Using the mathematical skills that we at Baseball Prospectus are famous for, we can cross out the PTBNLs from the most recent trades, leaving us with:
Acquired: Ramon Ramirez
Lost: Jorge de la Rosa, Justin Huber
On paper, that’s a bad trade. The extenuating circumstance is that all three players were out of options, so in essence, what the Royals really acquired was Ramon Ramirez and a roster spot. I’d still rather have the latter than the former, but it’s closer now.
I don’t know how I ought to feel about losing Huber. I’m upset, but I’m not sure if I should be just annoyed or really, really angry.
“There are three things that always have to happen to make a team,” Royals general manager
“And for us, the way our club was shaping up, we just didn't see any opportunity for him to be on our team. He was out of options, and I just wish we had more time, because he had a terrific spring and we think he's going to be a good hitter. It just didn't work out.
“I hope he goes out and does great. He’s a terrific person, and he works hard and he cares a lot about the
I think the Royals recognize he can hit. They simply feel that he can’t hit enough to make up for his defensive shortcomings. And you know what? They might be right. Certainly, not every one-dimensional hitter who gets released turns into David Ortiz, who was released by the Twins in 2002, signed by the Red Sox in 2003, and has finished in the Top
For every Ortiz, you might have two or three guys like Jack Cust, who bounce around Triple-A for years before finally having a breakout seasons with their fifth major league team, a half-dozen guys who have to go to Japan to get an opportunity (Roberto Petagine, Tuffy Rhodes), and literally dozens of guys who, whether because they never get an opportunity or because they blow the ones they do get, never hit in the majors. Jeremy Giambi, anyone? Calvin Pickering?
Huber has hit well in the minors, but he’s only had one truly off-the-hinges campaign, 2005, when at age 22 he hit .326/.417/.560 between Double-A and Triple-A, won the Texas League MVP award and was MVP of the Futures Game as well. He’s been a .280/.350/.500 sort of hitter pretty much every season before or after 2005, and guys who hit .280/.350/.500 in the minors rarely become above-average first basemen in the majors.
The comparison that should scare Royals fans isn’t Ortiz, it’s Mike Sweeney, who let’s not forget came this close to being released by the Royals in Spring Training, 1999. (Jeremy Giambi pulled a hammy, which opened up a roster spot. I’m almost certain this was the most fortuitous injury in franchise history.) Huber and Sweeney are remarkably similar players, right-handed hitters with good bat control and line-drive power who started their careers as catchers and then struggled to find a position. Sweeney hit .310/.416/.548 as a 21-year-old in A-ball, when he played for
The difference is that Sweeney made it to the majors late that summer as a backup catcher, and after two months in Triple-A the following year, has been in the majors ever since. Huber never got that opportunity, but neither has he matched his performance in 2005 again. It could be that his bat atrophied; it could be that the Royals were right in thinking that his 2005 season was a fluke. But it’s telling that Huber’s career line in the minors, .289/.369/.495, is virtually identical to Sweeney’s: .278/.369/.497.
I don’t think this trade will come back to haunt us in 2008, because I don’t think the Padres really know what to do with him. They have Adrian Gonzalez at first base, and while they have a huge hole in left field, the reality is that Huber is not an outfielder, and it’s ridiculous to think otherwise. It’s even more ridiculous when you have an outfield the size of
As for de la Rosa, once again you could see this coming, and once again I don’t understand why the Royals spent the better part of two years trying to develop a left-handed pitcher with electric stuff and no idea how to control it, yet not once did the idea of trying him in the bullpen come up. I discussed this earlier about Joakim Soria, but the ideal starting pitcher to try in the bullpen is the guy with a ton of strikeouts, but who gives up lots of homers and walks. Ring a bell?
There’s a reason Dan Duquette once called de la Rosa “the Mexican John Rocker.” He wasn’t referring to de la Rosa’s penchant for ethnic slurs and anti-immigrant rhetoric; he was referring to de la Rosa’s stuff. You might have noticed that, before he set fire to his career, Rocker had a couple damn fine years for the Braves. As a reliever.
Soothing my frustration somewhat is that Ramon Ramirez appears to be the goods, and frankly I’m not sure why the
The nice thing about elbow injuries is that they usually only affect a pitcher’s availability, not his ability. Shoulder injuries can reduce a pitcher to a shell of his pre-injury self, but once an elbow injury heals (or is corrected by surgery) that pitcher can be back to 100%. Ramirez was outstanding this spring, and if he pitches as well as he did in 2006 he’ll be a revelation.
Even factoring in 2007, Ramirez’s career ERA is 4.45, and as has been reported in several places, his career ERA away from Coors Field is just 1.08. I wouldn’t read too much into that; he’s pitched just 33 innings on the road in his career. But that in itself is relevant, because he’s pitched 52 innings at home. A pitcher with a 4.45 ERA despite pitching 60% of his innings in Coors Field? And he’s only 26? Yes, please.
The rest of the roster seems to have fallen into place. While I had pretty strong suspicions that Huber wouldn’t make the roster, I was much more on the bubble with Leo Nunez, who I think is one of the most underrated pitchers in the organization. The acquisition of Ramirez may have pushed Nunez onto waivers, but thankfully, that appears unlikely to happen. Nunez hasn’t officially won a spot, but this quote from the Star is quite reassuring:
“He’s a guy with a power arm,” general manager
With Miguel Olivo’s suspension finalized (four games) and word coming that Jose Guillen’s suspension is likely to be commuted, here’s the Opening Day roster, best as I can tell:
Catchers: John Buck, Matt Tupman (holding the seat warm for Olivo)
Infield: Gload, Grudzielanek, Callaspo, German, Pena, Gordon
Outfield: Teahen, DeJesus, Guillen, Gathright
Starters: Meche, Bannister, Greinke, Bale, Tomko
Relievers: Soria, Yabuta, Gobble, Mahay, Ramirez, Nunez
That’s 24 players; once Olivo’s suspension is up the Royals can add a 25th player, which they have indicated will be a reliever. I think it’s nuts for any team to have 7 relievers and four bench players, but this would solve the sticky situation of what to do with Hideo Nomo: use his minor groin pull put him on the DL with a retroactive move, and activate him when Olivo’s suspension is over. If the dates don’t work, they could call up Ryan Braun for a few days or something, while simultaneously giving Nomo a chance to make a few “rehab” appearances in Triple-A and prove that he really does still have major-league stuff.
Ryan Shealy may deserve a spot, but he has options, and I see no downside to letting him go back to
What really stands out for me is that other than Tupman, who might play in one game before he’s sent to
The Royals have had exactly one winning April in the last 18 years, and one of the reasons for that is that every year the Royals start the season with two or three guys who have absolutely no business being on the roster, and it takes a few weeks for those guys to prove their incompetence to the Royals’ satisfaction. I don’t see those guys on the roster this year. I’m not saying the Royals are going to have a winning April, but I am saying they won’t be nine games out on May 1st, like they were last year.