Friday, January 30, 2009

First in a Series

So I haven't really weighed in much on the Zack Greinke deal that is now a good couple of days (4) old. But I think I am up to a certain kind of task. Basically, off the top of my head, I can see three options that the Royals had laid out before themselves. And I'm going to write a pro-piece for each option. The three options are:

  • trade Zack Greinke during this offseason or by the deadline of the 2009 season.
  • sign Zack Greinke to a contract the goes into his free agent years.
  • wait and trade Zack Greinke by the 2010 deadline or let him walk after that season or extend sometime between those two periods.
Obviously, our Royals went with Option B much to the relief of Royals Nation and many other members of the Royals blogosphere. But I'll take each stance in the three different articles in this series. So starting with Option A:



When you are a small market team everything revolves around going forward to the point that sometimes, you unfortunately have to forget about the present. In our infant years, we had to deal with trading away players like Joe Foy (a young [a year older than Alex Gordon currently is] player that was slightly above average in his one Kansas City season) for a starter that pitched 200+ innings of above average ball and this guy. After that one good season by Bob Johnson, we traded him for Patek, Dal Canton and May. We took one above average player and some spare parts and turned them into two Royals Hall of Famers, one season of good starting pitching, a good reliever and some other spare parts. It was this daring that made the Royals leap out of infancy and into the playoffs within a few short years. But it took a slight risk. And Foy broke down after that and retired shortly thereafter.

We have a good chance this year, of course, but it's going to rely mostly on unknowns and will have little to do with the players brought in by the front office. Those unknowns being, of course:

1. Are Gordon and Butler ready to truly blossom as they've been expected?
2. Can Zack Greinke at least maintain what he showed last year?
3. Is the rest of the league as weak as Royals fans like to hope?

And beyond that, we don't have many incoming players that we feel are going to play well within the next year or so and we didn't really bring in a whole lot. And while the team did improve by attempting to fill in the holes, the problem is that they didn't fill the holes--they only made them less deep. So trading Greinke--while not the best fan move--MAY have been the best move to make for the organization. The reasons it didn't work in the past is because I guess Allard thought adding Roberto Hernandez would make us 100 game winners. And he was always so insistent on adding "MLB-ready" talent to our merry men of 100 game losers and that limits the ceiling on the players you're going to get back and that's not the best way to turn around the franchise. Baird also limited the players available by insisting that they play certain positions. When he traded Dye, he just had to have a shortstop to replace Sanchez. When he traded Damon, he just had to have a young shortstop and a veteran closer. When he traded Beltran, he just had to have a third baseman and a catcher. If you're limiting the field of prospects available to you, you're less likely to get the players that can do the most for you. Considering that the MLB team was in shambles and the farm system was even worse--and considering the unknown time factor (Baird had almost two years after he traded Beltran)--if Allard had taken his time and got the best young players available no matter where they were in their developmental stage, he could have had the Royals competing in a much more realistic sense and not the fairytale 2003 sense.

While we do have a nice collection of lower minor league players, there's going to be some attrition due to ability, injury and many other things, so that's going to cut into the number of players that will turn out. The more minor league talent you have, the better chance you have at assembling a team that's going to go far and do well. Now, Moose and Hosmer are up and coming for sure...but what if we're going into their third year hoping that they're going to start realizing their potential like we are with Butler and Gordon? At best, we can hope for Moose to be ready by sometime in the '11 season with Hosmer coming up in the '12 season. They may move faster or they may move slower--and to be honest, that kind of time frame is not the norm. But you'd have to imagine that the chances of them not only being up before the typical time frame AND being able to contribute right away are pretty slim.

And who is it that the Royals have in the farm system that we can count on as "sure" bets to at least offer something in the '09 and '10 seasons? Kila Ka'aihue, a player that was basically an organizational filler before his HUGE 2008 season that saw him dominate Double-A for most of the season and Triple-A for a short spurt, and Dan Cortes, a player that was a project that still has room to grow and will probably turn into a nice third starter according to non-Royal scouts and analysts. Those are some really good prospects...but they're a continuance of the disease we've been seeing over the past two decades--too spaced out! It would be nice if we had a handful of second- and third- year players that were coming into their own as top players at the time that Moose and Hosmer and Melville and Duffy and Montgomery were coming into the league. Trading Greinke would have hurt for the foreseeable future, but could have lead to a league dominated by young Royals much sooner.

And while you can argue that Dayton Moore has done a lot for the farm system including spending a lot in the draft and adding a farm team, he has clearly neglected opportunities to bring young Royals into the upper wrungs of the minor league system. There have been a lot of missed opportunities by Dayton to put talent into Double- and Triple-A meaning that there is no bridge between the young stars of today, all of which will be hard to hang onto, and the young stars of tomorrow. The new Zack Greinke countdown is on and it's a long time until the counter reaches zero, but it will likely happen just after Hosmer's rookie season. Let's hope he challenges McGwire's rookie season home run record.

Keith of Royals Prospects to join Royally Speaking

Keith Kowalski, formerly of the minor league blog Royals Prospects, will soon begin posting here at Royally Speaking. He will be writing a weekly column and I know he will be a great addition. Some of you (Ray!) may remember that Keith helped us out with our AL Central 2008 review.

Olivo/Buck/Pena

With both Miguel Olivo and John Buck returning we pretty much know what we are going to get from the catchers position - low OBP, marginal power, and a whole lot of strikeouts. I'm still mystified that DM has chosen to go the '08 route rather than keep either Olivo or Buck with Brayan Pena as the backup. I was even more confused after listening to DM talk about Pena's potential on 610 sports last night. Pena does have a meager .228/.252/.315 career line but he only has 131 plate appearances spread out over four seasons with the Atlanta Braves. However he has a .313/.362/.411 line in over 2000 minor league PA's.

Unlike Olivo & Buck, Pena makes frequent contact as evidenced by his 17 strikeouts in 240 PA's with Omaha last season. He has nothing left to prove in AAA. I suppose Moore could be looking into trading Buck though I'm not sure what his value is but I doubt it's where it was two years ago. I just find it hard to believe that Moore is content with OPS+'s of  78 & 80 behind the plate.

But then again he's the same guy who gave Farnsworth 9.25 million dollars.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More on Greinke

Right now Zack's contract  is dominating the Royals blogosphere, as well it should but there are a couple things I've read that I want address.

Some people consider this just a two year extension alluding to the fact that since he was under team control through the 2010 season all KC did was buy out his first two years of free agency. And certainly they are right because that's exactly what has happened. However there is no way that had contract talks broken down that Greinke would have remained a Royal til he hit free agency, no way. He most likely would have been traded in July 2009 enabling DM to get maximum value since the team acquiring him would have him for a year and a half. So I look at his contract as a 3.5 year extension which while not technically true is probably more accurate.

The second thing I read that I disagree with is that he has had only one good year. Again while this may be true it also isn't. Since his rookie year in 2004 he has had four seasons where he has pitched 120+ innings and has put up a an ERA+ of 120 or better in three of them ('04 - 120, '07 -127, '08 - 123). Last year he had career highs in just about everything so I get why they think that but he had given plenty of indications that such a year was not only possible but an eventuality.

I think it's interesting that people can look at the same set of facts and come to different conclusions, I'm not faulting anybody for their point of view I was just offering my conclusion.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best. News. Ever

DM finally made a move I 100% support, Zack Greinke will be wearing a Royals uniform for the next four years.

"We recognized for us to continue to get better and improve our team, we needed to have Zack with us as long as possible," Moore said. "So we made a strong effort early on in the offseason to plant the seed and move forward on a long-term deal."

This is big because admit it, like me you thought Greinke was going to be traded at some point in 2009. More importantly DM is letting fans know that the days of trading our best players for prospects are over.

It's about time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Teahen at 2nd could work

I like this move, I really do. If  Mark Teahen can play even average defense then KC may have just made their team better without dipping into free agency. I know I have been all about Alberto Callaspo starting but that was in favor of Grudz or another free agent lacking his on-base skill. Teahen put up OBPs of .357 & .353 in '06 & '07 and though it dipped to a Jacobs-like .313 last season I think he will rebound.

Even if Callaspo gets the starting nod it just adds another position for Teahen to sub making it likely that he could start four or five times a week each at a different spot. But back to the possibility of Teahen starting at 2nd, we could potentially see a lineup like this:

Crisp - CF
Aviles - SS
DDJ - LF
Guillen - RF
Jacobs - DH
Gordon - 3B
Butler - 1B
Teahen - 2B
Olivo - C

According to the Lineup Analysis at Baseball Musing (using career rate stats) this lineup would average 4.85 runs a game. (In 2008 KC averaged 4.26 runs per game.) I think if they could pull that off they could be looking at an 85 win season. I think Gordon, Butler, & Teahen will all be better than they were last season and you could make the argument (and be right) that Guillen & Jacobs couldn't possibly be worse which could push them to around 5.0 a game.

Replacing Teahen with Callaspo dropped it to 4.72 rpg, which is basically 21 runs over the course of a full season. Now if Callaspo was an above average defender you could wave that off but he's not so if Teahen at 2nd makes KC better offensively then they should pursue it. (Some may give Trey kudos for thinking outside the box but I'm not because it was outside the box thinking that gave a guy with a .348 SLG pct most of the starts at 1st base last year.)

Much like the Teahen CF experiment of '07 it's worth a shot.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gobble has value (when used correctly)

Jimmy Gobble will be back next season and it's up to Trey Hillman to realize what he has in the southpaw - used correctly Gobble is capable of being a key part of the bullpen. He is of course a LOOGY. Now I know there are those who argue that with only twenty-five man rosters it's pure folly to use one on a pitcher who can only get out left handed batters, I disagree. True Gobble does only one thing but he does it really well.

VS LHB's
Year PA's AVG/OBP/SLG OPS BB SO
2007 127 .241/.325/.398 .724 13 40
2008 69 .200/.246/.323 .569 3 18

It's an indictment of Hillman's managerial skills that Gobble had an 8.81 ERA last season. He had absolutely no business facing any right handed hitter.

VS RHB's
Year PA's AVG/OBP/SLG OPS BB SO
2007 106 .319/.377/.532 .909 10 10
2008 89 .382/.517/.676 1.193 19 9

And yet he did, in fact faced 20 more righties that lefties. And they all turned into Albert Pujols when Gobble pitched to them (correlation does equal causation, in this case anyway). It will be Trey's decision only on how Gobble is used and in effect how he performs. I know we should always be careful what we infer from statistical analysis but this is so blatantly obvious even those with stat allergies (you know who you are) should be able to figure out what's going to happen when Gobble pitches to a right handed batter.

Jimmy Gobble has value but whether or not that value is maximized will be one of the things to watch for in the 2009 season.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Morris vs Cone

Congratulations to Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, the newest members of baseballs Hall of Fame.

Let me preface this piece by saying that I don't believe either Jack Morris or David Cone belong in the HoF but Morris has some loyal supporters and continues to receive 40+% while Cone was one and done this year with less than 4%. The problem is that not only was Cone a better pitcher he was a much better pitcher. And really it's not even close. See for yourself.

Stat Morris Cone
Wins 254 194
Losses 186 126
PCT. .577 .606
ERA 3.90 3.46
ERA+ 105 120
WHIP 1.296 1.256
IP 3824 2898.2
K's 2478 2668
K/9 5.83 8.28
BB/9 3.27 3.53
H/9 8.39 7.77
ASG 5 5
WS Rings 3 5
Cy Youngs 0 1

Now again, I'm not complaining that Cone wasn't elected - I'm just curious as to why he will no longer be on the ballot while an inferior pitcher continues to receive so much support. Cone seemingly has all the things voters love: played for both New York teams, has the rings, and a Cy Young award (with KC in 1994, perhaps had he been a Met or a Yankee when he won it....). So it's just a little strange that only 3.9% of the voters named him on their ballot.

Morris' supporters claim his post-season success should carry almost equal weight with his regular season numbers however they are almost identical to Cones (7-4 3.80 vs 8-3 3.80).

Morris was supposedly the best pitcher of the 80's (although Clemens and Saberhagen would disagree) and that brings up the only compelling reason why Morris will be on the ballot next season and Cone won't; perception. It is isn't right but that's the way it is. If Cone had won six more games to reach 200 then I think he would have had a lot more support (that or retired after the 1999 season when he had a career 3.19 ERA and 128 ERA+, his last three seasons he went for 5.74 & 81) because those six wins would have changed the way voters perceived Cones career.

Cone may have never been elected had he remained on the ballot but he at least should have been in the discussion for a few more years.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Royals sign Bloomquist - Eckstein's intangibles will have to find a home elsewhere

Well I can't say I'm real excited about this one, I mean the 2008 .377 OBP was nice but appears to be a fluke. I would have rather had Eck who is much more consistent but I guess if Trey doesn't fall in love with Bloomquist and uses him as Seattle did then this is probably not going to hurt them. If they are content with an Aviles/Callaspo middle infield with Bloomquist/German backing them up then I don't have any real issues with this signing. Big if in my opinion.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Eckstein would make sense

ESPN's Rumor Central (Insider info) has suggested Kansas City as a possible destination for FJM favorite David Eckstein. I've never gotten the dislike for Eckstein as he's always struck me as a player who gives the game everything he has and then some. I understand the frustration by some people (FJM) when it comes to the hero worship by some sportswriters but that's not really Eckstein's fault. As a utility infielder who plays a capable SS & 2B he would be a good fit for the Royals and I can think of more reasons why DM should sign him than why he shouldn't.

Pros:
.351 career OBP - KC had a team OBP of .320, it never hurts to have players with on-base skills (Right DM?Hello, is this thing on? DM are you there?).

Does the little things well - Here is why alot of people dislike him, he is adept at bunting and moving runners over. While it's never wise to give an out away we have to realize that it is still part of the game and players are going to be asked to do it.

Won't hurt you defensively - While he may not have TPJs range or arm he makes up for it through positioning. He may or may not be Aviles equal at SS but he is an upgrade over Callaspo at 2B.

Post season experience - He played a big part in helping the Angels (2002) and Cardinals (2006) win the World Series. He hit .310/.364/.310 in the '02 WS and .364/.391/.500 in the '06 WS. So yeah he was a major contributor. If you want to believe that the ALC is up for grabs this season then having guys who have had successful playoff experiences will come in handy if in fact a miracle happens and KC wins the division.

No more Pena -  TPJ will most certainly be done in KC if Eckstein is signed.

Cons
Hillman may Gload him - You know what I mean, give him 500 PA's instead of 200-300 regardless of performance. Offensively Eck and Callaspo are identical hitters and Eck has the edge defensively but KC needs to find out what they have in Callaspo so benching him wouldn't be to the Royals future benefit - 2010 and beyond, when Callaspo will be here and Eck won't.

This is the only con I have and it would turn into a pro if Callaspo fails - then it would be nice to turn to Eck for the remainder of the year and with the Callaspo question answered go about finding a long term replacement after the season.