Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Auld Lang Syne.

This is the most frustrating time of year for baseball fans. The year is almost out and the nation is shutting down for the holidays – which would be well and good if baseball shut down as well, affording all of us two weeks to detox from the Hot Stove League and re-introduce ourselves to our families and all that.

The problem is that while baseball almost shuts down, there’s always the possibility of some news, a trade, a free agent signing, so you can’t help but refresh on MLBTradeRumors.com (hi Tim, and thanks for the links) or your sports portal of choice. As soon as you think nothing’s going to happen while you’re on vacation between Christmas and New Year’s, bam! Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley are traded to San Diego for Derek Bell and Phil Plantier in a 12-player deal on December 28th. So you have to stay plugged in, even though 99% of the time you’ll be watching the paint dry. (Yankees fans are exempt from this.)*

*: You could argue that the Royals – or at least David Glass – should be happy that Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees. After all, the Yankees are always over the luxury tax threshold, so adding Teixeira means more luxury tax means more money in Glass’s pockets. The details are still coming in, but Tex’s contract looks to be about for $22 million a year. Multiply that by the 40% luxury tax rate = $8.8 million. Divide that by 29 other teams, and you get about $300,000. That’s 300 grand a year in David Glass’s pocket, and the actual number is probably higher than that, as (I believe) luxury tax revenue is apportioned to teams at least partly based on their own revenues, so a low-revenue team like the Royals will get more. So let’s say 500 or 600 grand a year. The Yankees get Mark Teixeira, and in return the Royals get a month of Kyle Farnsworth. Or, if they’re smart, a quality amateur signing out of Latin America.

If you’re desperate for any Royal rumors, Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Royals would like to sign Jerry Hairston, but don’t have the payroll flexibility to afford him. If that’s true, that’s unbelievably sad and criminally negligent on the part of Dayton Moore. It’s one thing to not afford Furcal, but Jerry Hairston? And with Furcal off the board, Hairston isn’t a bad fit for the team – he’s a decent hitter, knows how to draw a walk, and can play shortstop well enough that he’s a reasonable fill-in option, but not so well as to tempt the Royals into moving Mike Aviles off the position.

But the Royals can’t afford him, because they just spent $4.6 million a year on Farnsworth; $3 million (approximately) on Mike Jacobs; $2.7 million on Miguel Olivo; and $1.8 million on Horacio Ramirez. That’s $12.1 million for 2009; subtract out the league minimum for the four roster spots those guys will hold, and that’s $10.5 million spent on four players who do not materially improve the Royals next season (especially since you’d still have Leo Nunez.) That’s enough money to sign Rafael Furcal. Instead the Royals don’t have enough money to sign Jerry Hairston.

The Royals would have enough money to sign Furcal and Hairston if Dayton Moore hadn’t spent $12 million a year on Jose Guillen last winter. I don’t want to beat a dead horse into the ground, but I just have to point out that the Angels just signed Juan Rivera to a three-year deal for $12.75 million. Not $12.75 million a year - $12.75 million for all three years.

This is amazing and more than a little galling if you’re a Royals fan, because Juan Rivera and Jose Guillen are pretty much the same player. Guillen’s career line is .273/.323/.446, with a career OPS+ of exactly 100. Rivera’s line is .284/.331/.468 with a 106 OPS+. Rivera is 30 years old – Guillen was 31 when he signed with the Royals. Granted, when Guillen signed he had the better recent numbers, whereas Rivera missed almost all of 2007 and hit poorly in part-time play in 2008 (but mashed the ball - .310/.362/.525 – in 2006).

Baseball analysts (I dislike the term “sabermetricians”, because of the stereotypical images that it conjures up more than anything else) are constantly accused of caring about the numbers. The reality, though, is that we couldn’t care less about the numbers – we care about what the numbers mean. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what Jose Guillen’s batting average was last year – but I can tell you that his overall mix of baseball skills is highly overrated and barely merits an everyday job, let alone $12 million a year. I don’t particularly care whether Jose Guillen or Juan Rivera is 1% better than the other. What I care about is that the established record suggests that Guillen and Rivera are pretty much the same player – highly-aggressive right-handed hitters with good power and questionable defensive value in a corner outfield spot. That one player is making three times the other is 10% a reflection of the economy, and 90% a reflection of the way these two players are perceived, a perception that does not jibe with reality at all.

There are many skills that are required of a general manager, and defining a GM as “good” or “bad” is terribly simplistic. Dayton Moore does many things well, and he still has my support as the man who could lead the Royals to the playoffs once again. But after three off-seasons to prove himself on the free-agent market, with one notable exception (Gil Meche), all he has proven is that he is prone to wildly overspending for highly replaceable talent. For all he does well – and really, Moore has done almost everything else well – the Royals are unlikely to make the playoffs unless and until he learns to ration his disposable dollars with more care.

We’ll probably be going dark here at RotR for the next week or so. Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas per se, but we certainly honor the spirit of the holiday. It is written in the Qu’ran (19:33) that when Jesus spoke from the cradle, he said, “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!” We unfortunately don’t know what day he was born, but December 25th works for me.

So if you’re celebrating Christmas on Thursday, then let me wish you a Merry Christmas. If you’re celebrating Hanukkah, then let me wish you a Happy Hanukkah. If you’re celebrating Kwanzaa or Festivus or any other holiday that I fail to mention – we Muslims just celebrated our Eid two weeks ago – I hope it is a happy and safe one. And I hope to see you all next year.

In the meantime, if any of you want to suggest ideas for what I ought to write about between now and Spring Training, please feel free to comment, with the caveat that I may feel free to ignore your idea. I do have at least one project I plan to write about in January – call it the Royals Time Capsule if you will. But that’s a project for another day.

44 comments:

TyRone said...

Hey Rany,

TyRone would love to read about what you've learned of the Allard Baird era.Also, how you think our rotation ranks among the rest of the league this year (and is H. Ramirez really going to be a part of it). Thanks!

Callaway Dan said...

It doesn't appear as though Furcal had much interest in signing with KC. In fact, it looks like he only had interest in using other offers to jack up the price for the Dodgers.

I'm not saying that we've spent our money wisely this off season, only that having a pile of money would not likely have brought Furcal to KC.

Mike said...

Topic Ideas:

- Best/Worst Allard Baird/Herk/Dayton moves. This leaves a lot of leeway, but could provide quite an in depth look at our past and present team.

- The AAA squad. A couple angles.
1. I've heard AA is the "new" AAA. Is this true?
2. Ignored players (by the organization).

- Miles Prentice

- What are the Royals going to do at catcher? Olivo, Buck, Pena, House - I just can't see the Royals sticking with both Buck and Pena on the big league squad.

- Pretend you are the GM of the Twins, Tigers, Indians, Royals, and White Sox. Assess your strenghts and weaknesses.

Anonymous said...

Love readin the blog Rany, Thanks for all the updates.

Bryan said...

Rany

I enjoy your blog. As a Royals fan it is difficult to find enough to read, but I especially enjoy your rational and well thought out writing.

I know this has been done ad nauseum, but isn't it time to revisit true revenue sharing. What have the Yankees spent in the last month? More than the rest of the league could spend during the entire offseason, I think. They can have Teixeira, and anybody should want Burnett and Sabathia, but this is not sane.

Most of the revenues come from local cable deals, but why not do a national television deal. Today, every team has nearly every game televised. This is much different that a decade ageo. Why not forge some kind of national deal for television. Obviously the Yankees and Red Sox would go kicking and screaming, but something has to be done. And I know that Mr. Glass has attempted and been basically beaten down by other owners in his attempts to revenue share, but it is time for some big ideas to arise in order to reshape the game.

One other idea I had was what would this team look like with Torii Hunter. I really think the Guillen signing was done in frustration by Moore when he couldn't get his guy. I'll never know why we competed against ourselves to sign Guillen, but how much different is this team with a true leader, a Hal McRae type, on it. That one signing would have made a big difference for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Greetings.

Been reading your column for a while now and finally bookmarked it at the end of the year. I've been very impressed with your insight.

If you're looking for something to write about... you could always wax nostalgia and compare the upcoming season to the Royals' seasons of the 80s or the championship team of 85, such as the differences in the pitching staff (seasoned starter like Leibrandt/Black/Meche, and the "rookies" of Greinke, Hochevar, and Bannister to Saberhagen and Gubicza), the belief that Gordon could be another Brett, similarities/differences between White and Aviles. Of course there are deep differences, but the end of the year is the time to be nostalgic.

Anonymous said...

Rany - Thanks for the site. I'd like to know, statistically, how much of a difference a hitting coach makes to a team. Not sure it's totally quantifiable but might be to some extent by looking at hitters who change teams.

Lance

Robert said...

Thanks for your column, Rany. It's always a pleasure to read.

I'm interested to know if there's any calculable premium for signing a good player to a non-competitive, small market team. My hunch says that a player and agent would expect a higher salary for signing with a team that has less chance of making he playoffs. I suspect that whether a team is small market might also have an effect, because the volatility of small market teams might be higher.

This brings me to echoing Bryan's interest in reading something about the current non-salary cap program and how it helps/hurts teams/players across the league (and also players from Japan or elsewhere).

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Rany,

Maybe you could list the moves Dayton should have made instead. Ones you would have made to improve the club. Using the same budget that Dayton was working with.

Thank for everything.

Anonymous said...

I like a few of the above-listed ideas for future columns. However, the thing that IMMEDIATELY came to mind when you requested our suggestions was this:

Could you PLEASE list all of our key front office personnel and detail to the best of your knowledge what their specific roles are on the team. I am talking about the GM, Scouting Directors, Farm and Personnel Directors, Assistants to the GM, and those types of guys.

I ask this because it seems like we have many of these types of guys around counting GMDM, Taylor, Arbuckle, and a couple of others. I THINK I appreciate having that amount of experience as the "braintrust" of the team, but really, what does each guy bring to the table for the Royals???

Go Royals!!! C-ya, AusSteveW

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping royals fans in the know with this blog. it's always a good read.

I'm a sucker for lists and would love to see your all time royals line up at each position...with analysis behind each pick.

Brendan said...

Thanks for the blog Rany! It's been a great read throughout the year. I suppose I'd like to get a better understanding of how the signings so far are going to yield "real bargains" for teams among the remaining free agents. It now looks like Manny Ramirez will not be with the Angels or Yankees next season and we know the Red Sox will not sign him. I've also read that the costs of signing players like Derek Lowe and Adam Dunn have decreased. I would think that signing Manny Ramirez could bring an extra maybe 5,000 fans a game to Kauffman Stadium regardless of his attitude problems. Is this something that an owner like David Glass would consider given that Moore has said they are dwelling on the threshold now at $70 million? The Royals have not produced a good major league outfielder since Beltran/Dye/Damon?

Jay in Houston said...

I couldn't get Poz to do this so I'll ask you. And if that doesn't work I may have to start my own blog to get this done.

I want to see the Royals compared with the Marlins, who, with less than half of OUR payroll (shocking) are consistently more competitive than us.

How is this possible? Do they have the best GM in baseball? The best in the history of baseball? And why doesn't he work for Yanks or Angels or some other big market club?

Just look at some of their moves. Some (like Cantu) you could argue are luck, but the fact that they get these guys every year suggests otherwise:

Jorge Cantu (off the scrap heap)
Mike Jacobs (turned into Leo Nunez)
Cameron Maybin (watch out for him in '09. came over in the deal for dontrelle and cabrera)
Hanley Ramirez (I think he was part of the Josh Beckett deal)
AJ Burnett
Anibal Sanchez
Josh Johnson
Ricky Nolasco

The list goes on and on. Their GM has an uncanny knack for trading players about to get a huge raise for player about to have a huge breakout. I've never seen anything like it.

Why isn't this talked about more? And what are they doing better than or different from us?

Jay In Houston said...

btw, there's no doubt Hanley Ramirez is the best player in all of baseball.

with all due respect to arod and pujols, but they don't play SS.

Anonymous said...

the fact that they play in the national league also cannot be underestimated

Your Mom said...

I would be thrilled if you wrote about the idea of a hard cap. We're way past time for that.

Chris C said...

I would enjoy reading about your analysis of the AL Central division as it stands heading into spring training.

Anonymous said...

"btw, there's no doubt Hanley Ramirez is the best player in all of baseball.

with all due respect to arod and pujols, but they don't play SS."

Ramirez doesn't play SS either, he's just kind of there.

Anonymous said...

I think before you mentioned that you learned more about the failure of the Allard Baird era, we'd love to hear more about that.

Oh, and I love your blog

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see an article about the real effects of Kauffman on our homerun totals. I tend to believe it has more to do with the talent the last 25yrs. I just refuse to believe that if the Royals had players like Dunn, Howard, or Uggla we would still have Balboni as our single season record holder.

Anonymous said...

"This is amazing and more than a little galling if you’re a Royals fan, because Juan Rivera and Jose Guillen are pretty much the same player. "

I don't think much of Guillen, but it's pretty dishonest to neglect to mention that Guillen has hit 20+ homers in 4 out of the last 5 seasons & Rivera's done it once.

Anonymous said...

Rany, I love the blog, keep up the good work in 2009.

First, I agree that Moore spends way too much for a player like Guillen. But I also think that’s what it takes to bring even borderline talent to K.C. Let’s be honest, if you were Hunter or Furcal, would you really come to K.C. to play when you could take $1 to 2 million less a year and actually play for a contender? I think until K.C. proves that they can actually contend….or at least not finish at or near the bottom of the division every year, that they will have to continue to pay greater than fair market value for players. With any luck, perhaps Jacobs and Crisp will improve the team enough that K.C. will have a little more creditability when attempting to attract future free agents.

Anonymous said...

Rany, I wish to thank you for your time and effort bringing us Royal fans a bit of reporting class. I personally feel your blog is by far the best source of information on our MLB team. Yes, Major League Team. Yes, the best information.

As other Royal fans doubtlessly experience far too often, I have “reporting envy.” When blessed with the time catch up with my team from any other source I often come up woefully short. When I do read about KC I find this type of fascinating junk. For example I do not give a “rat’s patoote” about Kyle Davies part time job. (KC Star) I’d like opinions on why a players like Calaspo are still playing serious Winter ball, instead of jumping the gun and training with our new hitting coach.

With a mouse click one can become informed of the latest big market team movements from dozens of major sources. I search for a scraps here or there regarding KC. Your blog is such a great source written with the skill many in the professional field don’t possess. I no longer make fun of how MDs write prescriptions poorly.

I have nothing much to suggest, your articles are perfecto. If anything would like your list of 10 projected Royal minor or major league surprises for 2009.

Again, thanks for the simply outstanding gift of your expertise and talent.

Jamie said...

The Braves are still looking for a RF/LF possibility, what about Jose Guillen? If the Royals would eat say...2m a year on the rest of the contract and ask for A ball talent in return. I could see this one materializing. Then perhaps we could afford Orlando Cabrera or one of the big name OFers still left on the market; Burrel or Dunn.

Anonymous said...

maybe Cincinnati would prefer Guillen to Jerry Hairston Jr?

Lee said...

How about a deeper look at Bannister in 2008 and how he projects for 2009-2010.

Anonymous said...

Why would the Braves want Guillen when they could sign Burrell or Dunn themselves, Jaime?

Look, bottomline we are stuck with Guillen. Hopefully we can get off to a good start and the winning will keep him happy for awhile. That being said, if we don't trade Teahen, I bet it takes under 30 games for Guillen to start bitching about sharing time with Teahen and losing at bats. Some BS about not being able to get into a groove or something.

dan said...

Rany,
It seems to me Moore is raising the payroll to $80 million in the next year or two and $100 million after that. I think he is bringing in these free agents to buy a few wins and to allow time to bring along the draft choices and sign them. This works if Hosmer, Mustakas, Hochaver, Gordon, and Butler pay dividends. The pitching pipeline Moore seems to be building is filling at double A and below in 2009 so is still a couple of years away. It seems to me that what we get before that pitching pipeline fills is just gravy. Go Dayton, I'm drinking the koolaid.

Anonymous said...

I know people are down on Jacobs but what if Dayton is right again? Everyone around baseball laughed at the money we gave Meche and so far it looks like a steal. I understand the Jacobs move is weird given our current roster and players in the pipeline, but what if he works out. What if he plays so well it make other players expandable for trades? What if he & Butler play well enough you can trade one at very high value during the season? Meche was 28 when he signed so is Jacobs, maybe just maybe this move will work out. If it does we can keep him or trade him or trade other players. Let's keep the faith before we right off the year

Anonymous said...

So, do you think the Royals would revisit walking away from Buck after the arbitration hearings, which in theory, would allow them to sign Hairston?

Anonymous said...

Hey Rany,

First off, great blog. You should get Neyer to submit once a month to relive old times.

A couple of topics I think would be good for this dead period before spring training:

1) What are the prospects of us dumping Buck and bringing up Pena as our backup C? Pena is hitting well and with power in the winter league, and can't be worse offensively than Buck.

2) I would love to see an in-depth look at our big time prospects, how they have fared through last season and, if applicable, any winter/fall league, and then some estimates as to when we should expect them to arrive on the big league club. Additionally, is there any chance we could see Moustakas shoot through the system similar to Longoria?

Anonymous said...

I agree, let's profile B. Pena and discuss how awful it would be to carry Buck rather than him. Also, for further head pounding, let's discuss why the Royals, even with new front office, still refuse to cut bait on anyone (I'm looking at you, Ross Gload), preferring rather to jam them onto the roster at all cost. And I second the motion on write-ups of a handful of prospects, and Rany's thoughts on trading many of them away (since we generally fail at getting them past AA - I'm excluding only Hosmer, Moustakas, and one or two pitchers here).

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dan's take, though I'm not quite as optimistic about it working. My rose-coloured glasses tell me that Dayton's looking for short-term improvements without sacrificing the long-term development. While I may not like every single decision he's made in this process (I'll be watching you, Mr. Jacobs), I think is rational and keeps us from ruining talent. It also keeps us from wasting service time. We should have had Grienke and Gordon spend another year of development in the minors instead of burning that year of development against their six years of service time. Hopefully, moves like this will allow prospects like Moose to develop in a more optimal manner.

Anonymous said...

Rany, I need help! How is it that the Yankees are able to sign three Type A free agents? And how in the world is it possible that they could still sign more, i.e. why does no one question that the Yanks could still sign Pettitte or Manny? There has been some talk of this over at Royals Authority, but I can't get a definitive answer.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to read more about the big guns in our front office - With Moore, Taylor and now Arbuckle we have a pretty strong crew, even moreso now with Arbuckle ...how much of a difference can HE make?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to read why the hell GMDM hasn't made some moves to unclog some of the jams in the outfield and infield corners. I'm sure he as well as other GM's are waiting for some more free agents to sign but I'm getting antsy. I need trades for the sake of trades!

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to read why the hell GMDM hasn't made some moves to unclog some of the jams in the outfield and infield corners."

Because nobody wants Ross Gload (except DM).

Anonymous said...

I sorely hope we get in on some of the remaining FA pitchers... Lowe, Sheets, Wolf, etc. I think thats the one thing that could make us legit in the 2009 central division race

Anonymous said...

Wolf is crap and Lowe is waaaay to expensive. I'd like to see the Royals gamble on an incentive laden deal for Sheets though. He is flat out dominant when healthy. Grienke, Sheets, and Meche as 1, 2, 3. Wow....

Anonymous said...

Not to beat a dead horse, but Burrell for 2 years/16 mil? Too bad we couldn't have waited one more year to find the big right handed hitting bat.........

Ryan said...

Cubs get Milton Bradley for 3 years/$30 million. Sure he's an injury prone, headcase, but he's six million dollars cheaper and a much better hitter than Guillen.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of hearing about Guillen. Yes....it is a bad deal and we all wish we could get out of it and spend the money on someone else. However, we all wanted power last year and Dayton's first couple choices turned us down. He had to get some power in KC somehow. Do we all wish we could go back in time? Yes....but I could say that about alot of deals. (Sweeney, Berroa, Mark Davis) Besides....it's not like he is Sweeney and not even playing. While Guillen is overpaid, borderline crazy and just a complete d*ck, his numbers are decent despite his OBP. He is not a complete waste of money, just not worth the amount he is making.

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