Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Didn't See That Coming.

The minor league update is proceeding at an even more glacial pace than I expected – at this rate I’ll be done sometime around Thanksgiving – so rather than waiting until I’m done to tackle other topics, let’s interrupt the proceedings to talk about today’s news. Kyle Farnsworth made his triumphant return* to the Royals’ roster today, and to make room for him, Alex Gordon was optioned to Triple-A.

*: On Opening Day of this year, the Royals had seven relievers on their roster: Joakim Soria, Jamey Wright, Juan Cruz, Ron Mahay, Kyle Farnsworth, Robinson Tejeda, and Doug Waechter. Horacio Ramirez, who started the year in the rotation, replaced Waechter when Waechter went on the DL in April. John Bale started the season on the DL, but he was activated on May 24th when Tejeda went down. Roman Colon was called up the same day. Ramirez was released on June 13th and Tejeda returned a week later. Bruce Chen was called up on June 27th when Farnsworth was hurt, and would later join the bullpen.

Since June 27th, here is the combined performance of every Royals reliever except for Joakim Soria:

114.2 IP, 127 H, 88 R, 81 ER, 74 BB, 86 K, 19 HR, 6.36 ERA.

Since June 27th, the only change made to the bullpen has been the activation of Doug Waechter on August 6th when Juan Cruz went to the DL. Waechter fit right in, allowing three runs in 1.1 innings before going back on the DL. And now Farnsworth takes his place.

The Royals’ middle relief corps has, over the past seven weeks, delivered a performance rarely before witnessed in the annals of baseball history. They have sucked in every conceivable way and in a few inconceivable ones. And over the past seven weeks, Dayton Moore has not felt fit to make a single change to his personnel. The only change made was made because an injury forced his hand (or Cruz’s performance forced him to declare an injury) – and instead of trying a fresh face he just reactivated another one of the guys he brought in over the winter – and who was so recovered from his own injury that he went back on the DL a week later.

And now Kyle Farnsworth is back. Meanwhile, not once has Dayton Moore shown the conviction to give one of the Royals’ minor league products – the products of the farm system he has invested so much effort and money in over the past three years – an opportunity to see if they can improve on the middle relief corps’ six-plus ERA.

That might be the most scathing indictment I can think of regarding Dayton Moore: the Royals are 46-72, chugging towards the worst record in baseball, and we can’t even point to all the rookies on the roster as both an excuse for that performance and a hope that the performance will improve in the future. Consider this: it’s August 18th, and NOT ONE ROYAL HAS MADE HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT THIS SEASON. That’s a stat you might expect from a contending team with a huge payroll and stars at every position. That’s not something you expect from a last-place team that is supposedly building for the future.

I guess The Process – I capitalize it out of respect – involves not just losing, but losing with a bunch of veterans while keeping promising minor leaguers like Kila Ka’aihue and Chris Hayes right where they are. Unless The Process includes “purposely tanking this season to get first dibs on Bryce Harper”, color me confused.

Wow, that was one long tangent…back to Gordon. When the season started, the Royals’ hopes for contention were predicated on three young former first-round picks taking big steps forward. As disastrous as this season has been, it’s important to remember that two of those guys have, in fact, done so. Zack Greinke is the best pitcher in the American League, and Billy Butler is hitting .298/.353/.480 and is on pace for over 50 doubles. Two out of three isn’t bad at all; Greinke is under contract through 2012, Butler through 2013, which gives the Royals plenty of time to build a winning roster around them. This season hasn’t been a total loss.

But it has been a total loss for Gordon. Gordon hit .260/.351/.432 last year, which was still a disappointment by the standards we had set for him, but was actually a pretty good season: his OPS+ was 110, and by comparison Butler’s OPS+ this year – his breakout season – is 119. Even if Gordon didn’t take a big step forward to becoming the middle-of-the-lineup presence we thought he would be on draft day, he was already an above-average player – and if he took just a small step forward, turned a few strikeouts into walks and hit a few more home runs, he’d be one of the five best third basemen in the league.

Instead, he got hurt. Injuries happen, and while it was frustrating that it came at such an inopportune time, his hip problem didn’t seem likely to alter his long-term course. He raked the ball during his minor league rehab – in 13 games he hit .350/.491/.650 – and I was confident that he would return the same hitter as before, and hopefully better.


Instead, he’s hit just .227/.310/.333 since returning, and .198/.300/.313 overall. At times he’s looked like he’s rounding into form, as when he hit two doubles and two homers in a five-game span last week; and at times he’s looked totally lost at the plate, as when he’s gone 0-for-11 since. His walk totals are a refreshing change of pace on this team, but I can’t really say he’s got good plate discipline, not when he continues to swing at pitches low and away and then take pitches right down the middle. Gordon might strike out looking more often than any Royal ever.

And frankly – and this incredibly sad to write – I like this move. I would have liked this move a lot more had it come TWO YEARS AGO, when he deserved it, and when a Triple-A refresher might have kept his career from stagnating the way it has. But better late than never. Gordon has earned this, and the Royals have to stop shying away from holding their most promising young players accountable when they don’t perform as expected.

The really interesting implication here has to do with service time. If Gordon was not sent down, he’d be eligible for free agency after 2012. By getting sent down, the wheels are in place to delay free agency by a year. There’s about a 12-day gap between the number of calendar days in a full MLB season and the number of days required to qualify for a full year of service. However, that’s not the determining factor here. The determining factor is that if a player is optioned to the minors but returns in under 20 days, he gets full credit for the service time he missed during his option.

This is critical, because the last day of Omaha’s season is September 7th. If Gordon is recalled on September 8th, he will have spent 21 days in the minor leagues. The margin is so thin here that issues like “does today count as a minor league day or major league day?” and “does he have to spend MORE THAN 20 days, or AT LEAST 20 days in the minors?” matter. As I understand the CBA, he needs to be in the minors for at least 20 days, and he’s likely to be there for 21.

So don’t pay attention to Moore when he says there are no financial implications here. Not that I’m complaining. If this move works – if Gordon’s bat comes around – then delaying his free agency until 2013 will be HUGE. If it doesn’t work, then frankly his service time doesn’t matter anyway. But as I see it, this move has the potential to resurrect Gordon’s career, and delays his free agency by a year. And if it hurts the Royals on the field in the meantime – putting them in a better position in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes – so much the better. What’s not to love?

40 comments:

Kevin said...

"The Process" just means giving GPs to overpaid, underperforming, veterans in hopes that the savants of the Royals' family can turn them around. Unfortunately, those men that are supposed to be bright and capable, are led by the dull and incompetent: Dayton Moore.

The birdman said...

Has anyone considered the possibility that Gordon was juicing at Nebraska and during his short stint in the minors, until the testing became more strict and now he is just not the same player he was when he was on the juice? Me and a friend were discussing this the other day, and it made sense.

I don't think we can be so naive to think this isn't a possibility.

Anonymous said...

Only three games out...

Chuck said...

Do we have any reporters in this town willing to ask GMDB about his lack of bullpen change? I just can't fathom how these guys in the pen are still making major league paychecks.

Ron Rollins said...

A better question is how is Dayton Moore still making a major-league paycheck?

Zach said...

You all want to have your cake and eat it too, which is a lot easier to do as a "fan". Rany wants minor leaguers called up who wont make much change in production at the major league level, but then thinks Gordon should have been sent down a lot earlier. So why call up minor leaguers who are career minor leaguers? So we can ruin thier mindset? So we can please someone who has no experience of playing or managing a human game? Come on people, who do you want called up to get shelled at the big league level? Get a clue please.

Anonymous said...

Zach:

Disco Hayes has pitched well in AA and AAA this year. He is submarine style pitcher like Dan Quisenberry. This guy deserves a shot in the pen more than the current guys. Also, Yabuta has pitched fairly well in AAA this year. It couldn't hurt to put him back in the bullpen. The guys we have are terrible. And Kila could have done what Jacobs did this year. What a waste of money that was.

kevin said...

Anyone wanting to rail on the rest of us that apparently don't get a "human game," please first learn how to spell "their." thank you

Olentangy said...

When Farnsworth was on the Yankees, we were at a game at Yankee Stadium when he was brought in to maintain a 1 run lead against the Blue Jays. He was greeted by chants of Farns worth less, Farns worth less by the Yankee fans..and yeah, he allowed 2 runs and the Blue Jays won the game.

Anonymous said...

the sad part is, unless they make some Aug 31st trades, the rest of this season is pointless. nothing else that happens with this group of players really matters... what a waste. 2010 here we come.

Curtis said...

One question I have about the whole thing is why lie about the financial implications or act completely surprised by them? And why cut it so close? But it is clear that the financial part was a huge part of the timing of the move - why else would you make a roster move to bring up a reliever who would be unavailable for the first game back?

Another random consideration is that, for whatever reason, Teahen has always hit better when he is playing in the infield, and when he is playing the same spot everyday. And he immediately reacted to again being the everyday third baseman by smacking a couple of doubles last night.

I don't know that this teaches young players accountability because it was a brazenly financial move. Who would blame Alex for feeling like he was being jerked around to save a few million dollars (and cost him a few million dollars)? As you point out, it is not like there have been ramifications for sucking for any other member of the team?

All in all, I think the move was warranted and has been for a long time, and yet at the same time, management made the move at the time when it was probably the least effective as a wakeup call to the player. Well done, yet again.

Chance said...

Gordon is not a better 3rd baseman than Teahen. Not now, and maybe not ever. I understand why he was drafted (and, beleive it or not, he was a heralded pick) but he never has performed at the MLB level. I'll bet there are teams out there who would give us some good prospects for Gordon based on his value when he was drafted, who would bet that they could turn him around (and they might be right). Time to cash in on his plummeting value. I don't see him ever turning things around. What can he learn in the minors that he couldn't have learned before? He raked in the minors on his rehab assignment, so what is the point?

Remember when they called Hochever back up because he had already "proved he could get minor leaguers out"? Isn't this the same thing with Gordon?

Nathan said...

Chance,

Gordon is a 25-yr old with a great pedigree who dominated in AAA and performed at an average level in the majors until an injury. He had an .888 OPS in the second half last year. He's under contract until 2013.

I like Teahen at 3B, but is this the kind of player the Royals should try to trade?

gsmith601 said...

I think the process is working if we are leaving prospects in the minors longer. Hayes for example just got to Omaha this summer. I probably would have given Kila a shot in KC this year but it's not like he's dominating AAA so I can't say another year in AAA has hurt him, maybe only helped.

Gordon on juice? Not sure how him chasing pitches down and away and not swinging at some straight down the middle translate to steriods...

Gordon should have spent time in AAA in the first place, and when he struggled his rookie year should have been sent down. Then this year they should have left him in AAA longer on his rehab. Because the O Royals were on a long roadie he only had one game in AAA. AA is not the same. This move was long over due. Let him finish the year with Omaha, then go back to KC in September. Butler's trip to AAA sure did help him get straightened out.

Greg

Chance said...

Nathan:

I realize that I am in the minority when it comes to Gordon v. Teahen, but Gordon's stock is continuing to drop, and I would rather trade him now when so many still see some potential in him, rather than waiting until he flops in the majors again next year.

And, having an OPS of .888 in the second half of last year doesn't make him an average major-leaguer. How many half-season peformances can we get drunk on before we realize that we have a team full of players who haven't had ONE consistent year in the majors? And, yes, I can put Teahen in that catergory, also.

But, we couldn't trade Teahen for anything of value at this year's trading deadline, so I propose we trade Gordon. Before he becomes another Teahen, not after, when it is too late.

stpat said...

Hear what you're saying about Gordon v Teahen. But I think the stakes are too high to give up on a guy (Gordon) that a) was a 'sure-thing' 1st round pick, b) has obvious skills c) perhaps set up to fail by a team that put too much on him & put him in the majors too early.

Teahen is a backup/utility player. We know who & what he is. We still don't know what Gordon is. I know that's frustrating in year 3, but those are facts. I think the season is over for him. Assuming Gordon stays in Omaha the rest of their season and then he comes back after 9/7, then regardless of what he does the last 3 weeks of the season, it will mean nothing. If he does well, the naysayers will say it was due to nothing on the line and facing inferior competition. If he continues to struggle for 3 weeks, his proponents will say that the time was too limited to let him adjust.

Bottom line, he needs to work over the winter like a guy that is trying to win the starting 3rd base job. Then come to spring training ready to take it.

With all of that said, I think next year is make or break. He's had his chances. If he can't cut down on the strikeouts, cover both sides of the plate & learn to lay off the balls in the dirt, then shop him out for anything you can get and call it a day.

Anonymous said...

"Gordon is a 25-yr old with a great pedigree who dominated in AAA"

Yeah, that one game he played in AAA was pretty impressive.

Anonymous said...

Good post, but if you are Gordon, do you get a warm fuzzy by having your free agency delayed one more year?

When he does become a free agent, does he remember that the Royals delayed him one year?

As another young player (other than Gordon) on the team, does this make you want to resign with the Royals when your turn is up?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they are also showcasing Teahen for a trade?

Anonymous said...

its a good move ala Hoch starting the year in AAA and the Royals controlling him for another year. BTW---BA just named the Royals as a winner in the 2009 draft. Anyone that thinks the Royals arent building correctly for the future (Ron Rollins)isnt paying attention. Furthermore, considering DM inherited no minor league position players that can be serious contributors at the major league level, it is not surprising things aren't currently rosy in KC. The future is bright though.

Anonymous said...

"Disco Hayes has pitched well in AA and AAA this year."

He's 1-5 with an 4.17 era. AAA batters are hitting .311 against him.

He was better in AA, but he still doesn't have a winning record when you combine AA and AAA

Does that really warrant a call up to the majors?

mingo said...

"Good post, but if you are Gordon, do you get a warm fuzzy by having your free agency delayed one more year?"
===================
At this point, would you really give a shit if he left or not?

mingo said...

Yet another Allard Baird flame out.
Thank God he got lucky with Greinke and Butler, or we would have absolutely nothing to show for that wasted era.

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

I love how GMDM predicted a fan "backlash" when he sent Gordon to Omaha. It's the first correct prediction he's had around a personnel move this year.

Alex said...

What's not to love? I didn't love going to the game yesterday and watching Greinke get beat by Jose friggin’ Contreras. Talk about embarrassing. I also didn’t love watching the bullpen blow the game in the 8th at Monday’s game. But that was to be expected the second Roman Colon and John Bale started getting loose.

Anonymous said...

My question is, why is the national media not talking more about grienke winning the cy young award? He's getting historically dismal run support and still dealing (yesterday afternoon's outing was bad for him, but he still received the bare minimum of run support).

Zach said...

I know how disco hayes pitches I work in the royals minor leagues. I also happen to be a fan. And for the person calling me out on grammar is pretty lame, come on down from your tower pal.

Anonymous said...

David Glass used deceptive advertising via billboards and the like to convince the people of Jackson County that if they didn't give him a gift of $250 million dollars, the teams would leave.

"Vote to KEEP THE TEAMS IN KC!"

That, of course, was NOT true. The vote had nothing to do with that.

So he lied. He lied so he could get his hands on free money. Lots of free money.

Why are the people of Jackson County, or at the very least the fans, sitting on their hands and not making a big, ugly fuss about how he's handling this team?

We gave a multi-billionaire a giant, monetary gift, and he laughs as he spits in our faces.

Will the people of Kansas City let their collective, pissed-off voice be heard when Glass refuses to raise payroll to an effective level next season?

Nathan said...

Anonymous @ 3:05pm,

You're right, Gordon dominated AA, which isn't the same. Thanks for the catch.

Still, nobody doubts Gordon's minor league track record was outstanding, and he was an above average hitter for 3B last year. I still harbor hope that he'll advance into the elite next year.

Gordon is the kind of player smart teams trade for instead of trading away: one whose current value is artificially depressed by injury or circumstance, but still a valuable commodity if you have more than a five month perspective.

Jessica Elizabeth said...

If we end up with the Number 1 pick in the draft next year we will "discover" a Mike Moustakas at the last minute who will sign for less.....and pass on Bryce Harper. Reality is truly beginning to set in for me that as long as the Glass family is associated with this franchise we will NEVER be a playoff team, and consistently being at the basement in the standings.

Anonymous said...

I think the era of saying the glasses are cheap has passed. Old habits are hard to break but let's look at something there.

Every time this off season the Royals have had the option of taking the cheap option out Dayton Moore has choose the expensive avenue.

Jacobs v. Kila: Jacobs wins
Farnsworth v. uh...anyone: Farnsworth
Cruz v. O-Dog: Cruz

And I know not all these were head to head decisions if you would, but you get the point.

This massive disappointment has had nothing to do with lack of money. It has everything to do with misappropriation of money. (and a certain manager's inability to figure out how to manufacture a run, or motivate a team to execute-or just flat out not suck.)

I know it's all relative, but the Glasses shelled out $70+M for this team. The majority of that $70M is wrapped up in really bad, really long term contracts that all have Dayton Moore's signature, not the Glass'.

Anonymous said...

>>I think the era of saying the glasses are cheap has passed.>>

I agree. Another thing that people should remember is that while by normal human standards Glass is very very very very rich, but by major league owner standards he really isn't THAT well off. The most recent numbers I could find has his net worth is around 232 million. . Carl Pohlad, the owner of the small market Twins is worth 1.8 billion.

And the Royals payroll this year was twenty million dollars higher than the twins. Would that have happened if he was cheap?

mingo said...

Pohlad is dead

Chance said...

Long Live The Pohlad!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the era of calling Glass cheap is over, especially when you are talking about the draft. In the last 2 or 3 years, the Royals have spent more money in the draft than just about every other team (I think only Washington has spent more, and most of that went to one player in Strasburg). They spent first round money last year on a fourth round pick (Tim Mehlville), and also on their third and fourth round picks this year.

That ship has sailed Jessica.

Anonymous said...

I need to vent so why not here? Take a look at Brayan Pena's swing and then at Joe Mauer's swing. Identical! Pena has such great hands. If I was Dayton Moore I'd pay for a personal trainer and nutritionist for Brayan. Lose 20 pounds and add strength. Then have him/her go over to Billy's house. I know,I know..he is slimmer this year. Yeah, right. Imagine both of those kids in truly peak condition. We would have a great 3-4 or 3-5 combo for many years. Done venting.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on Pena. Buck or Olivo needs to go to get him some more playing time next year. I say lose Olivo.

Allard Baird said...

Sometimes, Less is Moore.

And sometimes, Moore really is Less.

This was one of those times.

Thank you, Dayton Moore, for restoring my credibility as a MLB front-office job candidate.

AC said...

Is anyone ELSE growing tired of a Royals catcher (the latest was Olivo Friday night allowing speed merchant Mike Sweeney to score on a 1-3 putout) leaving the plate to RECEIVE a throw from a teammate on a play at the plate. Our catchers like to GO OUT to CATCH IT, and then LEAP back at the plate in vain to make the tag. Even Frank and Ryan seem to be bored with commenting on this particular play as it happens with alarming regularity.

I can only think that the Royals coaches TEACH this, what with their commitment to fundamentals that is made each spring training.

Look, fellas, the guy needs to touch the base you're standing on. You are adorned with full body armor. How 'bout you REMAIN there and kind of GET IN THE WAY? We expect your teammate to be able to throw the ball ALL THE WAY to you. Leaving the plate to catch the ball QUICKER won't prevent the runner from scoring. But, perhaps, your fat @$$ in his path with the ball might. Just a thought.

Of course, as prolific as the Royals offense is, we can afford to be cavalier to giving up a run here or there, I suppose.