesn't inspire confidence insofar as the expectation of repetition is concerned. Even after taking that into account, Pagan is not an absolute liability in the field.

In 2009, Pagan had a WAR of 2.8. Even in Guillen's arguably productive 2008 campaign, he only produced a 0.2 WAR. The WAR-based value FanGraphs assigned to Pagan's 2009 season was $12.8 million.

If this deal can get done, then Dayton Moore needs to do everything he can to make it happen. Pagan is arbitration-eligible and made $575,000 last year. If the Royals have to pay $10 million of Guillen's salary and somewhere in the $1-2 million range for Pagan, it is worth it in my book, even with the very real chance that Pagan does not replicate his 2009 success.

As for the Erik Bedard rumors, he was a Mariner, so it makes sense that the Royals would be pursuing him.

According to Jeff Passan (and obviously MLB Trade Rumors, who we all frequent at this time of year), the Royals are coming hard and fast at Bedard. Any deal seems likely to be incentive-laden, although with Moore's recent history there has certainly been a good deal of money handed out irresponsibly.

Assuming that they could sign him for a reasonably low guaranteed salary (somewhere below $3 million or so) with easily attainable guarantees granted relative healthiness, I am in favor of the signing.

It was obvious that the Mariners grotesquely overpaid when they pulled the trigger on the deal with Baltimore to acquire Bedard two offseasons ago. Fortunately, the Royals wouldn't have to give up anything more than money to get Bedard. Moreover, signing Bedard to a performance-based contract with attainable benchmarks if he's healthy sends the right message to other free agents and the important players within the organization (read: Zack Greinke).

And, yes, he did have surgery on his torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in August, so he more than likely will not be ready on Opening Day, but he should be able to begin working out again in February. If we're only talking about missing the first month or two, then he may be of more worth than just as a trading chip, which would in and of itself be a worthy gambit.

If the Royals can find a way to cut bait on awful contracts like Guillen's while getting playable pieces back in return and independently signing guys like Brad Thompson, Jorge Campillo, and Bryan Bullington to non-guaranteed minor-league contracts to stock the upper level of the minors and potentially bolster the bullpen, then they may be able to make a step back in the right direction.

It certainly cannot get much worse.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cy Greinke

I contemplated preparing something in advance for the occasion of Zack Greinke winning the Cy Young, but I was not entirely convinced that the BBWAA would make the right decision. After the debacle that was the Bartolo Colon 2005 Cy Young Award and the late season statements of Patrick Reusse, a CY voter, I made sure to temper my expectations.

Consider my faith in the BBWAA as capable award voters restored.

This caps a season that we Royals fans are not entirely used to. In fact, most fans have not been privy to a season like Greinke's 2009 campaign.

By nearly cumulative measure, Zack Greinke was the best pitcher in the American League. If we start talking about stats like WAR, he was the best player in baseball. If you wanted to, a case could certainly have been made for Greinke deserving the Gold Glove, as well.

Now, were it not for Greinke's herculean efforts on the mound, Royals fans would have endured an historically abysmal season. When looking past the Royals ace, there was little to cheer for and even less to be encouraged by.

What Greinke gave us all was hope.

Looking beyond the mere fact that every five days we got to see the best pitcher in baseball donning that jersey for the club we somehow still root for, Greinke's dominance let us look towards the future with a little bit of optimism in the midst of a 97-loss season.

His candor refreshed us and gave an empathetic organizational face to the frustration we were all dealing with as apoplectic fans. After all, if there was anyone who didn't deserve a team falling apart around him, it was Greinke. He was our surrogate in that regard. While our suffering was undoubtedly nothing in comparison to his, we were on the same boat.

So, while Zack Greinke does not care for the accolades that have been heaped upon him, this award does somehow validate the slightly less sad existence of the beleaguered Royals fan.

For that, Zack, we salute you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wilson Betemit!*

The. Final. Piece. Of. The. Puzzle.

Simon says Championship.

It's hard to even feign emotion one way or the other about this signing. It's a minor-league deal, and he did man each of the four infield positions for the Yankees in 2008, so there is certainly an element of roster flexibility that he would fill in Mark Teahen's absence. He is pretty much a replacement player with a little postseason experience who isn't going to cost the Royals much of anything.

As far as his defense is concerned, it would appear as though he is sub-par across the board. The only position he has garnered enough playing time at to be able to make any quasi-meaningful analysis on is third base, where he has managed a -11.1 UZR/150 in 243 games played (173 starts). That is roughly comparable to Teahen's -10.1 in about twice as much time played at the hot corner. I was never particularly impressed with Teahen's defense at third, visually or statistically, but it always seemed like he was getting praise and then having his apologists chalk it up to being moved all over the field. If the not-having-a-home argument actually holds water, then the same argument can be applied to Betemit.

Again, this is not a moved to get excited about, but he was a guy who the Yankees traded for a couple years back at the deadline for depth. At the price tag, it is hard to complain about the signing.

On an unrelated note, Fangraphs will be doing their Royals minor league assessment this week. Keep your eyes peeled.

*I know all this is not breaking news, but there didn't seem to be much out there about the signing, and there's nothing else going on in Royalsland.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Voice of Reason Regarding The Alberto Callaspo Trade Rumors

Sunday night, Bob Dutton reported that the Royals are rumored to be interested in shipping Alberto Callaspo to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 28-year-old (29 in April) catcher A.J. Ellis. Seeing as though Ellis has worked his way up to a grand total of 13 plate appearances in two September call-ups at that advanced an age, it is hard to get overly excited about the prospect of that deal.

It is that exact lack of excitement that has permeated the Royals blogosphere in the last day-and-a-half.

Now, if a deal were to be completed consisting solely of Alberto Callaspo and A.J. Ellis, then the Royals will unequivocally have been taken to the cleaners.

The thing is I really can't imagine that Dayton Moore would pull the trigger on a deal in which the Royals only net a soon-to-be-29-year-old minor league catcher whose AAA stats benefit from having been inflated by playing in the PCL with his home games in Las Vegas and then Albuquerque.

While playing for the Isotopes in 2009, his road split was .262/.369/.315/.685 while his home split was an absurd .359/.492/.425/.917. Moreover his road split from this past season is very much in line with his career lines at his stops along the lower levels of the minors, all in climates less arid and at elevations a lot closer to sea level. Despite his consistently high walk rates, the sudden statistical leap forward all reeks of being the minor league equivalent of the pre-humidor Rockies' numbers.

If Dayton Moore were to trade Callaspo for Ellis straight up, he would be trading an admittedly defensively challenged second baseman who is two years younger than Ellis, still one year away from arbitration-eligibility*, and carrier of an OPS+ of 114 last season for an entirely unproven, light-hitting catcher who is supposedly defensively sound.

*Apparently Callaspo has fallen six days short of the requisite service time to qualify as a "Super Two."

It is probably fair to say that a large segment of the Royals fan base is losing or has already lost faith in Dayton Moore after a disastrous offseason heading into the 2009 season.

It probably is not fair to think that Dayton Moore is hapless enough to pull the trigger on a one-for-one deal like this.

Last year offseason left us scratching our heads, as did the trades of the troubled pair of Daniels this summer, but even I cannot imagine that Dayton Moore would send Callaspo to the Dodgers for only A.J. Ellis.

That deal, even after taking into account the likelihood that Callaspo's power numbers are likely to come back down a bit next season, would be absolutely moronic. So moronic that I refuse to believe Dayton Moore would pull the trigger on a trade that ridiculous.

Failing to get at least two replacement-level Major Leaguers with some upside (or one legitimate big leaguer) back for Callaspo, one of the only desirable trading chips the Royals have, would be an unmitigated disaster.

Dayton Moore may have made a bunch of questionable moves lately, but he couldn't possibly be that insane.

I hope.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Initial Reaction To The Rumored Mark Teahen Trade To The White Sox

As I begin writing this piece, a deal has not been finalized. That being said, rumors have been swirling surrounding a deal with the Chicago White Sox that would potentially send Mark Teahen packing. In return, the Royals are purported to be receiving second baseman Chris Getz and third baseman Josh Fields.

Continuing on under the assumption that this deal ends up getting completed, my initial reaction is a bit on the tepid side. Dave Cameron makes the very valid point that the move frees up about $5 million that Mark Teahen is more than likely going to end up making after going through arbitration. The Royals certainly shouldn't be paying a player who is simply a league-average hitter that kind of money in this economic climate.

As Royals fans, we have a pretty good grasp on who Mark Teahen is. When looking at the pieces Moore may be acquiring, one would hardly say they are sexy.

At a glance, Getz would only seem to be a marginal defensive upgrade at second base from the horrid Alberto Callaspo. In 2009 (and I do not have John Dewan's Fielding Bible, so this analysis is sorely lacking), Getz held a 5.0 RF/9 to Callaspo's 4.4. Callaspo's -7.5 UZR/150 was only slightly worse than -6.7 that Getz managed. Their Fielding Percentages: Callaspo .973, Getz .986.

Offensively, Callaspo was the best second baseman in the Central, as detailed here, so it is not his bat that needs replacing. While it was only his rookie season, Getz does not have a bat that can be instantly inserted into even the Royals' measly lineup and do much of anything that Callaspo cannot do.

The one thing that Getz does bring to the table is an element of speed, as his 25 steals in 27 attempts are testament to. Whether or not Getz brings anything to the table past having an actual Major League player on the Royals' Major League roster come Spring Training is debatable, but he did make $401,000 last year and is not yet arbitration eligible.

Of slight consolation, while Getz' Major League career split of .262/.323/.346/.669 is underwhelming, his minor league experience (.286/.362/.380/.742) would indicate that he can get on-base at the very least. While it would appear that there is little to no power, he is just 26 years old, so there is not a zero percent chance that he ever hits for middling power, positionally speaking.

As for Josh Fields, it would appear that hopes for a replication of his 2007 power explosion are about as likely as Mark Teahen returning to the hallowed ground that he stepped into in 2006.

Unfortunately for the Royals, Fields is yet another OBP-deficient bat. Despite his 23 home runs in 418 plate appearances in 2007, Fields' OPS+ was a mere 101, largely because he walked an alarmingly low 35 times. That was good for an OBP of .308.

Insofar as his defense is concerned, let's just say his glove not be forcing the admittedly sub-par glove of Alex Gordon to another spot on the diamond. The last season in which Fields logged a significant amount of playing time at third, he had an RF/9 of 2.7 and a UZR/150 of -13.9. By comparison, Teahen's RF/9 at third in 2009 was 2.5 and his UZR/150 was -10.9, while Gordon had an RF/9 of 2.6 and a UZR/150 of -3.6 in his regressive 2008. No matter the position (he has also logged nominal time in left and at first), Fields is below average.

In short, Fields is your typical free-swinging power-hitter who brings little to the plate past his prodigious power and brings nothing to the field. It is a little unfair to look at his offensive numbers from the past two seasons, as he's garnered a whopping 93 games played since his 2007 breakout, but he is sporting a paltry .214/.292/.328/.621 line in that time.

Perhaps a change of scenery will do Fields good. He did talk of leaving baseball last off-season, so he clearly hasn't been happy. Whether or not that dissatisfaction can be traced to playing in Chicago cannot be unequivocally answered, but his mere $410,000 salary is meager enough that the Royals can afford to take chance on him. Especially since Fields is not yet arbitration eligible as well.

What this boils down to is the Royals cutting costs while acquiring marginal Major League talent with discernible upside. Unlike the Mike Jacobs acquisition at this time last year, this deal makes financial sense.

With their payroll stretched thin as it is, perhaps Moore has learned a lesson or two from last year's disastrous off-season (Greinke extension notwithstanding).

Moreover, hopefully the acquisition of Fields shows that Mike Jacobs will be sent packing. After all, he is basically Mike Jacobs at a tenth of the price tag. Combined, Fields and Getz will likely earn one-fifth of what Teahen is likely to get in arbitration.

Now, whether or not Trey Hillman would actually be able to utilize Fields and Getz properly is another beast entirely, but if this deal gets completed the Royals have successfully gotten legitimate talent back for an average hitter who would be making entirely too much money next season. With as much irresponsibly allocated money as was committed to the likes of Kyle Farnsworth and Yuniesky Betancourt, these kind of cost-cutting measures need to be taken, and Mark Teahen is probably not an irreplaceable piece of the Royals' puzzle.

At the very least, this would mean "Superhero" (the theme song from "Entourage", which was presumably chosen because Kevin Connolly is Mark Teahen's doppelganger) would not be heard at the K, a future I am personally all right with.