Friday, July 15, 2011

Trade Time.

First off, thanks to everyone who came out to the Baseball Prospectus event at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday. It was great to meet all of you. Thanks to Kevin Goldstein and Craig Brown and Jeff Euston for being there, thanks to Joe Hamrahi for setting the event up, and thanks to the Royals’ Jin Wong and John Williams for speaking to the group and answering a raft of questions. Their answers were carefully constructed to not be particularly revealing – and I would expect nothing less from them – but the mere fact that someone like Williams (a Yale grad who got his master’s in atmospheric science from MIT) works for the Royals is revealing enough.

As hard as this may be to believe, the Royals may actually be ahead of the curve on statistical analysis now – at least with the new frontier of Pitch f/x data. (One piece of info Jin Wong revealed that surprised me – the Royals have paid to have Pitch f/x equipment installed at Northwest Arkansas, and will likely be doing the same in Omaha at some point soon.) The Royals are also having Field f/x equipment installed at Kauffman Stadium soon – which will give data on the movements of every player on the field on every pitch, allowing teams to determine how quick a first step a fielder gets, how quickly he gets from Point A to Point B, etc.

None of this data is going to be public, unfortunately. But the Royals have the data, and between Williams and Mike Groopman (a former Baseball Prospectus intern) on staff, I have no doubt that they’ll be mining the depths of it. Whether the baseball decision-makers will listen to their analysts is the big question, and one I can’t answer. But it’s reassuring to know that the Royals not only have the data, they have the data guys.

And I can’t say enough about the fanbase. On Friday night, the Royals drew 34,563 paying fans to the ballpark. Yes, there were fireworks, and it was Buck Night, but…still. The Cleveland Indians, who were in first place, drew 25,835 to their stadium the same night. The Royals drew nearly 35,000 fans to watch a team on pace to finish last for the sixth time in eight years. If this team ever turns around, Kauffman Stadium is going to be rocking every single night. The Royals’ incompetence masks the fact that Kansas City is a great baseball town.

The Indians are an instructive example. From 1969 to 1993, Cleveland went 25 straight years without ever finishing higher than fourth place in the standings. In 1994 they opened a new ballpark and started to win. On June 12, 1995, the Indians sold out the ballpark; they would sell out every game they played from that day through Opening Day, 2001, a then-record 455 sellouts in a row. I don’t think that Kauffman Stadium will be a sellout for five-plus years – for one thing, I don’t think they’ll win five straight division titles, and a renovated Kauffman is not quite the same as a brand-new Jacobs Field. But I could see 30,000 at the ballpark every night.

In the meantime, the trade deadline is barely two weeks away, and as usual the Royals are sellers. A month ago, there was so much parity in the sport that it looked like this might be a seller’s market, as very few teams were definitively out of contention and the supply of impact players at the deadline looked small. But there has been a lot of separation in the last few weeks; 13 of 30 teams are now at least 8.5 games out of a playoff spot. So the Royals will have to compete with a raft of other teams in marketing their wares.

Nevertheless, the Royals have a number of veterans who could help a contender, certainly more (and better) veterans than they had last year. Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, and Jose Guillen collectively brought back Tim Collins and a bunch of organizational filler. This year, the Royals have the talent to do far better – the question is whether they have the market. Here, in no particular order, are the guys that should be on the auction block this month.

Melky Cabrera: I really liked the signing of Cabrera this winter, which among Royals fans was a deeply unpopular opinion, particularly after the Royals acquired Lorenzo Cain in the Greinke trade just a few days later. The main reasons I liked the Cabrera signing – aside from my belief that he had bounceback potential – were that 1) he was only signed for $1.25 million; and 2) he’s under club control for 2012 as well.

Cabrera has turned out to be a better player than even I expected; he’s hitting .295/.333/.456 with an outstanding OPS+ of 119 (his previous career high was only 95). He’s even stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts. He’s also leading the AL in at-bats and plate appearances. He’s still just 26 years old. For the money, Cabrera might be the best free-agent signing of Dayton Moore’s career.

His success actually complicates the issue of trading him. A few days ago, when I told a friend that I expected Cabrera to be moved before long, he suggested that the Royals could move Cabrera to left field for next year, Gordon to right, and put Cain in center. It was actually the first time I had even considered the idea that Cabrera could be a viable solution for the Royals in 2012. As well as he is hitting, Cabrera is a poor defensive centerfielder. Moving him to a corner and letting Cain (or some combination of Cain and Jarrod Dyson) take over in center next year would be a huge defensive upgrade. And if Cabrera continues to hit as well as he has, he’ll have more than enough bat for a corner outfield spot.

I still consider that to be a suboptimal outcome. Cabrera’s performance at the plate might represent genuine, long-lasting improvement. But if it isn’t, he’ll be useless in an outfield corner, and the Royals simply have to make room for one of their centerfield prospects. The optimal outcome is that some contender will look at Cabrera’s performance, his defensive versatility – he should be even more appealing to a team that needs a corner outfielder – his salary, and the fact that he’s a 15-month, not a 3-month solution, and pay accordingly. In an efficient market, Cabrera should have the most trade value of any of the Royals’ veteran players. If he can’t bring back a borderline Top 100 prospect, he should at least fetch a pair of moderate-upside lottery tickets in the low minors.

But if we’ve learned anything from the trade market these last few years, it’s that the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Twenty years ago, Larry Andersen could get you Jeff Bagwell. Twelve years ago, Heathcliff Slocumb was worth Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. But last year, two-and-a-half years of Danny Haren only brought back a couple of Grade B prospects and the desiccated remains of Joe Saunders. Teams have become ridiculously protective – too protective, in my opinion – of their prospects. In the case of some of the other guys on this list, the Royals’ best option is to take the best offer. In Cabrera’s case, though, if the right offer doesn’t come along, the Royals are best served keeping him.

Potential destinations: The Legend of Sam Fuld is progressing towards an unhappy ending in Tampa Bay, although I worry that the Rays value defense too much to settle for Cabrera, even in left field. (Besides, they could just bring Desmond Jennings once he heals from his hand injury.) The White Sox are all-in for this year, so if Moore is okay trading Cabrera within the division – which I doubt he is – Cabrera would be a big upgrade over Alexis Rios (.213/.262/.309) in centerfield. The Angels are rumored to be interested in the Pirates’ Garrett Jones, and Cabrera is better than Jones in almost every way, so…and finally, there’s Atlanta, where the Braves are stuck with Nate McLouth in center, he of the .225 average and three homers. Cabrera’s first go-round with the Braves didn’t go well; it’s not clear whether they’d consider a return engagement. But you know Moore has Frank Wren on speed dial.

Likelihood he gets traded: 60%

Jeff Francoeur: One of the first questions that was presented to Jin Wong at the BP ballpark event was, “Why do so many of the contracts the Royals give to free agents include mutual options?” While Wong answered the question frankly – the Royals always start by asking for a club option, but they’re willing to compromise to a mutual option during negotiations – it still left unanswered the bigger question, which is, “what’s the point?” It seems like in any mutual option, either the player will decline if he had a good year – and can get more money elsewhere – or the team will decline if he didn’t.

But in Francoeur’s case, I wonder if he isn’t threading the thin line between “exceeding expectations” and “not meeting expectations”. Francoeur, as Joe Posnanski pointed out a few days ago, is hitting almost exactly at his career averages. The difference is that offense is down so significantly that his performance is considerably more valuable than it was three years ago. Add in solid defense in right field, and an exceptionally accurate throwing arm – he’s reached double digits in outfielder assists in every season of his career – and he’s a viable everyday player. He’s making $2.5 million this year, and his mutual option for next year is worth about $4.25 million. If Francoeur plays as well in 2012 as he has in 2011, he’s probably worth the contract – but just barely, which means it would be a good deal for both sides.

That assumes that he can maintain his seasonal performance, and given that he’s hitting .243/.288/.377 since May 2nd, and his history of hot starts followed by cold middles and ends, that’s quite an assumption. Francoeur’s defense and ability to crush left-handed pitching would make him a nice fit for many a contender’s bench, much like he helped the Rangers in that role last season. Trading Francoeur now wouldn’t preclude the Royals from bringing him back next season, given that he could always opt out of his portion of the option.

I think it would be absurd for the Royals to keep both Cabrera and Francoeur, but I also think it would be surprising if they traded both. Francoeur is unlikely to bring anything substantial in a trade – the Rangers gave the Mets the immortal Joaquin Arias for him last season – and if that’s all the Royals are being offered, they might as well hold onto him. An additional two months of full-time play will make a decision to bring him back next year much clearer.

Potential Destinations: Any team that’s interested in Cabrera might consider Francoeur as a backup plan. The Phillies have reportedly been looking for a right-handed-hitting outfielder for a while now, and Francoeur would fit them well as a platoon outfielder/pinch-hitter vs. lefties/clubhouse guy. His success with Texas last year ought to add to his appeal.

Likelihood he gets traded: 25%

Wilson Betemit: I’ve already discussed how ridiculous it is that Betemit is still on the roster. He’s probably the player most likely to be traded this month, because – now that he’s on the bench – he won’t earn free-agent compensation if the Royals keep him, and his ability to switch-hit, play both corners, and come off the bench gives him broad appeal. He’ll earn less than $500,000 the rest of the season. He should fetch something interesting, whether it’s a teenage arm with projection or a toolsy hitter with age on his side, who if everything breaks right could be the next Rey Navarro.

Potential Destinations: Both the White Sox (Brent Morel/Mark Teahen) and Tigers (Brandon Inge) have gotten next to no production from their third basemen this season. In particular, the Tigers’ lineup leans heavily to the right side, so picking up Betemit’s switch-hitting bat has additional tactical use for them. This would require Moore to be willing to trade in the division. In Betemit’s case, since he’s a free agent at year’s end, I don’t see why he wouldn’t, but you never know.

The Brewers are hanging in the playoff chase even though Casey McGehee has turned back into a pumpkin. The Brewers’ farm system is barren, but it’s not like Betemit was going to fetch a premium prospect anyway – there’s someone in that farm system the Brewers can trade for him. Like the Tigers, Milwaukee needs some balance in their lineup – Prince Fielder and Nyjer Morgan are their only left-handed bats in the lineup against right-handed pitchers.

The Cardinals would be a good fit, assuming they can forgive Betemit for breaking Albert Pujols’ arm – with his ability to switch-hit and play both corners, Betemit’s versatility makes him the perfect Tony LaRussa bench player. And if the Pirates decide to be buyers instead of sellers, Betemit would be a big upgrade over Pedro Alvarez or Brandon Wood or whatever prospect bust currently mans third base.

Likelihood he gets traded: 85%

Jeff Francis: On the surface, Francis doesn’t appear to be pitching all that well – he’s 3-10 with a 4.60 ERA, and opponents are hitting .289 against him. He’s better than that. He’s had fantastic control – he’s walked only 22 batters in 19 starts. His strikeout rate (just 56 Ks in 115 innings) is the lowest of his career, but with a new offensive ice age upon us, there’s more margin for error for a pitch-to-contact guy like Francis than there was a few years ago.

Francis is far more dependent on his defense than the average pitcher. For all the hype given to Alcides Escobar this season, the Royals’ defense as a whole is still lousy – they rank 28th in the majors in defensive efficiency, ahead of only the Cubs and Astros. Francis would look a lot better pitching in front of a strong defense – which most contenders have. He’s managed to stay healthy all season, and has gone at least 6 innings in 14 of his 19 starts, including 10 of his last 12. He’s also pitching much better of late – in his last four starts he’s allowed 21 hits in 24 innings, and walked just two batters against 13 strikeouts.

He’s not worth a heavy ransom, but he has the ability to take the ball every fifth day, throw strikes, and there’s still some upside here as he moves farther away from his shoulder surgery. He strikes me as someone who would also benefit greatly from a move to the inferior, i.e. National, league.

Potential Destinations: If the Reds decide to go for it this year – and despite being in fourth place, they’re the best NL Central team on paper – Francis would make a ton of sense. Their fifth starter at the moment is Dontrelle Willis, and if that’s not a cry for help, I don’t know what is. Francis’ groundball tendencies would play well in the bandbox that is the Great American Ballpark, and the Reds have a fantastic defense –Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs are all elite defenders – which will make Francis look a lot better.

Likelihood he gets traded: 40%

Bruce Chen: In some ways, Chen is similar to Francis – they’re both left-handed starters with a checkered injury history, and neither of them can break 90 anymore. And in some other ways, Chen is quite different. While Francis is more of a groundball pitcher who throws strikes and hopes for double plays, Chen is an extreme flyball pitcher who succeeds by nibbling and never giving in. And unlike Francis, Chen has pitched very well over the last two seasons, at least by traditional metrics.

Since the start of last season, Chen has thrown 206 innings, and in that span he’s 17-10 (with the Royals!) with a 3.98 ERA. He’s allowed 74 unintentional walks, and struck out 138 – his strikeout rate is a little below-average, but much better than you’d expect for a guy with his velocity. He’s allowed 25 homers, which is an acceptable rate.

Since the beginning of 2010, Francis is 7-16 with a 4.79 ERA, and yet advanced metrics will tell you that Francis has actually pitched better than Chen over the last two years. Francis’ xFIP, which is basically ERA stripped of all the luck, was 3.79 last year and 4.01 this year. Chen’s numbers are 4.79 and 4.45.

In the end, I suspect Chen and Francis have roughly the same amount of trade value – they’re roughly comparable in terms of performance, they’re making roughly the same amount of money, and they’re both free agents at the end of the year. While I could see both getting traded, I suspect the Royals will want to hedge their bets by keeping one around in case they want to re-sign him this winter. I would probably lean towards keeping Chen, simply because I worry that Francis’ shoulder is a ticking time bomb. (Chen is a Tommy John survivor, which isn’t nearly as worrisome.) But I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to bring back either pitcher, and if a decent offer is made, I’d happily move both of them.

Potential destinations: Any team interested in Francis will likely be interested in Chen, with the caveat that Chen is more of a fit for a pitchers’ park. The problem is that far fewer contenders seem to be desperate for starting pitching – or at least non-elite pitching – than you’d think. This is a pitcher’s era, and it shows in the rotations of good teams. The Diamondbacks, maybe? But they play in a good home run park either. Chen’s 3.56 ERA simply isn’t as special as it would have been three years ago, and there may not be much of a market for him.

Likelihood he gets traded: 20%

A reliever – pick one: You would think that the Royals would be looking at trade offers on Joakim Soria in a new light now. Much like having a heart attack and a near-death experience might cause you to change your eating habits, watching Soria’s career go through a similar near-death experience might have reminded the Royals of the fickleness of relievers and encouraged them to trade Soria for the best possible package.

I still don’t think that’s likely. While Soria has quieted some of the concerns about his performance, he hasn’t silenced them yet, and the offers are no doubt less generous than they would have been six months ago. And I think that having Soria as a security blanket for the ninth gives the Royals the breathing room they need to get creative with their other relievers – specifically, it gives them the cover to move Aaron Crow back into the rotation, either late this year or next year.

The irony is that Soria’s repertoire and history suggest that he would be far more suited for the rotation than Crow. But when Soria arrived on the scene in 2007-2008, the Royals had few good options for the closer’s role, and meanwhile they had a healthy Gil Meche and Zack Greinke in the rotation – and guys like Kyle Davies and Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar looked better then than they do now. Today, the Royals have arguably their deepest bullpen ever, and the worst rotation in the majors, and as a result the Royals are not condemning Crow to a lifetime in relief like they did with Soria.

Maybe I’ve been so beaten down by the Royals that I’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome, but I don’t really mind if they keep Soria. As overrated as the closer’s role is, if having Soria around frees the Royals to use their other relievers in a more optimal fashion, then there are fringe benefits to keeping him. And while he is underpaid, he’s not nearly as underpaid as he was a year or two ago – he makes $4 million this year, but options for $6 million in 2012, $8 million in 2013, $8.75 in 2014 are only modest bargains.

That said, I absolutely think the Royals should trade a reliever, and maybe two. Relievers are probably the most commonly traded commodities this time of year, partly because there are so many of them, but also because virtually every contender could use help somewhere in their bullpen. The Brewers were so desperate for relief help that they just traded for Francisco Rodriguez and the ticking time bomb of his vesting $17.5 million option for next year. Suitors are lining up for Heath Bell like ABC had just announced he was the next Bachelorette.

The thing is, all the big names on the trade market are guys who are free agents at the end of the year, or next year at the latest. And they’re all guys making a market salary. That’s the way the market works, obviously; teams out of contention are willing to trade players who are no longer going to be with the team by the time they’re ready to contend anyway.

But what if a team is willing to trade a reliever – a good reliever – who won’t be a free agent for five or six years? And what if he’s a reliever who’s making the major-league minimum salary? Don’t you think a contender would be willing to pay a higher price for such a reliever than a three-month rental? What would you rather have – a half-season of Heath Bell (who’s making $7.5 million this year), or five-and-a-half seasons of Greg Holland, who’s making $400,000 this year and won’t even be arbitration eligible until 2014?

The Royals, more than at any point in their history, have a true excess of relievers on their roster. They can afford to trade a reliever, even a rookie reliever who won’t be a free agent until 2016 or 2017. Consider:

Holland, a rookie, has allowed 4 runs in 26 innings, with a ridiculous 32-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Louis Coleman, a rookie, has a 1.97 ERA and has allowed 18 hits in 32 innings. He also has 39 strikeouts and 10 unintentional walks.

Blake Wood, a sophomore, has a 2.89 ERA in 37 innings. He has 33 strikeouts and 10 unintentional walks. (Late note: scratch Wood from this discussion after last night’s meltdown, when he threw just five of 20 pitches for strikes. His ERA is now 3.82; his K/BB ratio is 33 to 13.)

That’s three guys, two of whom have ERAs under 2 and more than 3 times as many strikeouts as walks, and all of whom are under club control for at least five years. And all three guys function as middle relievers; the Royals already have a closer and a set-up man in place.

That’s a lot of freaking talent for the middle innings of a ballgame. (And I’m not even including Tim Collins, who by virtue of being left-handed is a rarer commodity and one worth keeping.) It’s also sort of superfluous, particularly for a team with as many needs as the Royals have.

Furthermore, the Royals have yet more bullpen arms that are already pushing for an opportunity. Right-hander Kelvin Herrera (1.64 ERA, 49 Ks, 5 BBs in 44 innings) has been one of the breakout stars of the system, and was named to the Futures Game on Sunday (granted, he took the loss). Left-hander Kevin Chapman, the Royals’ fourth-round pick last year, has struck out 64 batters in 41 innings. Both are in Double-A right now, and will probably be ready by this time next year. In the meantime, well, the Royals are still paying Robinson Tejeda $1.55 million to pitch in Omaha, and his fastball seems to have come back – he has 26 strikeouts in 24 innings, against just six walks.

Frankly, they could give Vinny Mazzaro the last spot in the bullpen and it wouldn’t have a material impact on the team’s performance – we’re talking about the seventh reliever on the team, a guy whose job will solely be to pitch in games whose outcome has already been decided.

It would be an incredibly unconventional move for a team that is building for the future to trade a young player. But in this case, it is absolutely the right one. The Royals need to shift their priorities from stockpiling talent to arranging that talent in the mold of a contending team. The Royals have more relief talent than they need. They have a need for more talent in their starting rotation and in up-the-middle offensive players. This is the perfect time for them to trade from a position of strength to a position of weakness.

It will never happen, of course.

Potential destinations: Virtually every contending team in baseball.

Likelihood one gets traded: 5%

Others: Matt Treanor has value, as he’s given the Royals exactly what Jason Kendall was supposed to give them – enough OBP skills to make up for a lack of power, and a veteran catcher to help develop both Brayan Pena and the pitching staff – at a fraction of the cost. The Royals may want to bring back Treanor as Pena’s caddy again next year, and the only replacement for Treanor in-house would be Manny Pina, so I don’t see a trade as being likely. (Although I’d be in favor of it – as good as Treanor has been this year, this is him at his absolute best, and I’d rather scour the bargain bin again than expect a repeat performance.)

Chris Getz might be traded, in the unlikely event that a contending team has a pressing need for a second baseman who makes up for his complete lack of power with a .320 OBP. Billy Butler is a perennial subject of trade discussion, but aside from the fact that the Royals would be selling low, he’s not the kind of player who gets traded mid-season. The Royals would only trade Butler for guaranteed help in the starting rotation, and “guaranteed” means “already established in the majors”. A team in contention isn’t about to rob Peter to pay Paul. Mike Aviles has been mentioned as a trade candidate; he’s hitting .303/.325/.597 in Omaha, with nine homers in 30 games. Having worked tirelessly to destroy his trade value, Dayton Moore may finally cash him in for pennies on the dollar, but you’re not getting anything of value for a 30-year-old in Triple-A. Kyle Davies has good stuff, and he has the stuff to win 15 games in the majors, and he has good stuff, and if you’re laughing right now, you clearly don’t work in the Royals’ front office.

Conclusion: In researching possible destinations for the Royals’ most appealing veteran players, I was really struck by just how few contending teams have a pressing need at the positions the Royals can help them fill. That was even before I read this article. I still think the Royals will be aggressive in marketing their players; I’m just a little pessimistic that they’ll be able to trade all of them, or even most of them. Betemit seems like a no-brainer, simply because he’s seen as more of a super-utility guy than an everyday player, so even teams without a pressing hole will have interest. But beyond him, there are no sure things. If the Royals can move Betemit and Cabrera or Francoeur – they have to open an outfield slot for Lorenzo Cain, now hitting .319/.383/.535 in Omaha – anything else is gravy.

A lot can happen in the next two weeks; a starting pitcher might go down and a team that thought it was set suddenly isn’t. But right now, it looks like the Royals are unlikely to get more than a marginal prospect for Chen or Francis, if they’re able to trade them at all.


Eric said...

Concerning the free agent contracts with options. Isn't it a bit of a safety net for a player? If you come here for this salary, you'll get everyday playing time, and here's what you make. If you over perform, you get traded to a contender, and have a shot at a raise after the season. If you perform near the salary on the option, we're more likely to sign you because we'll have to weigh the salary vs. paying the option buyout. If you under perform, you'll get a nice little bump in pay at the end of the season and a pat on the back.

Unknown said...

I would like to see Melky and Frenchy get traded for some decent propects. Dyson and Cain deserve some time.

Aviles needs to be brought up as well, so I hope Getz/Wilson will get traded.

I also wonder if Dayton could get anything for Clint. It doesn't seem like he's anything more than insurance at this point.

The Mad Rabbi said...

Rany: How do the defensive projections at CF match up between Melky, Dyson and Cain?

George said...

Chen is a Type B free agent, so he has that value behind him that Francis does not have.

Royals said...

Hosmer is a f'ing beast!

KHAZAD said...

Dayton Moore said the other day that the Royals may stand pat and that the division was still in play.

I hope this was just a little purposeful misinformation so that other clubs don't think the Royals an easy target. Otherwise we need the MIT dude to explain the math to him.

I see Betemit as a virtual guarantee, with very little in return.

What do you think Melky would get in arbitration? I would not mind having him back if they would move him to a corner (They promised him centerfield this year.), but I think he would bring the most return of any player. I think they will keep Frenchy instead. They want to use the mutual option.

The starters mentioned will really depend on whether there is interest from other teams. I don't think they will make a salary dump with their lack of starting pitching.

A Getz trade might be the only way we would get to see Giovotella, as neither player can play the left side of the infield and be a utility guy. (Though if Getz had the fielding chops, his skillset at the plate and on the basepaths translates well to a utility role) They will need someone who can back up that left side in a pinch, so Aviles might get a last hurrah after a Betemit trade.

I think a there may be a couple of reliever deals, but probably not until the off season.

Kansas City said...

Great column. I think the Royals should trade most of the veteran guys mentioned (except perhaps Melky, who is intriquing with the right to bring back next year - if his half year is not a fluke, we obviously should keep him) for the best prospects (even long shots) they can get for each one. Keep the young pitchers, unless there is an absolute steal availalbe.

Butler is interesting. A trade now is probably precluded as trading low (but don't teams know he can hit?), but he is unhappy as a DH and may never take hitting to the next level.

The main reason I'm here is to post the following quote by Yost about Butler in the morning paper and ask my more knowledgable stat friends here to assess the quote - I know RBI's are a flawed statistic, but the Yost statement seems somewhat logical -- or is it wrong:

"It’s just more of a mind-set. I’d much rather have Billy hitting .270 with 25 homers and 120 RBIs than hitting .310 with lower run production.”

Read more:

Kansas City said...

Why are the Royals number so bad on defensive efficiency and rtot (team zone fielding).

They are 13 of 14 in the AL in both categories, .687 in DE and -19 in rtot. Tampa Bay is .724 and league average is .699.

mark said...

Obviously, its your call but I hope you do address "Kansas City"'s question on the bad defensive numbers the Royals are putting up. It seems like every five minutes they are getting an outfield assist or Alcides Escobar is doing something positive. I thought big Hoss was going to help this situation out. I would think that there might be interest in Billy Butler in the National League where he might be more valuable. Thanks, for your blog.

Chris said...

Rany, you and others keep on mentioning about Soria being a starter. The man has started five games in his career in the minors and majors. Is there some stat I'm missing somewhere? And yes, I realize he had a perfect game in the Mexican league but Armando Galarraga basically had one in the MAJORs and I sure as heck don't want him starting for us. I'm as big a fan of you as anyone but this one has NEVER made sense to me.

Jack Campbell said...

How in the world is the Royals' defense so lousy? Let's go around the diamond: 1B - Hosmer was supposed to a be a plus defender, no? 2B - If Chris Getz isn't playing above average defense, what exactly is he doing for the Royals again? SS - plus defense there (supposedly plus plus defense). 3B - Moose is probably struggling. But he still has that arm, right? C - See Getz comment above...If Treanor isn't giving us above average defense what's he giving us? LF - Gordon's range is fine and his arm is a 'weapon'. CF - Melky's below average here. RF - The beacon of Frenchy's light's out defense in RF shines so brightly, I can see it from New York.

By my count, we have exactly two below average defenders out there--Moose and Melky--and I'm not sure about Moose, but's nice like Melky is horrifying in Center. A sub-par CF and 3B have somehow torpedoed our entire defense?

Here's the part where I question defensive statistics.

Jack Campbell said...

..."but it's not like Melky is horrifying in center"...

Jack Campbell said...

Two comments regarding the idea to trade our young relievers:

(1) I remember once feeling that building a bullpen was something that could easily be done year-in, year-out--that Dayton Moore's forte was bullpens--and that relievers were therefore expendable. Granted, they comprise probably the least valuable spots on the roster - in terms of WAR or any other metric - but the result of that experiment was that we gave away Leo Nunez who went on to be a closer (not a great closer, but a closer nonetheless) and Ram Ram for position players who flamed out spectacularly. The point here is not what we got in return, but that the assumption that a good bullpen can be built overnight turned out to be false. After trading those two, our bullpen started costing us games until this new wave of youngsters arrived. There's no guarantee that Herrera and Chapman (Keating?) will succeed in the majors. We do have excess, but Crow is probably about to move to the rotation, which would be mean trading TWO of these guys would really deplete the only strength on our team. We might well not be able to rebuild it when the other parts of the team come into place.

(2) I agree--obviously--that we need starting pitching badly. But I'm not convinced any team would trade starting pitching with upside for relievers (on the other hand, we did snag Felipe Paulino). As far as trading a couple of relievers for other positions, while I understand we're currently fielding a suboptimal lineup, I'm not certain we're dying for talent, say, up the middle. You've got Cain about to claim his spot in center, and is the jury out that Alcides is the Royals' SS going forward? Seems pretty close to a done deal to my eyes. That leaves 2b and C. I'd gladly take a C. I guess Giovotella is no sure thing either, but we have a number of prospects that might fit at 2B, including Mike Aviles who is hitting well at AAA right now. Gordon's your LF, and Myers looks like the heir to RF. Look, an organization can always use talent, I'm just not sure that we're screaming for position players right now. I think we're screaming for SP's. So unless you can convince some team to give you a SP prospect in return for your relievers, I say you stand pat (just talking about the relievers here).

Kansas City said...

Jack Campbell raises a very good question about defensive statistics. I think Getz probably is below average. But still, how can we be almost at the bottom of defensive efficiency and zone rating? I thought with large enough sample size defensive efficiency is accurate? Is half a season not enough? There were like 3,000 balls in play. And Tampa Bay and Seattle are at the top, generally recognized as the best defensive teams.

I don't like trading young bullpen pitchers, unless you really get a great deal. I could justify Coco Crisp as being worth a trade several years ago. Why not give virtually all of them a chance at starting? I think this distinction between starters and relievers may be overdone. The idea is to get guys out. If you can do it in relief, why can't you do it as a starter. It is not like the starters in MLB are guys who would be, or ever have been, stars out of the bullpen. Especially now, with the season gone, the Royals should be giving about any pitcher with major league talent a chance to start.

Michael said...

KC, some of those guys would be exposed big time as starters. Tim Collins wouldn't make it at all as a starter. Some just don't have the repetoire. It takes at least 3 good quality pitches to be a decent starter. Some guys have one or two. Oddly enough, Soria is the most suited of all of them to become a starter, seconded by Aaron Crow, who probably will be a starter next year.

Some guys just work better as relievers as well. Mariano Rivera flamed out as a starter before the Yankees decided to try him in the bullpen. Then Voila! Dominant reliever.

Kansas City said...


I know that the need for a third pitch is conventional wisdom. I question whether it is true. I remember Leibrant years ago saying he threw a fast ball and a change up -- that's it. I assume the CW is suported by some level of knowledge within baseball, but I wonder. And, there is no way to find out without letting the guys pitch instead of wasting starts on guys who will not be here next year.

Kenneth said...

Aaron Crow - I would like to quote what Kevin Goldstein said at the BP event at the "K", "You have a guy that was having a horrible time in the minors last year. There was talk he would not make the major league roster. Now he turned into an All-Star. Why would you screw that up by putting him back in the rotation." Okay so maybe it's not a verbatim quote but it's pretty close. Words from a smart man, please take heed. Teams that close games usually have a dominant eighth inning (Crow) & ninth inning (Soria) guy. Keeping Crow in the bullpen makes sense.

I do wonder if any of the other younger gentlemen in our bullpen have any success in their minor league records as a starter.

Nate Adcock ('88) 90 games started in the minors. None above high A ball.

Greg Holland ('85) 7 games started in the minors.

Everett Teaford ('84) 99 games started in the minors.

Blake Wood ('85) 68 games started, most at AA, none at AAA.

Adcock & Teaford, based off # of innings pitched, would be interesting to see used as starting pitchers starting in September. Heck let them each pitch three innings. 6 innings is about what KC starting pitching has averaged this season. Instead of one pitcher every fifth day why not two ?

Kenneth said...

Does Melky Cabera have a less than average arm ? If not, why is there talk of moving him to left ? Alex Gordon has earned his position there and I don't see anyone on the team I would rather start at left. Why move Alex to RF and make him learn another new position ? Seems like if anyone should move it would be Melky. Unless he does not have a strong enough arm for RF.

I do think the Royals have to move at least one outfielder. Mitch Maier turned 29 and is not getting younger. Melky Cabrera will be turning 26 in August. Jeff Francouer is 26. Why are we talking about trading Cabrera and/or Frenchy ? We should be talking about what it will take to resign them. So far, both have proven they are deserving. They are both going to hit the magic number for hitters, 27, next year. So why isn't there more optimism that next year they could actually be better ? This is a very real possibility. I understand the frustration they are currently blocking Cain/Dyson from CF. I happen to LOVE Dyson's speed and his Defense (same reasons everyone loves Escobar, not sure why Dyson doesn't get this same love). I have seen mention of trading Frenchy to a contender so he could be a platoon player and crush lefties for a contender. Why can't he do that for the Royals ? I know both of them came here as free agents because GMDM promised them playing time but is a Cabrera/Francoeur platoon in RF really an outlandish idea ?

Let me state this clearly, I really like Mitch Maier. Trade, release or demote to AAA Mitch Maier. Again I think he's a great guy. For me it's hard to ignore his age relative to the other Royals OF's currently starting. I'm not sure he could produce as well as they can, and I don't think his glove is so much better that he can make up the difference in defense. I agree with Rany that the price of prospects is overvalued. So try this idea on for size. Trade Lorenzo Cain. I know this sounds crazy but if prospects are truly overvalued this makes sense. Cain packaged with Betemit (whose departure seems to be a forgone conclusion with the promotion of Moose) might be able to fetch something better than "a teenage arm with projection or a toolsy hitter with age on his side." Promote Jarrod Dyson full time. Yost could use Dyson's defense and speed where the Royals need it. Yost could use Frency and Melky in situations where it would help the team. This outfield rotation would actually allow Ned to manage games.

I'd like to see Cabrera and Frenchy back. It's been awhile since the Royals were starting three outfielders on pace to hit over 20hr's each. Why wouldn't you want that back again next year?

Kenneth said...

I agree with Jack Campbell. If Royals are only starting two below avg defenders why do the numbers suggest the Royals are so bad ? Do you believe they are as bad as the numbers suggest ?

I would hope the Royals would have some type of data to suggest that Getz is much better defensively then Aviles. Otherwise, it would not seem to make a lot of sense why Aviles was sent to AAA instead of Getz.

Interesting note on the Royals attendance. Especially when I remember looking at the box scores in the KC Star last year and seeing nights the Royals struggled to draw 10,000. I'm pretty positive if you noticed it, ownership has as well. I would assume this reinforces confidence in the "process" (youth movement).

kcghost said...

You can't unload Getz and Melky/Frenchy fast enough to suit me. Getz is an average defender at best and has 7 EBH's in 316 PA's. The guy has zero pop. We need to free up CF for Cain so let's get on with it.

You know GMDM will let Aviles go for the price of a plane ticket so we have to assume their is no interest in him.

The BP event at the K was fabulous. Rany And Kevin were especially good but Craig and Jeff made their contribution. The Royals portion was terrible (what were they going to say we haven't already read in the newspaper?). You had to be impressed with Wong. Bright, young and articulate - the kind of guy you want in your organization.

The Royals also boned this thing administratively. When we got there there wasn't a soul at Gate C that even knew what BP was, let alone that an event was scheduled for that day.

Kyle said...

If none of these players are going to bring back a true #1 starter, then what's the point of trading them? Francoeur and Cabrera would be a really good RF platoon for less than 6 mil next year. The Royals paid Guillen 12 mil for a much worse RF. At some point the Royals are going to be good enough to need a Switch Hitting Power bat on the bench. Why not keep Betemit there, and try him in the corner outfield in the offseason?

Chen and Francis make sense to trade, but they don't HAVE to. They been the most consistent pitchers in the rotation all year. They are making very little, and could probably even be brought back next year.

I have never really understood the point of unloading decent players making low salaries. They aren't going to bring back much of value, and they aren't breaking the bank. The Royals have a 35 mil payroll this year, and it doesn't look like it's going up much next year.

Moore has done alot of things very well. Built a great farm system, sign decent FA to okay contracts, and hasn't sold the farm to win. He needs help building a 25 and a 40 man roster. And that has been his biggest issue.

Kyle said...

5 Rotation - Monty, Duffy, Hoch, Paulino, and one of Crow/Teaford/ Adcock/Chen/Francis/SOS/Mazzaro
7 Bullpen - Soria, Holland, Coleman, Collins, Wood, Chapman, Herrera
2 C - Treanor, Perez/Pena/Pina
7 IF - Hosmer, Giavotella, Moustakas, Escobar, Betemit, Butler, Falu/Aviles
4 OF - Gordon, Cain, Cabrera, Francoeur

Other options are Dyson, Lough, C.Robinson, Myers, Navarro

Fast Eddie said...

If I were the GM, this is what I'd do:

1) Send Moustakas to Omaha today, bring up Aviles, and showcase Betemit at 3B for a possible trade. Moustakas will have to stay at Omaha for 10 days minimum, which will bring us up to the trade deadline.

2) DFA Davies. I'm sure the Royals are thinking, "the guy struck out 9 last night, he's on the verge of turning the corner", so this probably won't happen. The 6 man rotation is a bad idea anyway, much worse when a pitcher with a 7+ ERA in the sixth slot.

3) Trade either Francoeur or Cabrera and bring up Cain. Try to get starting pitching prospect in the trade.

4) I don't know how to do this, but make room for Giovatella to play 2nd. I don't know if you could trade Getz or just make him a reserve.

Brian Donohue said...

Just read your piece on the Pirates, a lot of fun. I was watching them last night, as I have all season, the guess who was behind the dugout? The King of golf, Arnold Palmer. Wonder if Clint asked him into the locker room to talk with his Montessori minions about what it takes to be a champion and surviving the travails of a long season. Anyway, if he managed to endure the rain delay, he saw the Battlin' Bucs take over first to themselves (the night was so long that the Brews lost in Zona at the same time the Bucs finished off cincy).

It looks like they're very weak in RF of all places. Have to wonder what it might take to get Markakis out of Baltimore. Great player who would fit nicely between Walker and Cutch in the lineup, excellent defender. And he deserves to play on a winner (somebody slap me, the Pirates are a winner).

Aquaman said...

Add the Red Sox to the possible destinations for Francoeur. They would like a RH platoon partner for Josh Reddick, and they are staring at a 40-man roster crunch -- they will lose a couple guys in the Rule 5 draft this winter if they do nothing.

pjbronco said...

By my count, Escobar now has errors in 4 straight games. Is this cause for concern? Don't get to see the games, so just looking at box scores. Read that he may not be the most focused guy on the team. Hate to see his stardom diminished by not making the routine plays. Anybody add any light to this?

Kyle said...

Escobar gets very lackadaisical on the routine plays. He still makes spectacular plays. He may lose focus, but I don't think it's anything to be concerned about. He is starting to hit much better, so that is a possitive. So now he is producing runs, and can still prevent runs a good amount of times.

Fast Eddie said...

Speaking of the Pirates, it appears Jason Grilli is going to join their bullpen from the Phillies AAA affiliate, where he has a sub 2.00 ERA. The Pirates need bullpen help -- they have largely relied on 4 relievers (Hanrahan, Veras, McCutchen, and Resop). Apparently they don't need starting pitching, which is carrying the team. They have some minor league depth. Maybe the Pirates would trade a AAA starter to the Royals for Francoeur.

Kenneth said...

Someone is going to have to explain to me how trading away our players hitting for power and promoting great defending speedsters will not turn the Royals into the Mariners of the AL Central ?

Don't prospects have to play better than Major League players in order to deserve a promotion ? Or are we just going to promote everyone because "they are supposed to be good"? A little patience people. Please enjoy the fact that the team is no longer being paced in offensive production by Yuniesky Betancourt.

Don't lose sight of the fact that players like the Milk Man & Frenchy can help us, even if they weren't promoted from "The greatest farm system ever"

Anonymous said...

Betemit to the Tigers to replace Inge. Cruz and Rodriguez in return. Not a bad haul for a player that had been relegated to the bench with the promotion of Moose. Rodriguez has a chance to be a LOOGY. Pretty sure we will never see either of them in the big leagues though. But, it is worth rolling the dice.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that is Cruz has a chance to be a LOOGY. It sounds like Rodriguez has a very good glove and it is just a matter if he can hit which seems to be a common theme for any catcher prospect...

George said...

neither guy cracked the tigers top-30 prospects.


Antonio. said...

The trade was for a deflated value Wilson Betemit. I think it was a good trade when you take that into consideration.

pjbronco said...

IF (and only if, not sure if he is) Aviles is in the stadium, Yost better explain why he chose twice not to pinch run for Butler--in the 8th with the lead run, and in the 10th with the winning run. First to third on a double? Ugh. Use the weapons you've got Ned! If he has someone faster on the bench, then I really question his judgment.

George said...

maybe, but when you have the brewers, angels, marlins AND tigers all interested, it sounds like WB had at least some value. is this really the best we could do?

should be interesting next couple of days with cabrera, frenchy and soria; although i'm guessing only one will get dealt.

George said...

any chance we can package melky, frenchy and soria to philly for domonic brown?

WSPA said...

I agree that the defense has been much better than in the past. Are the numbers messed up due to the relatively short amount of time that Kila and Aviles were getting regular time in the field?

I think Cain would be great insurance as a fourth OF next year.

I really like how 2012 stacks up. If they don't really improve the record next year, I'm going to get more depressed than ever.

Michael said...

You all have to remember that Betemit was signed for nothing, was barely slugging over .400, and is atrocious defensively. We got a young projectable arm and a catcher on par with Perez. Good defender, questionable bat. Not too shabby if you ask me.

Antonio. said...

You have to take into consideration that the rest of the league is playing better defense too.

MoCrash said...

The Royals are -1.7 defensive wins above replacement value, -1.6 coming from Cabrera in CF. They are also -18 runs from fielding, -15 from Cabrera. The next-worst numbers on the team are a -.06/-7 from Hosmer at 1B. In other words, the Royals are not a bad defensive "team," but clearly have a huge hole at a premium position. Still, since Cabrera's offensive WAR is a team-high 3.4, moving him for the sake of moving him makes little sense. Cabrera could fetch a nice return for a contender in need of a corner OF, but isn't a fire-sale commodity.