Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trade winds...

Since God knows the Royals aren't doing anything remotely worthy of discussion on the field - unless you want me to yell at Trey Hillman some more* - the trade rumor in the Star today is a timely development.

* What should we be more upset about? That the Royals didn't pull Jose Guillen after he pulled his groin in the fifth inning yesterday - when he started walking with the gait of a penguin - or the fact that in a tie game in the eighth inning, Horacio Ramirez was on the mound? Give a free pass to Hillman if you want, since he had been thrown out of the game by that point (though managers can still make decisions from the clubhouse.) But who do we blame for the fact that over the last 9 games, a span in which the starters have struggled to throw five innings and the relief corps is completely gassed - Joakim Soria has thrown all of two innings? Have I mentioned before how much I hate modern closer usage? I thought Hillman was going to think outside the box. Well, he does play Ross Gload at first base, come hell or high-water. I guess that's thinking outside the box - most teams just aren't savvy enough to play a first baseman with a .345 slugging average every single day.

Anyway, Bob Dutton reports that the Yankees are interested in Brian Bannister, and are willing to part with Melky Cabrera.

Obviously, this isn't your standard trading deadline move, where a bad team (i.e. the Royals) trades a veteran in the final year of his contract to a contending team for a prospect or two. In this case, both players involved are established major leaguers with years to go until free agency. Bannister came into the season with 1.158 years of service time, and (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts) Cabrera had 1.157 years, which means they'll almost certainly be arbitration-eligible after this season, but they're both two weeks shy of a second full year of service, which means neither player will be a free agent until after the 2012 season.

So you're trading four-plus years of Bannister for four-plus years of Cabrera. A 27-year-old starting pitcher for a 23-year-old centerfielder. Written out like that, it looks like a no-brainer, but I'm not so sure. When Cabrera was 21, he looked like a potential star - he hit .280/.360/.391 in 2006, and anyone who can make it in the majors as a league-average hitter at age 21 has star, if not superstar, potential. But Cabrera has regressed two straight years; he hit .273/.327/.389 last season, and he's at .250/.306/.351 this year. PECOTA expected him to take a modest step forward this year, projecting a line of .283/.341/.404. Instead, his performance is around the 10th percentile of his PECOTA projection, which can only be construed as a huge disappointment.

I wouldn't write him off by any means - he's still just 23. I've long noted the similarities between Cabrera and another switch-hitting Yankees centerfielder who was lightly-regarded at the beginning of his career, Bernie Williams. Williams, three years into his career, was considered by many as a disappointment and by most as a good fourth outfielder at best. In 1994, at age 25, he took a big step forward, and from 1995 to 2002 he was arguably the best centerfielder in the game.

Cabrera, like Williams at the same age, has no obvious strength, but does everything well. He has good plate discipline - although that has eroded over time - hits for a little power, plays very good defense, has a little speed. I certainly can see the argument that if the Royals trade for him, in a year or two he could blossom into a guy who hits .300 with 20 homers and 80 walks. There ain't nothing wrong with that.

I've written about Bannister enough, and if you want to know more just read Posnanski's article in the Star today. I still believe that, going forward, Bannister will be an average to slightly above-average starting pitcher. I freely admit that I'm as emotionally tied to the guy as anyone on the Royals, and that may be clouding my judgment. But the reason I'm emotionally tied to the guy isn't just that he and I could have a conversation about baseball that no one else on the team would understand: it's that I firmly believe that intelligence is a vital and underrated attribute for a starting pitcher, and that Bannister's intelligence will serve him well in the long run.

But my biggest concern with this proposed trade is what it does with the rest of the team. Cabrera takes over in centerfield, moving DeJesus to left, and presumably Teahen takes over at first base. Which means that, in order to accomodate Cabrera, the Royals will move two other starting position players to less demanding positions - positions at which more offense will be expected of them. DeJesus is hitting .301/.361/.468, and that's excellent production out of a centerfielder. Out of a leftfielder? It's only slightly above average. Meanwhile, Teahen's .245/.313/.393 line looks even more pathetic at first base than it does in the outfield.

DeJesus has already played more games in leftfield than centerfield this year, and his defense is more valuable there as well, so that part of the equation doesn't hurt the team much. But I don't see how Teahen - learning his fourth position in two years - can be expected to be a defensive upgrade over Ross Gload at first base. More importantly, while Gload can (we hope) be looked at as a temporary solution, the Royals are more likely to look at Teahen as a long-term fixture at first base. This is a big problem, because while I haven't written much about Kila Kaaihue this year, the Royals need to accept that he's going to deserve a shot very, very soon.

There hasn't been a ton of great news coming out of the minors this year, but Kaaihue's performance in Double-A has been unreal: .307/.462/.614 with 25 homers and 80 walks in 89 games. His breakout was unexpected, but that doesn't mean it isn't real. He's not the second coming of Calvin Pickering: Kaaihue is still only 24, he's not 300 pounds, and whereas Pickering struck out at Ryan Howard-like proportions, Kaaihue has remarkable contact ability for a power hitter, having struck out only 40 times. (Only two Royals in history have walked twice as often as they struck out in a season with 300+ at-bats. George Brett - 1977, 1980, and 1985 - and of all people, the guy Brett replaced, chiropractor and nine-time groom Paul Schaal in 1971.)

Naturally, the Royals have done their best to pretend that Kaaihue doesn't exist. You'd think that the performance of the other surprise breakout candidate of the season, Mike Aviles, might make a few of them say, gee, maybe we should find out if this Hawaiian kid can out-hit Ross Gload. Instead they're thinking about installing Mark Teahen at first base.

The general rule of thumb in trades is, get the better talent in the deal, and work out the details later. If the Royals are convinced that Melky Cabrera can get turned around, if they think he can turn into Amos Otis Lite, then do the deal. But centerfield isn't exactly a problem at the moment, and the timing on Bannister is terrible - he had a lot more value six months ago, and he probably will have a lot more value six months from now.

I concede that Dayton Moore knows more about the two players than I do, and I still trust his judgment on potential impact players. But to win this trade, they have to do more than get Cabrera - they have to realign the rest of their talent appropriately. The best way to do that is to move either Teahen or Jose Guillen to another team. If only some team (like, say, Atlanta) had expressed an interest in Guillen. If only...

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering what anyone's thoughts about the middle infield are long term. Living in FL, I don't get to see the Boys in Blue often but I've watched the past few Rays games and I don't see anything wrong with Aviles' defense. He seems to get to everything in a reasonable range and his arm looks good too. For 2nd base, is there any thought to putting Jason Smith there next year? He doesn't hit for average but I think he's just under 20 HR and when he was up last year, he had some pop in just a few ABs. I think that middle infield would be decent with German as the backup (who's knows when Callaspo will appear on the scene again).

Anonymous said...

Anyone think we gave up on JP Howell too soon? I'm not sure Joey is that much better than a replacement from the minors (Costa, Maier, etc) .... it's a close call though given that our bullpen is pretty good these days but you could also use another young good arm.

Brett said...

Isn't it about time to give Shealy another shot at 1B, too? He's hitting pretty well in Omaha, and he did well in KC during the few months after the trade when he was completely healthy.

Jeff said...

Regarding Kila - power and patience are two abilities not welcomed in KC. If only he would strike out a 150 times and hit less homers, then he might have a chance at a promotion.

Nathan said...

Shealy is 28, while Kaaihu is 24. Both are probably better hitters than Gload, but Shealy hasn't really done much in AAA to declare himself part of the future. An 888 OPS in Omaha doesn't really scream MLB star, and at 28 he's not too likely to take another big step forward. Kaaihu has performed similarly* this year, and is much younger.

Jason Smith is slugging .475 for Omaha--with a .285 OBP. He has some pop, but little else to recommend him.

*So it seems to me. Anyone have the Davenport translations to check this?

Anonymous said...

Rany,

If Teahen moves to a 4th OF spot, rather than 1B, it becomes a deal you can't turn down.

It is an upgrade in the OF (both defensively and offensively), and we can replace Bannister with Rosa (probably an upgrade there also).

Done deal!

Anonymous said...

If Kila doesn't get a shot this year, or at least moved to AAA, I don't think this team ever has a chance of being good again. They screw with guys and screw with guys until finally they've got nothing left. Teahen is a good example, Justin Huber would be another.

The way to fix things here is make the trade for Cabrera, call up Shealy or Kaaihue, waive Pena, and trade Grudz for next to nothing. Gathright should also be sent down if he has options left after his DL stint. Oh yeah, Jimmy Gobble should go too. Why take up a roster space for someone who won't pitch the rest of the year? Hillman needs to start using him correctly too. Nothing but lefties, or say 1 righty between 2 lefties.

Anyways, our new defensive alignment looks like this: Kaaihue/Shealy can play 1st, Butler DH, German at 2nd, Aviles at 3rd, Cabrera in CF, Dejesus in LF and Guillen in RF. Teahen has almost played himself off of this team and should be a utility player/pinch hitter right now, even though I really like him.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... that should say Aviles at SS.

rebmoti said...

Much as I think Hillman isn't doing a good job on x's and o's (and I was at last week's Tigers finale where Oliva batted with the bases loaded and then slow as lead Butler pinch hit to lead off the next inning), there's only one reason the Royals suck so bad - all right, 5: Teahen, Gordon, Butler, Guillen and (heaven help us) Gload are all playing every day and batting below .260.

What sin have we committed that prevents us from having even one Evan Longoria amongst all these many draft choices?

Kansas City said...

Based on Rany's analysis, the Royals should make a Cabrerra for Bannister trade. The rest of the lineup will work itself out. I doubt that Guillen will last 3 years. If Teahan can't hit well enough, then he will become a fourth outfielder.

Brendan said...

There's always the risk that if you trade Bannister to the Yankees he becomes the next Aaron Small and goes something like 9-0 for the rest of the year. That said, Cabrera should be available since the Yankees just picked up Xavier Nady. Both guys are disappointments this year but I'd take Cabrera for Bannister. I don't really see why the Yankees would do this deal unless they cannot get Washburn. Money is not an issue to them and they should get Hughes and Wang back before long.

Isaac said...

I think that you have to accept by default that whoever comes from the Yankees to the Royals will have their OBP fall and not rise. This is what the Royals teach their players from the very beginning. Trading Bannister for Melky would be bad bad mistake. Why make a trade that provides nothing that would warrant that trade? This one does not.

I have been praying that Maier starts hitting because I have looked at it as another way to convince the Royals front office to give players that are tearing it up in the minors a chance in KC. A guy who has hit 25HRs, has 80BBs, and 40Ks in 89 games deserves a chance regardless of who you have at the major league level. The fact that our first baseman is Ross Gload (I like him btw) increases the need to give Kila a shot.

Why we still have Pena is beyond me. Why Gobble is still on the team as our LOOGY when we have two other left handers who do as well against lefties as Gobble and can get righties out for the most part is beyond me. Hillman has misused Gobble so badly that Gobble is worthless in my mind. Gathright has no place on this team either. As Rany talked about already, a guy who has speed and nothing else and has an OBP of .305 is worthless more or less.

These things seem like common sense to me and most others I think so why doesn't it come across as common sense to the Royals front office? There are so many things I'd love an answer for in regards to how they are running this team.

Justin said...

Alright, if you're going to pull the trigger on a deal like this and completely screw with Teahan and make him learn a fourth position, why not have him try to learn 2nd base, like I heard someone say a couple of years ago when Alex was still in Wichita? Grud won't last forever and there is nothing in the middle infield down the road. Give him the rest of the year as the utility/PH to learn the position, then have him as your starting 2B starting next season?

Anonymous said...

First of all, do not make the Bannister trade (and I really have a hard time believing that rumor has traction, even if it was reported by Dutton who is often on the money). Secondly, I think the Kaaihue situation is pretty simple to work out. Bring Shealy up to the big club NOW, for a second audition (waiting any longer won't give him enough time to give a real audition). Plug Kaaihue into Shealy's spot at AAA. Odds are that either Shealy will falter in the majors or Kaaihue will simmer down. Perhaps both will play vanilla baseball. Perhaps both will become monsters. But in both cases, regardless of what happens, you're getting a truer picture of what each can do, and then adjust the roster accordingly (in the offseason). I'm really against any trades at all at the deadline this year, fun as trades are. Rany, you brought up a great point about the value of honoring contracts (i.e. that of Ron Mahay) and how trading guys willy nilly hurts your future chances of signing free agents. Plus, we're going to need Mahay next year. No trades; move up the sluggers.

Anonymous said...

Rany, you won't believe the comments I heard Moore make on the radio this weekend.

I'm paraphrasing, but when asked about the 1B situation, he replied that the Royals think Shealy was only a 15 homer guy, and unless they have a potential 25 homer guy, then the speed and defense provided by Gload was more important in our large ballpark.

So many issues with that, huh? First of all, speed and defense are NOT all that important at 1B, even if you're playing games on Jupiter. Secondly, you play HALF YOUR GAMES ON THE ROAD, DAYTON. Third, if I accept your premise, then get rid of Shealy and promote Kaaihue NOW. Let's find out if he can meet your power minimum, and the sooner the better. There can't be any development potential left for Kaaihue at the AA level, can there? THEN MOVE HIM UP.

This was the most disconcerting thing (by a long shot) I've heard Dayton say since he was hired. Sorta makes you wonder...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, since someone brought up Evan Longoria, he is a strong argument for why we should have drafted Justin Smoak this year. Advanced College hitter. (Then again, Gordon was an advanced college hitter...)

ac said...

Where have you gone, Alex Gordon?

Please come back.

Regards,

AC

konza847 said...

At what point do the Royals suck it up and come to grips with the reality that Teahen doesn't have the bat to carry a corner?

Simply put, if he can't play second, short, or center, he isn't of much value to this team.

Instead of moving him to first base, where he's not much different than Gload, why not work him at second or short?

Or since he was originally a third baseman, and that's the least offensive of any of the corner infield positions, why not move Gordon to the middle of the infield and put Teahen back at third?

His time has to be running out. The Royals can't afford to pay big bucks for replacement level performance. I can definitely see a take it or leave it offer in the fall- and a non-tender if he elects arbitration.

Anonymous said...

Rany, how do you feel about Dutton's report of the Royals rejecting an offer of Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano for Zack Greinke and Mark Teahen?

Ron Rollins said...

How about we trade Hillman and Moore for two baboons?

Or in other words, someone more capable of being a GM and manager for this team?

rebmoti said...

I would much rather have DeJesus in CF than Cabrera (can someone explain why he's not playing there?), and the Royals need pitching much more than they need another middling outfielder. So, no to this trade.

Kevin said...

The problem with both Teahen and Buck is that the Royals got them in trade for Beltran. So, whether conscious or not, they're giving them very extended chances to "perform". Sort of similar to investors' holding onto losing stocks in hopes they'll at least make it back to even instead of taking the loss.

Unfortunately, in both cases, I think we're already seeing their peak performance.

Scott said...

The Yankees were ready to deal Cabrera for Reggie Sanders a year or two ago. If only . . . .

Shelby said...

The Yankees offered Cano and Melky for Zack?

They can just kiss my ass.

Anonymous said...

Well, according to the Arkansas Naturals website, Kila got moved to AAA last night. There's nothing about it anywhere else, though, so I don't know what this does to Shealy.

http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080728&content_id=438803&vkey=pr_t1350&fext=.jsp&sid=t1350

Brendan said...

In 2010 and 2011 I think this season will looked upon favorably for the experience gained by some of the young players on the team. (At least I hope it will.) Right now the Royals are on pace for 72-73 wins and might finish out of the cellar. It's essentially what I was hoping for at the beginning of the year. Speaking of Robinson Cano, maybe Alex Gordon is a second half player. 3 Hits last night including an HR and Oakland had a LHP on the hill.

Anonymous said...

And now ESPN is reporting that the Phillies may be willing to send Jason Donald to the Royals for Ron Mahay.

I looked at the kid's AA stats and he is doing a fine job. He looks like a REAL prospect if not even "can't miss". If we can get a guy that just might be our starting SS for the next six years for a 37 year-old reliever... I say... PULL THE TRIGGER!!!

And that is despite the fact that I do appreciate Ron's professionalism and recognize that he has been a consistent performer.

Go Royals!!! C-ya, AusSteveW

RD said...

Jose Guillen wants out according to ESPN reporter Enrique Rojas. Not surprising after the article in the star today. I think we should make this happen. Bring up the kid from Double A (Kila)to play first. Let Teabag play right. Get a shortstop for Guillen move Aviles to 2nd.

This is so easy from the comfort of my home. Maybe Dayton will bring me on to help out.

Anonymous said...

Guillen and Teahen to Atlanta for Francoeur and Lillibridge.

Brendan said...

Angels land Teixeira. Wow! The team with the best record in baseball just got better. So glad to see he didn't go to the Yankees. Hopefully, the Angels resign him. I have to rank the Angels as World Series favorites now. I also just read the report that Guillen wants out.

Shelby said...

yeah, get rid of Guillen.


Give him the Guillentine.


If we can get a decent power-hitting prospect out of him and maybe a pitching prospect, friggin' go for it and QUICK. NOW is the time.

Shelby said...

According to the KC Star Guillen denies everything and says he and Tillman are fine with each other.

Still, the guy's a douchebag and needs to be traded.

Kevin said...

I don't understand it but it sure seems the Royals are just going to stand pat and do nothing before the trade deadline. Probably it's mostly a sign that nobody wants we we gots. This team shouldn't be doing nothing.

We should send Pena and Gathright to Omaha or lower. We should shake things up by shipping Teahen anywhere for almost anything. He's peaked so we might as well try some other "prospect".

Shelby said...

I refuse to believe that Teahen has peaked.

I think we can at least partially blame hitting coach. It was clear that he did something right when he came back up in '06, and then something happened between 9/06 and 4/07. And no one figured it out. Somebody could figure it out.

Charlie Lau?

Kevin said...

Shelby, I'll agree with you we definitely need to make a major move on the hitting coach. And, I hope I'm wrong about Teahen because I don't see the Royals ever moving him because of what I said in an earlier post, that they are still mentally trying to make Baird's Beltran trade payoff. But, unfortunately, I think you're wrong. One hot streak 2 years ago isn't enough.

In 2006 he had 393 AB (109 G), right now, if baseball-reference.com is current he has 363 AB (96 G) but he is much worse (.290 vs .248 BA and .517 vs. .394 SLG). He is not improving.

Anonymous said...

Let's start the movement right now....Kevin Seitzer for hitting coach. He got a bad rap in Arizona but alot of the players there credit him for their success. The guy runs a hitting clinic in Kansas City, had a successful career, and even lives in town....why not?

Kevin said...

Fine by me with Seitzer. How can he be worse?

I guess it could be just a smokescreen, but over at mlb.com there is an article with GMDM basically saying "no deals are in the works, we like our team." What? This bums me out because I guess I view a team that is 10 games below .500 and on pace for 74 wins (not really any different than last year) should not be or act satisfied. There is always something that can be done to improve. Hell, even the ANGELS see a need to improve.

Charles said...

Kila needs to come back to Northwest Arkansas, the Nats are on a hot streak and need his offense if they are going to win the second half of the Texas League North.


Ok not really, all of us Natural fans are happy to finally see Kila get his shot in AAA. He has absolutely raked and has brought a lot of folks out to the ballpark for the first year of AA baseball in Springdale. I'd love to see him get a September callup.

Tom in ATL said...

Five walks for Gordon today. Two were intentional, but still. Must be are record for the Royals.

Nathan said...

"Guillen and Teahen to Atlanta for Francoeur and Lillibridge."

If there's any chance Atlanta would bite on this, we would be out of our minds not to do it.

Nathan said...

There seems to be a lot of skepticism toward Dayton Moore in the comments here. I think Moore's plan to hold this team together unless somebody gives us a great deal is the right one. Given his activity last winter, he likely intends to add significant pieces via free agency and try to contend in 2009. That's why he isn't eager to deal away players like Bannister, Mahay and Guillen for prospects. Suppose we one or two big names of Teixeira, Dunn, or Sheets ilk to the current roster? It just might work. There's a lot of talent on this team right now, especially with reasonably expected improvement from Butler and Gordon. There's also enough minor league depth that we shouldn't be hurting for playable bench bats (Shealy, Costa) or fifth starters (Rosa, Cortes). I think this approach is much better than reflexively trading away veterans and endlessly building for five years from now. It certainly gives more palpable hope to the fans.

It's way, way, too early to turn against Moore as GM. This team was a disaster when he took over, and it's already notably better.

Brendan said...

I couldn't believe the 5 walks when I saw the box score. 30 saves for Soria!

Shelby said...

Nathan is way, way right.

Brendan said...

I'm pretty sure that Moore has offered Mahay to Boston straight up for Brandon Moss.

Kevin said...

Don't get me wrong, I like GMDM and think that every move has been pretty good. My only concern is that we continue in the "hope mode" waiting for break out years from so many guys that it just seems aren't going to come. Although, I give DeJesus a LOT of credit - he really is having that year. They do just enough to tantalize and then falter back to mediocre again. Yes, I'm just frustrated. It's amazing when you look around the league and see other teams seem to be able to go cellar to first, or at least make significant progress, i.e. the Rays this year. The Royals never seem even close to it.

Kevin said...

Oops! I have to amend my assessment of GMDM. All his moves except Yabuta have been decent!

We all know that Nomo was just a flier.

Shelby said...

The other day on the ESPN discussion of the tampa bay/KC game, a tampa bay fan had the gall to tell me "You guys look like you might have a decent team someday, just hang in there."

And then my head exploded.