Saturday, June 6, 2009

Radical Situations Call For Radical Solutions.

Baseball is a funny game. The day after Zack Greinke channels his 2005 form en route to giving up seven runs in five innings, hurtling the Royals ever deeper into the bottomless pit they fell into four weeks ago, the Royals have close to a perfect day. The day certainly had a perfect start, when Dayton Moore decided that Horacio Ramirez’s contract was less unpalatable than his performance, and chose to eat the rest of it. Fifth starter Luke Hochevar then returned with a start that reminded us why we were so excited about this team a month ago: say what you will about the rest of this team, but every pitcher in the starting rotation projects to have a long and successful career ahead of him.

The Royals’ metronomic out-making on offense – Scott Richmond faced the minimum through four innings – suddenly came to an end in the fifth when Mark Teahen homered to the opposite field – you know, that thing he used to do back when the Royals started 18-11. Alberto Callaspo followed with a double – also a blast from the past, if by “past” you mean April. Then Mitch Maier and David DeJesus followed with walks – you may remember the Royals had some success with that earlier this year – and finally the Spork himself, Willie Bloomquist, cleared the bases with a triple, his fourth of the season (only Coco Crisp has more in the AL!), the first 3-RBI hit for the Royals since Miguel Olivo hit a three-run homer back on May 15th.

And when Hochevar got into a spot of trouble in the seventh inning, he was rescued by the remarkable Kyle Farnsworth, who completed his redemption story from bullpen pariah to set-up savior by retiring all four batters he faced in the seventh and eighth. Five appearances into his Royals career, the Professor already had three losses along with an 18.90 ERA. Since then, working entirely in garbage relief, Farnsworth had thrown 15.1 scoreless innings, allowing just nine hits and two walks while striking out 15. He actually got the win in the Miguel Olivo Walks! comeback game when the Royals scored four in the ninth, but Hillman was understandably so reluctant to trust Farnsworth in key situations that not one of his last 15 appearances came with a Leverage score of more than 0.30 – where 1.00 is average, and a “key” situation might easily rate 2 or higher.

Maybe Bob McClure fixed a flaw, or maybe Farnsworth pitches better when the pressure is off, but the only way to find out was to do what the Royals did today, and bring him into a game that was on the line. I’ve been waiting for this move since at least last Sunday, when I was sitting behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium as John Bale got into a mess in the ninth, Hillman called for the righty in the bullpen – and I realized with much discomfort that I was actually disappointed to see Juan Cruz, not Farnsworth, entering through the bullpen gate.

Farnsworth didn’t get the call then, but he got the call today, and pitched with the same sense of purpose that he has for the past six weeks, retiring four batters on just 11 pitches. With Cruz tanking, with Jamey Wright hit or miss, with Robinson Tejeda on the DL, we’ve reached the point where Farnsworth isn’t just the go-to guy in set-up situations…he’s clearly the go-to guy in set-up situations.

Like I said: baseball is a funny game.

But that’s not really want to talk about right now. I have bigger fish to fry. As I write this, the Royals are 24-31, amazingly just 5.5 games out of first place, but also just 1.5 games out of last. The offense is next-to-last in the league, and the once-vaunted pitching staff had fallen to 8th in the league in runs allowed (although the rankings are so tight that the strong performance today bumped the Royals back up to 6th in that category). And as Sam Mellinger points out, neither the offense nor the pitching is the team’s real problem – it’s the defense.

Anyway, the point is that despite what Dayton Moore might say publicly, privately he must be looking to make some changes. Maybe he doesn’t want to take a bomb and blow up the clubhouse, but perhaps he’s looking to make a surgical strike and change the complexion of the team with a single move.

If he is, well, I have a move I’d like to suggest. I also would like to suggest that those of you who are reading this right now ought to take a seat, because you’re about to read something that might disturb you. Rest assured, this is not some cockamamie idea I came up with today. Well, it might be a cockamamie idea, but it’s an idea I’ve been considering since spring training.

I think the Royals should trade for Jeff Francoeur.

Yeah, that Jeff Francoeur. The one that’s become the bane of Atlanta Braves fans and the laughingstock of baseball.

Some players get called “underrated” so much that they become overrated in the process. And for some, the opposite occurs: they get labeled overrated, and that label sticks to them so tightly that the pendulum swings too far the other way.

I’m not arguing that Francoeur’s performance as a ballplayer the last two years has become underrated: he really has been as bad as everyone thinks. But here’s the thing: Francoeur’s performance has become so maligned that I feel the public has lost sight of the fact that underneath those numbers still lies an enormous bundle of talent.

Talent can be a curse if you can’t convert that talent into performance, but let’s not forget: Francoeur has already performed at the major league level. In 2005, he made his major league debut on July 7th, and within two months was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He hit .300/.336/.549 for the season, and finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting despite playing in just 70 games. It helped that in just 67 games in the outfield, he threw out 13 baserunners.

Granted, Miss South Carolina could explain the strike zone more coherently than he could. But he was just 21 years old. The following year, in full-time play he hit 29 homers. The year after that, he hit .293 with 19 homers and 40 doubles – and walked a respectable 42 times. He also won a Gold Glove. He played in every single game both years.

As recently as 14 months ago, Francoeur was a trendy breakout pick among some analysts. Instead, everything has gone to hell in a handbasket for Francoeur; he’s stopped hitting, the fans have turned on him, and the Braves are openly shopping him.

As Warren Buffett recently said, “be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” The collapse in Francoeur’s market value rivals that of any bank or automotive company. But while the stock market is nowhere near its peak value, those who invested near the market bottom on March 9th has done very well for themselves – and while Francoeur may never reach the heights once expected from him, I suspect that anyone who trades for him now will get a very good return on their dollar.

Since the start of last season, Francoeur is hitting .241/.289/.357. He’s a mess at the plate. He famously – though perhaps not entirely seriously – said a month ago that “If on-base percentage is so important, then why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?” His defense has gone to pot as much as his offense – according to Ultimate Zone Rating, Francoeur has been about 6 runs below average on defense over the last year-plus, after being +17 in his Gold Glove year of 2007.

So yes, pretty much every number you look at suggests that Francoeur is a waste of a roster spot. Except for one, which is the most important number for any player.

25. As in, Jeff Francoeur is just 25 years old. It’s waaay too early to give up on him. If you don’t believe me, you might want to consider the history of a very similar player. I am frankly stunned that I have not seen this comparison made before, though it’s possible I just haven’t looked in the right places.

Once upon a time, the Braves had a right fielder who, like Francoeur, met with immediate acclaim, stepping right into the lineup in mid-season and hitting .281/.304/.459 in 98 games, garnering a few Rookie of the Year votes. Like Francoeur, he was young (22) and considered an all-around talent despite the lack of speed (just one stolen base as a rookie). And like Francoeur, he swung at everything. He walked just eight times all season.

This right fielder struggled terribly the next two seasons, largely because opposing pitchers learned to exploit his impatience at the plate. In his sophomore season, he walked just 17 times in 75 games; in his third year he regressed even more, drawing just 11 walks in 60 games. He hit .235/.277/.354 combined.

The wrinkle is this: after his rookie season, this right fielder was traded, a trade that looked brilliant for the Braves when he struggled over the next two years. The team that traded for him looked like a bunch of morons.

That team was the Kansas City Royals. That player was Jermaine Dye.

Everything that has been written about Jeff Francoeur over the last year could have been written about Dye. I know, because I was the one writing about Dye 12 years ago. The comment I wrote about Dye in the 1999 Baseball Prospectus ended with the line, “His window of opportunity is just about closed.” Yeah, I missed a little with that one. Dye hit .294/.354/.526 for the Royals that year. He also drew 58 walks. Ten years later, he’s still hitting.

Look, there’s obviously a good chance that Francoeur’s problems are terminal. As a professor of mine used to say, the plural of anecdote is not data. The fact that Dye turned into a star doesn’t mean that Francoeur is destined to do the same. But he has a chance to turn into a star. Go ahead and write down a list of every player in baseball who has the chance to become a star in the not-too-distant future, and is available to acquire for next to nothing. I’m guessing it’s a short list.

I thought the Greinke-for-Francoeur rumors this winter were ridiculous, and I mean that literally – I thought they were fabricated or at least exaggerated, because Dayton Moore is not that dumb. Today, you could probably pry Francoeur from the Braves with Greinke – Luke Greinke.

In a Facebook exchange – I can’t believe I just wrote that – Craig Calcaterra, the brilliant writer and authoritative Braves fan, put the price tag on Francoeur thusly:

“If I were running the Braves I’d accept a nice thank you card from Moore and call it a deal. Wait, that’s not true. I’d accept a slightly shabby thank you card if that’s all he had. I just can’t stand the sight of that guy in right field anymore.”

That is not the voice of a 15-year-old fan on an anonymous message board – that is the voice of someone who speaks on behalf of all Braves fans: they are sick of Frenchy.

Every baseball team has some sort of niche that they alone occupy, some unique strength that they can exploit to build a better baseball team. The Yankees are able to offer their players the personal use of a Brinks truck to haul all of the cash they’re being paid to the bank every two weeks. The Braves are the boyhood team of almost every young player that grows up in the southeast, and they mine the talent in their backyard with uncanny ability. The Cardinals offer players the chance to play in front of The Greatest Fans In Baseball™. And so on.

The Royals offer something to. They offer a player the chance to get away from the crush of overwhelming expectations. The team’s biggest weakness – its lack of a fan base – can become its biggest strength. A player that has fallen on their face somewhere else, with the bright glare of public scrutiny directly on them, can come to Kansas City and play in front of a small but loyal group of fans, a small and mostly non-threatening local media, and for a team whose expectations have already been ground down to nothing by the weight of 15 years of non-stop losing. For a player whose talent remains untapped, whose potential has become a curse, the Royals are the perfect team to rehabilitate that talent in a low-pressure environment.

As much as Francoeur reminds me of Dye, if the Royals trade for him he could equally remind us of Jose Offerman. Offerman, remember, was considered one of the best prospects in baseball in 1990, when he hit .326 in Triple-A and played dazzling shortstop at age 21. Offerman’s bat was almost as advertised, but his glove wasn’t; in his first full season in 1992, he made an amazing 42 errors, and 37 the year after that. The fans turned on him, he started to press, he hit just .210 in 1994, and despite rebounding to .287/.389/.375 in 1995, both the Dodgers and their fans were sick of him.

Which is where the Royals come in. Dye-for-Michael Tucker was Herk Robinson’s best trade – a direct challenge of two outfielders in which the Royals clearly came out on top. But the trade for Jose Offerman was Robinson’s most brilliant trade, because there was no downside. The trade worked beautifully – the Royals did what the Dodgers should have done years before and moved Offerman off of shortstop. He made a decent second baseman – although Bob Boone, God bless him, thought he had more value as a rangy first baseman – and in three years with the Royals Offerman hit .306/.385/.419. (And when he left as a free agent the Royals got two draft picks, one of whom was Mike MacDougal, who was later traded for Dan Cortes and Tyler Lumsden, who was then traded for Jordan Parraz. The shadow of Robinson’s trade can still be found in Northwest Arkansas today.)

But I didn’t explain why this trade was so brilliant. It was brilliant because the Dodgers were so desperate to get rid of Offerman that they were willing to take almost anything for him. All Robinson gave up was Billy Brewer, a former Rule 5 pick who as a lefty reliever was coming off a 5.56 ERA in 1995. Offerman turned out to be a perfect fit in Kansas City – but suppose he hadn’t. Suppose he was so bad that after two months the Royals finally called uncle and just released him. In which case, all the Royals would have lost in the trade was…Billy Brewer? Who cares?

I suspect that the Braves are close to that point with Francoeur. And Francoeur is close to that point with the Braves. Keep in mind, as much as any player would feel the pressure that comes with being anointed as “The Natural” at age 21, Francoeur must feel it worse. He was born in Atlanta. In the SI article about his rookie season it talks about the razzing he got from his high school buddies who – just three years after graduation – were coming to his games.

As perfect as everything must have been for him when he was playing well, it must be an absolute nightmare now for him to be struggling the way he is, in his hometown, for his favorite team, after being a first-round pick and potential franchise savior just a few short years ago. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his defensive numbers have collapsed along with his offensive ones. If it was just his offense that deteriorated, you could blame that on a poor approach at the plate. That his performance has declined in every phase suggests that the problem is psychological as much as it is physical.

Jeff Francoeur needs a new start, and Kansas City is just the place to give it to him. Working with Kevin Seitzer can’t hurt. Terry Pendleton, the Braves’ hitting coach, has come under a lot of fire of late in part because of Francoeur’s struggles. Pendleton may be a good hitting coach, but he’s not the right guy to be teaching plate discipline – just once in his career did he walk even 45 times. The Royals have already handed Seitzer a bunch of impatient hacks – why not turn the degree of difficulty up a notch?

Maybe Francoeur learns the strike zone and turns into Dye. If he doesn’t, he still could carve out a career as an overrated but still useful RBI guy, a la Joe Carter. Carter is one of the most overrated baseball players of my lifetime, but he wasn’t a bad player. You could win a world championship with him. Legend has it that he even had a big role to play in one.

Bottom line is this: the rumor du jour is that the Boston Red Sox are interested in Francoeur. Let me repeat that: THE BOSTON RED SOX ARE INTERESTED IN FRANCOEUR. If that isn’t a big flashing neon sign that the public opinion of Francoeur has shifted to the point where he’s now an underpriced commodity, I don’t know what is.

In a dream world, I’d like to see if Moore could interest the Braves in a swap of Francoeur for Jose Guillen. I mean, the Braves are going for it this year – they just traded for Nate McLouth – and Guillen can help them in the here and now. I suspect Guillen’s bat will translate nicely to the inferior league, Bobby Cox knows how to keep players like him in line, and as Guillen is a medicine best taken in small doses, the fact that they only have him under contract for a year-and-a-half minimizes their risk. I doubt this could be done straight up, because while Francoeur has negligible value, Guillen has negative value the way his contract stands. But if the Royals were able to pick up, say, the rest of Guillen’s contract for this year, I think that’s a gamble the Braves might consider. They get a free Jose Guillen for 2009, who along with McLouth dramatically upgrades their lineup, and they only have one year left on his contract to pay.

For the Royals, this move has the advantage of freeing up payroll in the future, clearing up the clubhouse in the present and the future. And it does so without significantly hurting the team on the field in the short term.

Guillen’s defense is so bad that he’s become almost unplayable. Alex Gordon returns in a month, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the best lineup when he returns is one that has Gordon at third base, Mark Teahen in right field, and Guillen platooning with Jacobs at DH. But Guillen’s personality threatens to blow up the clubhouse if he is relegated to a bench role. Better to move him now if the Royals can do so.

Even if the Royals can’t interest Atlanta in Guillen, though, they should see if some collection of second-tier talent can fetch Frenchy. Carlos Rosa, anyone? Rosa’s been hit hard in Omaha, but there’s a bunch of relief prospects in Double-A and below, and I’d be willing to give up any of the non-Disco variety. The Braves took a high-school pitcher drafted in the second round (Eric Cordier) in exhange for Tony Pena Jr; I wonder if they’d take another one – the disappointing Sam Runion – as part of their haul for Francoeur.

If the Royals do get Francoeur, they have the additional option of letting him figure things out in Triple-A for the rest of the year. He has options remaining, and my front office sources tell me that a player can not refuse an option until he has five years of service time accrued. Frenchy came into the season with 3 years, 88 days of service time, so depending on how long he stays in Omaha, it’s possible that a demotion will keep him in Kansas City an additional year. As it is, Francoeur would be under contract for 2010 and 2011, and if you can find three players under contract to the Royals who are likely to be better outfielders over those two seasons, you have better vision than I do.

Come on, Dayton. I appreciate you heeding my last suggestion, but this is much bigger. We all know you want to trade for him – he’s an ex-Brave, and you were reportedly very fond of him while you were in Atlanta. Not that one fan’s opinion means anything, but you’ll have my full support if you do. Even if every other fan out there thinks this particular fan is off his rocker.


J.D. said...

By the way, Greg Schaum from 610's postgame show mentioned some info he received from someone close to Atlanta's front office that the Braves had talked to the Royals about Frenchy, but Dayton was not interested.

It's not a terrible idea if we don't have to give up much. Probably can't have both him and Guillen on the same roster, and I think Guillen is pretty much untradeable at this point

Tim said...

I personally love this idea, really anything to get rid of Guillen.

On a side note, I've always been a firm beleiver that trades cannot be judged within a couple of years of them being made.

For example quite a few years ago the Royals aquired an old catcher off the waiver wire(his name escapes me) who played for us for two years. We then traded him to the pirates(where he played for a whopping 4 games) for a PTBNL, who turned into Jeff Keppinger. Who turned into Jorge De La Rosa. Who turned into Ramon Ramirez. Who turned into Coco Crisp.

So essentially 10+ years ago the Royals made a trade that would turn 4 games worth of a 38 year old catcher into a couple years of Jorge, a year of Ramirez, and potentially a couple years of crisp.

While it seemed inconsequential at the time, it proved to have long lasting ramifications.

Greg Trippiedi said...

Freeing us of Guillen's contract would be excellent but also somewhat of a pie in the sky scenario. Plus, we have a better shot to win the Central with him than without him.

I would trade Teahen to Atlanta for Francoeur plus. Could we get a major league ready SS off them, perhaps one better than the last time they gave us one? Bloomquist could masquerade as the every-day third baseman until Gordon comes off the DL.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to switch sujects but can you give us your 'wish list' for the 12th pick in the upcoming draft? Thanks.

ksuim4u said...

Tim, I'm pretty sure the Catcher you're referring to is Benito Santiago.

royalfan said...

Excellent way outside the box thoughts. Guillen is a disaster in more ways than one. If only the Braves were in the AL and used the DH as he is pretty much a PH in the NL at this point. You are correct in that someone will get Francoeur for little at this point.

pjbronco said...

If Francouer (whatever!) can catch the ball in right field, I'm all for this trade. I don't care if he bats .220 for the rest of the season, the runs he would save as compared to Guillen would be worth the trade off.

The only issue I have with your optimism, Rany, is that I don't see any coaching in the Royals system that would help right his batting ship. If all he needs is a fresh start, then maybe he can do it in KC.

Carl Willingham said...

I love the thought of trading Teahan, his value is probably as high as it's going to get, I'm afraid that other GM's also know he's just an average guy that the Royals think much too highly of. After DM signed Ramirez, Rich Hill became available and was in much the same situation as Franceour. The Royals made no attempt to get him, and he is pitching well. One of my biggest complaints about DM is that aside from the bullpen he seems to be oblivious to the idea of free talent being at least as valuable as expensive players. Buck/Olivo-Pena, Ramirez-Jesse Orosco?, Jacobs-Koshansky, Eldred,etc.

Anonymous said...

Jose Offerman? Jermaine Dye?

I'm not saying those two didn't do well for us, but when Royals fans start looking back at the late 90's with nostalgia, then things look very grim indeed.

Jason said...

Nobody is going to take Guillen's contract. That's something we're stuck with. And Francoeur is not the answer. The Royals already have an entire lineup of guys who do not get on base. The last thing they need is another player like that.

Anonymous said...

I know that Jermaine Dye did the unthinkable and actually increased his walks after coming to Kansas City. But can we really hope for lightning to strike twice? (And I don't mean strike the same general area, I mean strike the tip of the same blade of grass.)

Still, I'm for anything that gets us out from under Guillen's ridiculous contract.

Anonymous said...

I know that Jermaine Dye did the unthinkable and actually increased his walks after coming to Kansas City. But can we really hope for lightning to strike twice? (And I don't mean strike the same general area, I mean strike the tip of the same blade of grass.)

Still, I'm for anything that gets us out from under Guillen's ridiculous contract.

Ryan said...

I would like to point out (again) as the draft approaches, that Dayton could have helped the Royals sooner by drafting collegiate hitters Beckham or 1b Justin Smoak last year, both of whom could have helped the Royals sooner rather than later. Not to mention, the previous draft when the Royals drafted Moustakas too high. The Royals insisted that the kid could play short stop at the major league level, which a lot of scouts scoffed at. Moustakas is now playing 3b.

Dayton may be a great organizational guy, but he has yet to prove he's a good talent evaluator. He may be the Bizzaro Allard Baird.

Ryan said...

Nor did he draft FSU catcher Buster Posey who leads his High A San Jose Giants with 9 HRs.

Unknown said...

Please take Francoeur. I personally volunteer to drive him to the airport. The Braves would take a bucket of balls and I would be fine with that.

Dave Farquhar said...

Speaking of defense, how about some shortstop defense? I notice John McDonald is basically Toronto's utility infielder now. He'd be the second coming of Rey Sanchez, but the revolving door at short makes me nostalgic for Rey Sanchez, which is a lot more pathetic than being nostalgic for Dye and Offerman. Someone who can hit .240 and catch everything in sight would be an improvement at short.

I have no idea what Toronto would want in return for McDonald though.

GSOAT said...

Oddly enough, I am a Royals fan (from my youth) who became a Braves fan in my adulthood (I attended college in the south and have lived here ever since), and I like this idea from both sides (as I liked the Tony Gonzalez trade from both sides). Frenchy has been brutal to watch for the last two years- in fact, I've opined that he looks like he has decided whether or not to swing at a particular pitch before he digs into the batter's box. Just awful to watch, like Greg Norman in the last round of The Masters for 162 days a year. Your Jermaine Dye comparison was enlightening- I didn't recall Dye struggling to the degree that Frenchy has struggled. But the question remains- the question (or answer if you prefer) from Moneyball: is plate discipline a result of nature or nurture? Can it be acquired or is it innate?

GSOAT said...

Oh- and in response to some of the comments from other responders, I think that ATL would take on Guillen's contract if the Royals paid a large chunk of it (perhaps the difference between Francoeur's and Guillen's contracts?- Francoeur actually won an arbitration settlement for- I think- $4M or so despite his horrific stats from last season). From Atlanta's point of view, you get a more dependable slugger (from the right side no less- and ATL's lineup is lefty-heavy) in exchange for a guy who, as Rany said, is wearing out his welcome with every brutally amateurish at-bat. And it's time for another batting coach to whisper in Frenchy's ear- Pendleton isn't making a dent in his atrocious plate discipline.

Matt Berger said...

Brilliant, though I don't know if they'd take Guillen though maybe Guillen and a AA arm.

GSOAT said...

I'm not intelligent enough to figure out the deal that would bring Francoeur to KC. Maybe the baseball GMs have a value chart like the one that Jimmy Johnson used to apply a numeric value to NFL draft picks. But if the Braves traded Francoeur, as Rany implied, they would need to get something back for this season (the McLouth trade shows that Frank Wren is trying to get Chipper Jones another postseason run)- not just a prospect. So the (monetarily) discounted Jose Guillen would make sense. Could you imagine the Braves taking a AA reliever and... Mitch Maier? How does that improve the Braves' lineup in the short term? Guillen has value, in the sense that he will put up better numbers than Francoeur- this season- but the Braves would be stupid to make a deal that didn't involve having KC take a large chunk of the salary associated with Guillen's last 1 2/3 years on his current contract. The only way that this makes sense is if KC gets a talented, but (again using Rany's logic) undervalued talent in return for a player who can help Atlanta win now. A trade that brought prospects to Atlanta and left a black hole in right field wouldn't make sense.

Unknown said...


Love your work, and your blog is one of my favorite go-to spots for fresh analysis and Royals Optimism... but how can you so astutely trash HoRam, then suggest KC acquire Francoeur??

Francoeur's problem is the selfsame problem Royals hitters have had for years, but even more acute: he swings at absolutely anything the pitcher throws (AATPT). Because he swings at AATPT, the pitcher throws ANNTSZ (absolutely nothing near the strike zone). This is what makes HWPSZD (hitters with poor strike zone discipline) such terrible hitters. Because HWPSZD swing at AATPT, and because the pitchers react by throwing ANNTSZ, these hitters have **very short baseball careers**. They get nothing to hit, swing at it anyway, and the results in Mendoza-like numbers.

You're better than this. My 8 year old niece has a ton of talent. It just doesn't extend to hitting a baseball. Jeff Francoeur is in the same boat, so let's let his career continue its meteoric descent in another city. We still have enough guys who are too aggressive at the plate.

Chris said...

I think this is a great idea. The best time to trade for someone is when their trade value is lowest so you don't give up as much. Is Francoeur going to block someone in KC right now? Of course not. He sounds like the classic player needing a new start. If it fails we're not any worse than we are right now. And that's saying a lot.

Trash Man said...

Cleaning up after the rest of you:

Here is the arc for Keppinger:

Gotay [drafted rd. 31 Royals]
traded for
traded for
Russ Haltiwanger

The arc for De La Rosa:

Graffanino [selected off waivers]
traded for
Jorge De La Rosa
traded for
Ramon Ramirez
traded for Coco Crisp

The first Graff arc:
Graffanino [signed as FA]
traded for
Juan Cedeno [no ML games]/Chip Ambres [granted FA]

Benito Santiago's arc:
Santiago [signed as FA]
traded for
Leo Nunez
traded for
Mike Jacobs

"The Royals insisted that the kid could play short stop at the major league level, which a lot of scouts scoffed at. Moustakas is now playing 3b."

You play a guy at a position of greater difficulty until it is abundantly clear that he can't handle the position.

Example: William Butler, outfielder.
Example: Michael Sweeney, catcher.
Example: Horacio Ramirez, pitcher.

"drafting collegiate hitters Beckham or 1b Justin Smoak last year....Nor did he draft FSU catcher Buster Posey who leads his High A San Jose Giants with 9 HRs."

Just so we are clear, bagging on the Moustakas pick and then mentioning three guys from the 08 draft is borderline insane.

Moustakas and Posey are at the same level right now, where Posey is a 22 YO in Class A+ compared to the 19 YO Moustakas. Awesome comparison!

Braves Fan said...

Great read Rany, its good to get a fresher perspective on Francoeur from someone less emotionally invested in his recent troubles.

The Trash Man forgot a little bit, Andy mentioned Francoeur winning an arb case. The Braves actually caved the day before the hearing and signed him at $3.375, just a hair under the midpoint of the two offers.

I really don't see the Braves being interested in Jose Guillen at all though. If we wanted a defensive liability in the outfield for $12 million, we would've signed Adam Dunn. Maybe you could work a three-way deal, or eat more of the contract than you suggest, but either way the Braves are going to have to find someone capable of playing right field in his place, which is something they really don't currently have within the organization.

Braves Fan said...

The Dye comparison is enlightening. Another, more complicated comparison to a former Braves RF is to Dale Murphy. Murph had a similar year to Jeff's '08 in 1981, when Dale was 25. It doesn't look as bad when you look only at the full line, but if it wasn't for the strike it could've easily been far worse.

Murphy's line through 55 games, when the strike began, was a paltry .250/.305/.370. Francoeur's in the first 55 games of '08 was .255/.305/.418. Dale came back strong in August that year, but tailed off again.

If he hadn't had that time off he could've easily hit a negative feedback loop similar to what Jeff's seen and matched Francoeur's awful '08 season and '09 start. Instead, Dale just went out and won back-to-back MVPs the next two seasons.

Braves Fan said...

Sorry for the triple post, but I just noticed that that "August comeback" from Murphy was really only a good week and a half right after the strike ended. From August 22nd through the end of the year he produced a .205/.310/.377 line.

In the week and a half that pitchers were still getting back into form he put up a .359/.468/.538 mark, in 47 PA. The rest of the season he had a .233/.306/.373 line (and of course it was only a 107 game season, or it could've gotten worse.) Could the strike have saved Murphy's career?

Anonymous said...

The Royals are 2-0 in games where Miguel Olivo has drawn a walk.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure they are undefeated in games in which B. Pena starts as well.

Ryan said...

Trash Man. Moustakas wasn't taken in the same year as the college players I mentioned. He was taken the year before when college catcher, Matt Wieters was available. He was drafted that high up, because they said he could be a SS. You can't waste a pick that high on a guy who's not going to produce at a premium position like SS and won't get to the majors for four to five years. Not if you're the small market Royals and you have a renovated stadium to fill.

Smoak, Posey and company were available when the Royals drafted Hosmer, who's projected to hit the majors in 2012. I understand that there is a line of thinking by people that scout and work in baseball full time that you take the guy with better potential skills. As the GM, however, you have to balance that with what your team needs in the near future as well. If you sign Greinke for three more years, but can't put out a line up that produces run until after he's left as a free agent (and he'll definitely leave if we can't compete) than what's the point? So far Moore has been completely unable to bring in any free agent position players that help produce runs. He's brought in free swingers, who don't get on base, and play atrocious defense (with the exception of Olivo's arm.) Also in drafting 18-year-old kids, rather than 20 and 21 year old kids, you have a bigger margin of error for failure. You can afford that if you're the Yankees, cause you just pay more for free agents to fill the holes in your line up. You can't afford to do that if you're the Royals.

Kansas City said...

Great stuff by Raney and the commenters.

Signing Guillen was an inexplicable mistake for that money and the three years. Moore certainly has made some good moves, but stuff like Guillen, Farnsworth and even Jacobs with the logjam of first basemen and DH's makes one shake his head.

It is hard to see how any National League team will take Guillen; an American league team would need to be desparate for a right handed DH in a pennant race.

My guess is that the Royals will wind up releasing Guillen, probably early next year, and eating the last $12 Million.

I think that in a desparate attempt to save this year, Moore will trade Butler to open up first base for Jacobs and DH for Guillen. It is probably the only way to try to save this year with the ill designed team Moore put together. It probably would not work, but it might if he got a shortstop or maybe even a decent corner outfielder. Francour is not sufficient for Butler. I would hate to see Butler go, but he has value, and I assume we would get somthing of value in return.

You could trade Butler for a shortstop, then trade for Francour and make your run - suffering through Guillen, Jacobs and Francour in the middle of your line up and hoping to get lucky over a few months with their punch even though they have lousy OBP.

ps -- Boone was a very conceited and lousy manager, BUT Offerman did play a fantastic first base. I thought Boone might have been on to something in making a good hitter with extraordinary range into a first baseman, even if he has little power. I can remember Offerman repeatedly diving and taking away base hits. I can't think of another player who would fit the Offerman model, but it there is one, I think it would be a good move to put him at first base. Youklis is something like that, although he has developed power. Garciapara potentially was that guy, but he apparently was done bu the time teams tried that move. Tajada might be another one, although he apparently can still field at shortstop.

Kansas City said...

You probably get more opportunities to turn hits into outs at first base than you do at third base (or maybe even other infield positions) because you can play deeper and just about any ball you catch will be an out.

If Avilles could hit like he did last year, he might be a candidate for an Offerman type first baseman (although not on the Royals since they are stocked with traditional first basemen and, if Avilles could hit, we would need him at shortstop).

Pedro said...

I need a little off topic help: Can someone tell me the what songs Jose Guillen uses for his walkout song this year? There are several and I'm trying to find the main one he uses. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Draft day tomorrow. Here's hoping they don't screw it up again. If they had drafted better in 2004-2007, the rotation would include Tim Lincecum (in lieu of Hochevar) and Yovani Gallardo (instead of Matt Campbell) and the lineup would feature Nick Markakis (instead of Lubanski), Hunter Pence or Dustin Pedroia (taken back to back picks after Eric Cordier, whom we traded for TPJ), Ryan Zimmerman or Ryan Braun (instead of Gordon) and Matt Wieters (instead of Moustakas).

Anonymous said...

You can play that stupid game all day long. And if the Chiefs would have drafted Marino instead of Todd Blackledge......

chjohn said...

yeah, because drafting any of those guys wouldn't have changed the future at all. We would have drafted in the exact same spot anyway.

Come on, haven't you seen back to the Future? Changing the past also changes the future.

I still think Marty should have poked his mom back in the 50's.

Kansas City said...

You know, a little known story is that the Chief's General Manager, (Jim Schaff [?]) who is always strongly criticized, wanted to take Marino but the coach, Makovic, insisted on taking Blackledge.

Like Marty decided to take linebaker Percy Snow instead of Emmitt Thomas.

But you are right, with hindsight virtually all teams can be criticized for their picks.

Anonymous said...

KC: Garciaparra and Carlos Guillen are the two most recent examples, I can remember, of a SS turned 1B with a similar skillset to Offerman.

pjbronco said...

"I think that in a desparate attempt to save this year, Moore will trade Butler to open up first base for Jacobs and DH for Guillen. It is probably the only way to try to save this year with the ill designed team Moore put together."

That would be a disaster. Jacobs will hit at least 40 points lower than Butler, Guillen is a stiff and Butler seems to becoming a serviceable first baseman. Funny, I inadvertently typed "first basement" which is what the position is with Jacobs over there. I would rather see them let Jacobs and Guillen walk with no return than make any move that puts either of them on the field for defense.

I'm no Rany, but this seems like a no-brainer to me.

Kansas City said...


I would be interested in what Rany thinks of the idea of trading Butler.

My thought is that Moore really thinks the Royals can steal the division this year, but he is in a mess with Guillen and Jacobs. I don't think releasing both of them makes sense and, even if it did, Moore would not do so after spending about $16 million on them and touting them as the pop that the line up needs.

I agree Butler is a nice player and getting better, but it is hard to see how the Royals win with Guillen in right field and no shortstop. So, my guess is that Moore will roll the dice on a Butler trade. Remember, we would get value for him, we would move Guillen out of right field, and hopefully we would get a shortstop. So, at a minimum, we improve ourselves at two positions (shortstop and right field) and probably hurt ourselves at first base (although I'm not sure that Jacobs is much worse than Butler).

Anonymous said...

Markakis and Zimmerman hit the bigs in 2006, but Lincecum, Pence/Pedroia, and Braun didn't break in until 2007. The only draft pick that any of those guys could have affected was Wieters, who was drafted in 2007.

The Royals history with first round picks is terrible--they took the wrong high school outfielder in 2004, the wrong college third baseman in 2005, and the wrong college pitcher in 2006.

Kansas City said...

On the draft picks, I think you need to wait and see.

A couple years ago, the Royals looked stupid taking Greinke over Prince Fielder, now it looks okay.

Anonymous said...

I inadvertantly slandered Butler. He was the first round pick in 2004. They took Lubanski over Markakis in 2003.

Nathan said...

Hey Rany, as you no doubt know by now... time to revisit this!