Thursday, December 11, 2008


“We’ve added two productive everyday position players for about $9 million,” Moore said. “We would not have been able to do that in the free-agent market.”

No, Dayton, you’ve added two everyday position players – I’d hold off on proclaiming them both “productive” for the moment – for over $14 million.

Coco Crisp: $6.25 million

Mike Jacobs: $3.25 million (estimate)

Kyle Farnsworth: $4.625 million

You can’t claim that Coco Crisp only costs you $6.25 million when you spend almost as much money to replace the guy you traded to get him. That assumes Farnsworth is a true replacement for Ramon Ramirez – and given that the former had a 4.48 ERA last year, and the latter a 2.64 ERA, that’s an awfully bold assumption.

One of the most common mistakes a GM can make is to spend money just because he can. Moore has received a license from Dayton Moore to raise the team’s payroll, and he deserves full credit for obtaining that license, something Allard Baird, for whatever reason, could never do. But a license to spend money is not a mandate to spend money. Kyle Farnsworth will not be paid with a big pile of $100 bills that Moore had just rescued from a bonfire. That was money in David Glass’s bank account, and whatever your feelings are on the creditworthiness of banks at the moment, if Moore had left that money where it was, there’s a good chance it still would have been there if he came back with a request for more money later.

Like, say, if he had wanted to pull out all the stops to signing Rafael Furcal. I’m not 100% sold on the idea of signing Furcal – I think Aviles deserves a chance to prove he can’t play shortstop, and I think Callaspo deserves a chance to prove he can’t maintain a .360 OBP. But I’ve come around to Joe Posnanski’s point of view, which is that the Royals are a lot closer to contending than most people realize, and while Furcal is a risk given his age and recent injury history, if he’s healthy he’s going to be an impact player for at least the next two years. It’s not unreasonable to think he can have enough of an impact to alter the outcome of the AL Central.

The Royals could offer $11 million a year on Furcal, who might prove irrelevant but at the same time might have a huge, postseason-caliber impact on the team. Or they could spend nearly half that much money on a player who at his best is a decent middle reliever, and hasn’t been at his best in four years.

More and more, it’s clear that Moore is aggressively trying to make the Royals into a contender in 2009-2010, with the caveat that he won’t do anything that might hamstring the Royals from building a year-in, year-out juggernaut in 2012 and beyond. In that vein, I understand why he’d sign someone like Farnsworth over Juan Cruz, who several readers have pointed out is a Type A free agent and would have cost the Royals their second-round pick. All Farnsworth costs the Royals is some of David Glass’s money. If you’re of the opinion that the Royals are still two years away from contention, then this move doesn’t matter one way or the other.

But if you’re of the opinion that the Royals can contend in 2009 or 2010 – and so long as Zack Greinke is under contract, I think they can – then you have to ask yourself, was there a better way to spend this money to win more games over the next two years? Maybe Glass’s bank account is inexhaustible, and there’s still money left in the till for Furcal. But if there isn’t, then Moore just blew his chance to sign an impact everyday shortstop for a hot-headed, over-rated, meatball-grooving middle reliever.

(Make that two relievers: Doug Waechter?)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter Meetings.

Every year, we look forward to a winter meetings event filled with big trades and surprising free agent signings – and every year, it turns out to be a dud. This year has been no exception so far, although things usually start moving a little in the last 24 hours.

One player we hope will not be moving is Zack Greinke. Here’s how things have changed under Dayton Moore: when I first heard the rumor that Moore was talking to the Braves about a Greinke-Francoeur swap, I didn’t even bat an eye. I had no doubt that this rumor was grossly mischaracterized at best, and more likely just an outright fabrication. I do not always agree with Moore, but he and I agree on one thing: he is not an idiot.

The best part of the rumor was the fact that Moore actively sought out more than one reporter to debunk the rumor. Moore likes to run a tight ship when it comes to rumors, but he also can’t help himself when it comes to shooting down rumors that are false (or rumors that he wants everyone to believe are false.) The downside to that is that when he doesn’t deny a rumor, you know there’s some fire with that smoke. (You’ll notice the lack of denials regarding the Royals’ interest in Rafael Furcal, for instance.)

But in this case, I think Moore was justified to speak out, and speak out forcefully, that there was nothing to the notion of trading Greinke for Francoeur. It was as if Moore wanted to send a message to all Royals fans that can be translated as, “I just wanted to reassure all of you that not only am I not stupid enough to trade Zack Greinke for Jeff Francoeur, I’m not stupid enough to even think about trading Zack Greinke for Jeff Francoeur. Thank you for your support.”

But at some point the Royals are going to do something, so let me try to run down the likely possibilities as I battle through this nagging cold. There are two types of moves the Royals are looking at: they almost certainly will add a reliever or two to their bullpen, and they might open the vault for a big addition either in the lineup or in the rotation.

We know they’re looking at relievers right and left – well, mostly right, as I think Moore is satisfied for now with Ron Mahay, John Bale, and Jimmy Gobble from the left side. (Assuming that Gobble fixes whatever ailed him last season, that’s a reasonable complement of left-handed relievers.) Some quick thoughts on the guys who have been publicly linked to the Royals:

Kyle Farnsworth: His name has come up several times as someone the Royals are strongly pursuing. I don’t see it. Farnsworth throws really hard, and as a 25-year-old setup man for the Cubs, he struck out 107 batters in 82 innings, with a 2.74 ERA. The problem is, now he’s 32 years old. He signed a three-year deal with the Yankees before the 2006 season, and over the last three years his ERAs are 4.36, 4.80, and 4.48. As much as I appreciate his service on behalf of Yankee-haters everywhere, I’m not sure his mediocrity was intentional, especially since he had a 6.75 ERA last season after the Yankees foisted him on Detroit.

Farnsworth still strikes out about a man an inning, and walks about a man every third inning – that’s something to build on. But he’s way too prone to the long ball. Kauffman Stadium will help some, and maybe Bob McClure will help some, although Farnsworth isn’t exactly famous for his coachability. If the Royals are looking at a 1-year, $2 million deal or something, he’s a nice flyer to take. But he’s coming off a 3-year, $17 million contract, and is probably looking for something comparable. The danger is that the Royals pay a 32-year-old pitcher based on his potential, not on his reality.

Brandon Lyon: Lyon’s coming off a disappointing year with the Diamondbacks, but I like his overall track record more than Farnsworth. Lyon isn’t the power pitcher that Farnsworth is, but he has better command and is stinger with the long ball, especially when you factor in Arizona’s ballpark. He’s coming off a 26-save season and may want closer money even though he gave nothing like closer performance last year. Farnsworth has more upside, Lyon’s the safer bet, and I wouldn’t sign either for Mahay money.

Russ Springer: Two years ago, Springer was a 38-year-old pitcher who had never had an ERA lower than 3.42 in a season with 15 innings or more. Over the last two years, he has ERAs of 2.18 and 2.32, and merely adds to the argument that Dave Duncan, not Leo Mazzone, is the best pitching coach of the last generation. I love McClure, but even I’m skeptical he can keep the magic going as Springer enters his 40s. Avoid.

Juan Cruz: Now here’s a guy I can get behind. Cruz has power (158 Ks in 113 IP the last two years) and effectiveness (2.61 ERA in 2008; 3.10 ERA in 2007.) He has one save in his major league career, so you don’t have to pay a premium for a service you don’t need. I can’t imagine that he’ll be any cheaper than the three guys listed above, but it’s better to spend good money on a good reliever than any money on a mediocre one. I’m confident that Moore can scrounge up a reliever from the ranks of free talent out there that can duplicate what Springer will do over the next year or two. Cruz, on the other hand, is not an easily duplicated talent.

I’ll try to be back soon with my thoughts elsewhere on the diamond.