Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Cautionary Tale.

So when I wrote about the remarkably young and settled lineup the Royals have trotted out there since Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez were called up in early August, my initial naïve thought was that it was the most promising offense the Royals had put together in decades, if not in their history.

And then I realized how ridiculous that was. If you want to find a Royals team brimming with youth and hope, you don’t have to go back to 1976. You only have to go back to 1999.

That season, the Royals finished 64-97, but they were outscored by just 65 runs all year, and their offense was both young and formidable.

25-year-old Mike Sweeney finally found a position at first base and hit .322/.387/.520. Joe Randa, who had been re-acquired in a much-maligned trade for former first-round pick Juan LeBron, shocked everyone by hitting .314/.363/.473, and he was still just 29 years old. Jeremy Giambi, who had put up crazy stats in the minors but wasn’t taken seriously by scouts, got into 90 games and hit .285/.373/.368; he was just 24. Carlos Febles, a 23-year-old rookie, hit .256/.336/.411 as the team’s starting second baseman.

And then there was the outfield. I’ve received some tweets from Royals fans questioning whether this year’s outfield, with Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur, is the greatest Royals outfield ever. I’m assuming these fans are too young to remember the 1999 Royals, who had one of the greatest young outfields of all time. Their leftfielder, a former phenom who had struggled to establish himself in the majors, finally had his breakout season (sound familiar?) – Johnny Damon hit .307/.379/.477. In right field, Jermaine Dye, who like Damon was still just 25 years old, hit 44 doubles and .294/.354/.526 overall. And in center field, the Royals employed 22-year-old Carlos Beltran who hit .293/.337/.454, scored 112 runs and drove in 108, and was named the AL Rookie of the Year.

Twelve years later, Damon and Beltran are still everyday players in the majors, and Dye might still be had he not rejected all the contract offers he got last season and went into a self-imposed retirement.

The similarities between the 1999 Royals offense and the 2011 Royals offense extend to having a catcher with a four-letter first name and seven-letter last name. The 2011 Royals brought in 35-year-old Matt Treanor to catch and mentor the pitching staff; the 1999 Royals brought in 34-year-old Chad Kreuter to do the same.

The Royals scored 856 runs that season; the following spring, I wrote this column for Baseball Prospectus. Yes, our tools were primitive at the time and I was using runs scored and runs batted in to make a point, but still, the case could be made that the Royals’ lineup was historically promising.

In 2000, the Royals was even more potent. Jeremy Giambi had been traded away in a typically lopsided deal with the A’s (the Royals received Brett Laxton, who threw 26 innings in his major league career) – but in his place was phenom Mark Quinn, who had hit two homers in his major league debut the previous September, and as a rookie hit .294/.342/.488. Beltran was injured and ineffective, but both Damon and Dye had career years, as did Sweeney. The criminally underrated Gregg Zaun was the team’s primary catcher and hit .274/.390/.410; the Royals got a random .278/.329/.478 line out of backup first baseman/DH Dave McCarty. The Royals led the AL in batting average that year and scored 879 runs, breaking the franchise record they had set the year before.

And none of it mattered. The Royals went a fairly promising 77-85 in 2000, but fell back to 97 losses again in 2001, and in 2002 the franchise lost 100 games for the first time. They would lose 100 games three more times in the next four years. As Joe Posnanski chronicled in this insanely detailed article – the turn-of-the-millenium Royals were dripping with promise. And they broke all of them.

That’s the cautionary tale these Royals need to avoid duplicating. These are the reasons to think that they will.

1) The 1999 Royals offense wasn’t as good as it looked. The Royals scored 856 and 879 runs in back-to-back years, but they ranked just 7th and 5th in the league in runs scored. In 2000, AL teams averaged 5.28 runs per game. This year, AL teams are averaging just 4.44 runs per game – nearly 20% fewer. So the 2011 Royals, on pace to score 719 runs this season, are almost certain to finish 6th in the AL in runs scored, their highest finish since they were 3rd in the league in runs scored in 2003. (From 2004 to 2010, they never finished higher than 10th.)

It’s not simply that offensive levels were higher at the turn of the millennium. After the 1994 season, you might recall, the Royals moved the fences in 10 feet all the way around, and immediately Kauffman Stadium transformed from one of the toughest home run parks in the majors (but a neutral offensive park overall, as it helped batting average) into one of the better hitters’ parks in the game. The fences were moved back out after the 2003 season, but from 1995 through 2003 the ballpark was a significant aid to the team’s offense. (It was even more of a detriment to the team’s pitchers, which is why they were moved back out.)

Take a look at the three best offensive seasons by a Royals hitter in 1999 and 2000:

Mike Sweeney, 1999: .322/.387/.520, 128 OPS+
Mike Sweeney, 2000: .333/.407/.523, 131 OPS+
Jermaine Dye, 2000: .321/.390/.561, 135 OPS+

Then take a look at the two best offensive seasons from 2011:

Alex Gordon, 2011: .303/.375/.503, 142 OPS+
Billy Butler, 2011: .292/.364/.462, 128 OPS+

Gordon, despite raw statistics that are worse than Sweeney’s and Dye’s numbers across the board, has clearly had the best offensive season by OPS+ – because OPS+ takes into account both the league averages and the influence of the ballpark. And look at Butler – despite an OPS 80 points lower than Mike Sweeney’s performance in 1999, relative to the league and ballpark he has hit exactly as well as Sweeney did.

I think we’re all aware that runs are more precious today than they were a year ago. But it’s easy to underestimate the magnitude of the effect. I wouldn’t have guessed that Billy Butler hitting .292/.364/.462 in 2011 is just as impressive as Mike Sweeney hitting .322/.387/.520 in 1999, but it is.

This extends down the line. Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur both have higher OPS+ totals than either Damon or Dye had in 1999. In other words, while the 1999 Royals outfield may have been the best Royals outfield in terms of future performance, in terms of what they’ve done this season, Gordon, Cabrera, and Francoeur are even better.

(But they’re still not the best single-season outfield in Royals history. That would be the – surprise! – 1972 Royals, with Lou Piniella (138 OPS+), Amos Otis (129), and Richie Scheinblum (140). Yeah, I had no idea either.)

2) The 1999 Royals had a young offense – but not as young as this one. The average age of the 1999 Royals offense, as measured by baseball-reference.com, was 27.0 years old. That’s very young – the 1976 Royals were also 27.0 years old, and those are the two youngest offenses the Royals fielded from 1971 through 2010.

The 2011 Royals average 25.9 years of age. That’s more than a year younger than every Royals team of the last 40 years. And it’s getting younger – the average age of their usual lineup these days is 24, and the team has already shaved two-tenths of a year off their average age in the last two weeks. There’s a chance the 2011 Royals will break the record held by the expansion 1969 Royals, who averaged 25.8 years of age, as the youngest offense in franchise history. (The 1970 Royals averaged 26.4 years, for the record.)

I’ll line up the two teams by age:

Chad Kreuter, 34 vs. Jeff Francoeur, 27
Rey Sanchez, 31 vs. Alex Gordon, 27
Joe Randa, 29 vs. Melky Cabrera, 26
Mike Sweeney, 25 vs. Billy Butler, 25
Johnny Damon, 25 vs. Alcides Escobar, 24
Jermaine Dye, 25 vs. Johnny Giavotella, 23
Jeremy Giambi, 24 vs. Mike Moustakas, 22
Carlos Febles, 23 vs. Eric Hosmer, 21
Carlos Beltran, 22 vs. Salvador Perez, 21

The turn-of-the-millenium Royals would keep fumbling around for a catcher – they wisely picked up Gregg Zaun the following year, then foolishly let him go – and they would need to find a replacement for Rey Sanchez at shortstop before long, which led to the disastrous trades of Neifi Perez and Angel Berroa. The 2011 Royals, by contrast, don’t have even one player who is in imminent danger of being overcome by the vicissitudes of age. Regression to the mean, yes, but not age.

At the younger end of the spectrum, Hosmer and Perez are both younger than Beltran, who was the youngest member of the 1999 Royals and not coincidentally had the most upside.

3) The 1999 Royals were broken up by service time and economic issues that don’t apply in 2011. After the 1999 season, Damon was just two years away from free agency; Sweeney and Dye were three years away. Moreover, this was during a baseball era in which the Royals and other small market teams, for lack of a better term, gave up. It’s not that the Royals couldn’t necessarily afford the likes of a Johnny Damon; this was still just five years after the strike, and the relationship between owners and players was more of a Cold War than a true peace. David Glass, who was in the process of becoming the de jure owner of the team after being the de facto owner, was more interested in proving a point about baseball economics than about winning, and was perfectly willing to cut off his stars to spite his team. (Here’s an article I wrote at the time about the Royals’ unwillingness to spend money to retain their own players.)

That led to the trades of Damon – which aside from Berroa’s rookie season brought nothing in return, and also cost the Royals Mark Ellis – and Dye – which brought back worse than nothing. The Royals couldn’t replace the loss of both outfielders, and set the team on a downward spiral of offense. The team was able to sign Mike Sweeney to a long-term deal, but after having an oral agreement with Carlos Beltran on an extension that would have bought out a year of free agency, the team tried to squeeze another million dollars out of the contract and the deal blew up.

Neither of these issues figures to hit the current Royals squad as hard. Hosmer, Moustakas, Giavotella, and Perez won’t be free agents until after 2017; Escobar won’t be until after 2015. And the economics of the game – and their owner – have changed so that the Royals aren’t resigned to losing each of their players once they qualify for free agency. Butler, who otherwise would have been a free agent in two years, signed a long-term deal with a club option that would keep him in a Royals uniform through 2015. Francoeur, of course, just signed a two-year extension that kept him from free agency. And while Alex Gordon is only locked up for two more years, both sides have made every indication that they are willing and able to get a long-term deal done this winter, which should keep Gordon through 2015 as well.

Only Melky Cabrera isn’t signed past 2012, and it’s not entirely clear that the Royals should want him past 2012 anyway. And if Gordon signs a long-term deal, that means that seven of the Royals’ nine everyday hitters are under control for at least four more seasons.

4) The farm system is better-stocked than it was a decade ago. Baseball America started publishing their Prospect Handbook in 2001, so I have a list of the team’s best prospects after the 2000 season. They are:

1) Chris George
2) Dee Brown
3) Mike MacDougal
4) Jimmy Gobble
5) Jeff Austin
6) Angel Berroa
7) Ken Harvey
8) Mike Stodolka
9) Alexis Gomez
10) Kyle Snyder

In hindsight, obviously that looks like an awful mess. It wasn’t nearly that bad at the time, but it wasn’t great. Chris George was just 21 years old and had made it to Triple-A with a fastball in the low 90s and moxie on the mound. Dee Brown had hit .331 with 25 homers and 30 steals in the minors in 1999; he was disappointing in 2000 but still hit .269 with 23 homers in Omaha.

But if you match this farm system with the one the Royals have today, it’s no contest. Mike Montgomery has better stuff than George did; Wil Myers is two years younger than Brown was. Mike MacDougal, the Royals’ #3 prospect 11 years ago, wasn’t the prospect that Jake Odorizzi is today, and Odorizzi is not (at least in my mind) the Royals’ #3 prospect today. Jeff Austin, who had already lost his fastball by that point, wouldn’t rank as one of the Royals’ top five starting pitching prospects today, let alone top five prospects overall.

5) This year’s bullpen doesn’t qualify as a Superfund site. Remember how I wrote that the Royals went 64-97 despite only being outscored by 65 runs all year? There’s a reason for that – the 1999 Royals had the worst bullpen in major-league history. This is not an exaggeration.

At the end of six innings, the 1999 Royals led in 73 games and trailed in 68. That’s right – a team that finished with 97 losses was actually above .500 after six innings. Somehow, the Royals lost TWENTY games that year that they were leading after six. In games that were tied after six innings, they went 5-15. They were a staggering 11-32 in one-run games. The Royals lost 19 games in the standings after sixth inning – the worst performance by any team in history according to available data.

Take a look at the 1999 Royals’ bullpen:

- Jeff Montgomery, in his final season, saved 12 games – and had a 6.84 ERA. From 1989 to 1997, Montgomery averaged 74 innings and a 2.81 ERA; he’s forgiven. The guys below are not.

- Scott Service tried to fill in for Montgomery and saved eight games. He had a 6.09 ERA, and allowed 132 baserunners in 75 innings.

- Matt Whisenant had a 6.35 ERA in 40 innings.

- Alvin Morman impressed with a 4.05 ERA in 53 innings; he allowed 66 hits, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 31-to-23. Let’s just say those numbers didn’t portend future greatness, or even future mediocrity.

- Jose Santiago, who was the best reliever on the team with a 3.42 ERA, but who struck out only 15 batters in 47 innings.

- Oh, and throw in Tim Byrdak, who relieved in 33 games but only survived to pitch 25 innings thanks to a 7.66 ERA and a WHIP of 2.11.

And then there were the occasional relief outings from the likes of Mac Suzuki (5.16 ERA) and Chris Fussell (7.39 ERA) and Don Wengert (9.25 ERA) and Ken Ray (8.74 ERA). Suffice it to say that the bullpen was a festering boil for the Royals at the turn of the millennium, one they couldn’t find a way to get rid of. Prior to the 2000 season, they spent free agent dollars on Ricky Bottalico (4.83 ERA) and Jerry Spradlin (5.52 ERA). When that didn’t work, they decided to use Johnny Damon as the lure to bring in a proven closer, and landed…36-year-old Roberto Hernandez, who posted ERAs of 4.12 and 4.33 in his two seasons with the Royals.

In 2003 the Royals finally came up with a home-grown option in Mike MacDougal, and for one year he actually looked like a solution – although even he had a 4.08 ERA. Then he got hurt, and the Royals tried Jeremy Affeldt in that role, and by 2006 the Royals were closing with Ambiorix Burgos, who set the franchise record with 12 blown saves that year.

And those were the closers. You can only guess how bad the set-up men and middle relievers were. But if you can’t, here’s a clue:

From 1999 through 2006, the Royals used 36 different pitchers to relieve in 30 or more games. The LOWEST ERA of those 36 pitchers was 3.73, by the unforgettable Cory Bailey. (Yeah, I had forgotten him too.) Bailey, MacDougal, and Jason Grimsley were the only three relievers who managed an ERA under 4. Sixteen of the 36 relievers had ERAs over 5, and 8 of them had ERAs over 6.

The bullpen was so bad that the Royals couldn’t even luck into a randomly good season from one. Can we all agree that a typical bullpen should have at least one reliever with an ERA under 3? From 1995 through 2006 – a span of TWELVE seasons – the Royals DIDN’T HAVE A SINGLE RELIEVER with an ERA under 3 and at least 30 games pitched. (This year alone, they have three.)

It’s almost impossible to overstate the difficulty the Royals had, for close to a decade, in finding a reliever – any reliever – who could get guys out. This might be the single biggest indictment of Allard Baird as a General Manager. So many of the Royals’ problems in those years can be blamed on meddling or stingy ownership – but no amount of meddling or stinginess should have kept Baird from dredging up a semi-competent reliever every now and then. He couldn’t.

In comparison, the 2011 Royals bullpen has a 3.67 ERA as a group. (Take out Vinny Mazzaro’s one relief appearance, and it drops to 3.46.) Even factoring in the decline in offense, the bullpen as a whole this year is as good as, if not better than, EVERY SINGLE RELIEVER the team employed from 1999 to 2006.

The turn-of-the-millenium Royals failed to launch in part because they traded Johnny Damon for Roberto Hernandez. Unless Dayton Moore trades Alex Gordon for Heath Bell, that’s one bump in the road we probably don’t need to worry about.

6) The 1999 Royals had no starting pitching. The 2011 Royals, well…As young as the Royals’ offense was a decade ago, their pitching staff was even younger. In 1999, the Royals traded Kevin Appier at the trading deadline for three young arms, divesting themselves of their only thirty-something starter. As a result, the average age of the pitchers the Royals used in 2000 was just 25.8, the third-youngest pitching staff in Royals history. Here’s your starting rotation:

- Jeff Suppan (25) made 33 starts.
- Mac Suzuki (25) made 29 starts.
- Dan Reichert (23) made 18 starts.
- Blake Stein (26) made 17 starts.
- Jay Witasick (27) made 14 starts.
- Brian Meadows (24) made 10 starts.
- Chris Fussell (24) made 9 starts.
- Miguel Batista (29) made 9 starts.
- Jose Rosado (25) made 5 starts.

Throw in single starts from Brett Laxton (26) and Jeff D’Amico (25), and every starter the Royals used that year was under the age of 30. All but nine starts were made by pitchers 27 or younger.

And you know what? It didn’t matter, because with the exception of Suppan, they all sucked. (Except for Rosado, whose arm was destroyed by the organization.) Once upon a time, Casey Stengel was asked about a couple of promising young players in spring training camp. “See that fella over there? He’s 20 years old. In 10 years, he’s got a chance to be a star. Now that fella over there, he’s 20 years old, too. In 10 years he’s got a chance to be 30.” The Royals had a very young rotation – but they were all the second kind of fella. It was an entire rotation of Sean O’Sullivans and Vinny Mazzaros – pitchers who had almost nothing positive to offer other than their birth certificate.

As for the 2011 Royals…yeah, not even I can spin their rotation into a positive. If there’s one thing that can derail the dream of the 2011 Royals and turn this into another Lost Decade, it’s the lack of starting pitching. Between now and next April, the Royals need to – and I am almost certain will – acquire two or three potential solutions for their rotation. Their success in doing so, more than anything else, will determine whether the Royals will be legitimate contenders in either of the next two years.

Who should they try to acquire? That will be the subject of my next column.

54 comments:

Bart said...

I think we should go big and deal prospects for King Felix or Kershaw. I see no point in having this offense without putting a pitching staff together as well.

Timothy said...

While the 2011 rotation is bad, I do think there are some glimmers of hope there.
Hochevar has been very good since the All-Star game and Ned's proclamation that he was fixed
Paulino has put up nice numbers as well. He just can't seem to keep all the parts of his game under wraps at the same time. Either he's not king enough people, or walking to many, or giving up too many home runs. If it all comes together for him, then he could be the best DM aqcuisition yet.
Even Duffy, though disappointing, has shown flashes of what makes him so promising. If he can get his control back next season, he should return to form.
Even Bruce Chen has been a decent pitcher. I wouldn't mind having Chen back. Having Chen isn't bad. Having Chen as your best or second best pitcher is. and next year he should be slotted in as the Royals #4, a position he fills perfectly.

As long as the Royals can find an above average pitcher to fill their 5th spot, either a callup(Monty, what is wrong with you?) trade(Wandy), free Agent(maybe I shouldn't have heckled Bhuerelye so hard a couple of days ago) or BP guy(We can't convert closers, but successful set up men? sure why not, Teaford, Crow, Holland, come on down) Then they should have the makings of an average or better rotation.

eddiehawkins said...

I also think we should trade a couple prospects for a 23-year-old lefty Cy Young candidate earning $500k this year with multiple years of club control remaining. Felix seems a little old though. Maybe Pineda? And I like Melky but he's not going to be with us long term... Justin Upton or Braun might be a good fit.

Benjamin said...

I hear Barry Zito is available...

McGoldencrown said...

Giavotella turned 24 a month before he ever played in the Bigs so, get your facts right please if your attempting to be historically relevant.

Unknown said...

The only free agent pitcher I would want on this team is Yu Darvish. I would want trade for guys like Kershaw, Hernandez, and Josh Johnson if he is healthy. I would stay away from overvalued guys like Edwin Jackson, Mark Buerhle, and Billingsly. I wouldn't take a flyer on Zambrano either.

Nathan said...

Is there any reason to think guys like King Felix and Kershaw are going to be available on the trade market this winter? I find that hard to believe. Even if they were available, we'd have to include two or three big-time prospects in the deal. I mean, if you were the Mariners would you trade Hernandez for less than Wil Myers, John Lamb, and at least a couple of other prospects?

Wandy Rodriquez seems like a more reasonable target to me. Still an outstanding pitcher, but less useful to his team at the moment, and more likely to be affordable.

Antonio. said...

I wouldn't touch Wandy. He's going to be 33 and owed 36 million over the next three years. Sounds disastrous to pay him, much less pay FOR him with prospects.

Also, Johnny G is 24 and turned 24 almost a month before he made it to the bigs...but it's still his Age 23 season considering he didn't turn 24 until July 10th.

MHBob said...

Starting pitching is the problem, but talented pitchers are not. It is just that we have several very talented pitchers that may not currently fit a starter's profile. Yost tried the idea of six starters very briefly. i can't recall the name of a former Royals starter who commented that he thought it would fail because it did not allow the pitchers enough work to enable them to have decent command. He then said he had the best command when he pitched in a four man rotation. However, he felt that resulted in overworking the starters.
I propose a four man rotation with the piggy back that was used to protect Arguelles at Wilmington. Starters with their backups could be Hochevar--Montgomery, Paulino--Teaford, Duffy--Crow, Chen--Holland. Starters would be expected to pitch 5 innings and have a pitch count that have 80 pitches treated as managers now treat 100. The back up would be expected to pitch 3 to 4 innings depending on the game. Soria would still close and we would have Coleman, Collins, Wood, Adcock, and Herrera as candidates for the bull pen or maybe beating out one of the 8. Advantages might include enhanced command, a half way house to starting status for some about which there are doubts, a lefty -righty switch that might help and the fact that an opposing team's hitters would seldom see a pitcher 3 times and never four in a game. Disadvantages could involve pitchers not liking the idea, being overworked, but it is not a new idea except for the piggy-back part.

ChrisInKC said...

Please people, you aren't going to get Hernandez, Kershaw, or Johnson for three minor leaguers. You could have one of those pitchers for Hosmer, Gordon, AND Montgomery. That is simply not going to happen. But, if you trade for Wandy Rodriguez or Billingsly you could get them for almost nothing precisely because of how much $ they are scheduled to make and add innings with K potential to a lengthened starting rotation. If Hochevar, Paulino, and Duffy are the 3, 4, 5 starters behind Wandy, Billingsly, or heck, Aaron Harang, we would have a much better shot of winning near and long term because we wouldn't have to give up real talent to do so.

Michael said...

Chris in KC, I would disagree. Heck, just 2 years ago, the Phillies got Roy Halladay for 3 minor leaguers. How many times has Cliff Lee been traded for minor leaguers??

Point is, there are plenty of top shelf pitchers traded for just 3 minor leaguers.

Michael said...

And don't forget, the Royals traded Zack Greinke and Yuni for 3 minor leaguers and the offensively underwhelming Alcides Escobar. So yes, we can get someone like King Felix if we are willing to give up the prospects to do it.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChrisInKC said...

Lee and Halladay weren't 23 and making peanuts when they were traded! They were 29 and making a bunch of money, in the last year of their contracts, and those players got to approve who they were traded to...and it won't be the Royals. If Hernandez or Kershaw are available, don't you think a team like NY would give up more because they can win without having homegrown players. Also, to compare Greinke to Halladay and Lee is ludicrous! 1 good season doesn't make you Halladays's equal, it makes you a 2nd tier player with emotional issues. If you were the Dodgers would you trade a 23 year old ace for minor leaguers? If the answer is yes then you need to spend a little more time listening/reading to Rany's work. These are ridiculous trade proposals, nobody trades a great ace in his arbitration years and keeps their job.

Michael said...

First, Chris, I never said I would trade Kershaw or Felix.

But lets really dissect your argument. First off, Kershaw has his first arbitration eligible offseason this year, and is widely expected to break the record for first year arbitration record. Felix made 10 mill this year, and it goes up to 18.5 million this year. These guys won't be making "peanuts" next year. I really think Felix Hernandez could be had if we are willing to pay the price, in minor leaguers and in salary (3 yrs, $58 mill left).

My main point was that pitchers of that caliber are available for minor leaguers. It happens almost every offseason.

ChrisInKC said...

You need to stop sniffing glue. The M's and Dodgers aren't going to trade those two for minor leaguers. You want to bundle up enough C's to get an A, but it doesn't work that way. You want to trade Montgomery (with his 5.50 era), Myers (and his .260 avg), Cain (who has 60 MLB games at 25 years old) to get Kershaw. Teams know we are in need and can get us over a barrel. We need Doug Fister type trades, not Ubaldo Jiminez. If you are going to trade for an ace you need to be able to resign him, otherwise you are wasting prospects on a team that needs its prospects.

ChrisInKC said...

3 years $58 mil is silly. The Yanks would give Felix Hernandez 5 for $115 million if not more.

Michael said...

You are really showing your ignorance now Chris. First, who cares what the Yankees would pay him right now? He's not a free agent! 3 years, 58 million is what is still owed on his current contract. You think the Mariners wouldn't trade him for three or four high end prospects? They aren't going to contend anytime soon, so they'd be silly to not even listen.

Its whyvthe Blue Jays listened on Roy Halladay, why the Indians listened on both Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, etc.

Someone will be willing to listen for a high caliber pitcher if the M's dont.

ChrisInKC said...

The Royals are not trading for Hernandez. Get over it, its not happening. Even if by some miracle the M's do trade him, what bats do we have left that we would be willing to trade? They won't trade him without a wide-thing deal, which we are out of at the moment. If you want to talk targets you need to be realistic. Shields (rays have too many pitchers), Cahill
(buying low to a team that needs bats), Greinke
(incredible irony), Marcum, Alex Cobb, Morrow, etc. If the Royals were willing to trade all their minor league death and take on $2000 mil a year, why not just sign Darvish? That's just $100 mil without giving up prospects. It ain't happening.

Bart said...

this is turning into a facebook thread.

Jeremy McNeal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy McNeal said...

Great read Rany!

Another interesting story I'd like to read:

What kind of career will Mitch Maier have?

Scouts seem to dislike Teaford. Does he actually have potential?

Available Aces the Royals could/should acquire this off season.

Do the Royals STILL undervalue OBP

Michael said...

Chris, do you even keep up with the Royals? Dayton has already said they are going to look at good young pitching under team control for a few more years. About a month ago I even provided a list of pitchers they should call on.

Do I really think they'll acquire Felix? No, I dont. Just too much money for them. But they are willing to part with the prospects to make such a deal happen. To act like there's no possible way the mariners will even trade him though is ludicrous.

McGoldencrown said...

michael, what chris is saying is WE DONT HAVE THE PROSPECTS Seattle would want in trade for Felix or Kershaw. Our top prospects are covered with warts.

I will restate what I posted weeks ago. In the offseason, Moore will trade Wil Myers and one or two lesser but still solid prospects to Atlanta for Mike Minor. (..and yes minor is worth more than myers straight up. Its not really close).

McGoldencrown said...

...Obviously Kershaw does not play for Seattle. LA would also not be interested in any prospect package that didnt include Hosmer, Moose and or Gordon. Premium starting pitching is THE most valuable commodity in Baseball.

Michael said...

Trust me, if the Royals started off with a package of Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery, the Mariners would at least sit down at the table. Not saying a deal would necessarily go down, but they would at least listen. You may be down on their stats, cause that's what we as fans do, but scouts still love them.

Kenneth said...

I see no reason not to be optimistic. If GMDM was able to fix the farm system, I feel confident he will have a starting rotation next year that is an improvement upon this year. And I'm not even sure they need to add anyone for this to happen.

I think the piggyback idea is very interesting. Would allow you to get by with four starters.

I view this post as a validation for all the praise that a one Mr Rany was heaping upon GMDM during last season. Looks like he was right. At the very least I for one "trust the process". I will now eat my crow pie for not being excited about GMDM's hire 5 years ago.

Nathan said...

Something that was hard to miss during today's game: Eric Hosmer is about a year behind where Miguel Cabrera was on the development curve at the same age. And that's nothing to be ashamed of.

onthebandwagonsince77 said...

before diving into who they should get there is one more key difference between those teams, when the 99-00 royals made trades to shore up holes, they created more holes. They had no depth and shit prospects. at least now, they have a little depth (cain, robinson?,) and they have prospects that might bring back even more. I would like to say I am against any trade of a uppertier prospect at this point. I want to see another year of montgomery before we give up major parts of the second wave for a young ace.

onthebandwagonsince77 said...

my thoughts on the 2012 rotation:

Paulino
Hoch
*both have warts, but both have shown consistant change for the better.
Crow
*I get it, the year after sitting out he sucked as a starter, despite being one his whole career and being drafted high by 2 teams to be one. at the very least he needs a shot.
Teaford/Chen
*One of the two, if it is Chen, Tea is back in the pen.

And one trade or mid-level signing. a #3 (Wandy is who I want, if they take on the money they give up little more than minor league filler)

This leaves Montgomery in AAA to continue to develope, Oderrizi starts in AA, moves up, Dwyer, Lamb, and the host of other fringe pitchers continue to develope in the hope that one of them becomes a 3, another a 5.

And it keeps the minors intact, because after all this is just the begining, we (as royals fans) tend to think it is a once a decade chance, so shoot the moon. I am hoping for a sustable winner.

onthebandwagonsince77 said...

a bit off topic, the complaint that GMDM's job is to build a winner at the mlb level and there for he sucks and can't evaluate MLB talent is sh*t.
His job was:
1. Build a minor league system that can shape a major league roster-----check.
2. Rebuild the minors to a point where they can support a winning MLB team---check
3. Evaluate which prospects are keepers and which are trade chips, ideally maxing the return on prospects before they flame out.----this is his next big step
4.subliment the MLB team with Free Agents role players----coming december 2012
5. identify his players, which he wants to sign, which will sign, and get great value for the ones he trades-----incomplete (Butler deal is a +, Greinke trade is a +, Soria deal is a + due to options)

onthebandwagonsince77 said...

Michael said...
Trust me, if the Royals started off with a package of Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery, the Mariners would at least sit down at the table.

No F-n way would I trade myers and monty for felix. that is selling low on players who in the past year have been considered the best of this crop. The crop is kicking ass, and if they are the best of it, jebus christ.
Besides, Myers is the reason Frenchy will be gone in a year.


I wouldn't want 1 of them to be a part of that package, but I would understand it. Monty & either B+ and flyer arm or Monty & B and C

Michael said...

Don't misunderstand me Bandwagon. I personally wouldn't trade the both of them for anyone. But I think if we were serious about getting someone like Felix Hernandez, then we'd have to part with both for the Mariners to make the deal. I wouldn't do it as a Royals fan though. If we could get them to take only one of them along with Chris Dwyer and maybe another secondary prospect (I'd still include Giovatella in a deal like this), then do it. But I doubt the M's would do something like that.

Fast Eddie said...

Next year might be real exciting. Notice that the Royals are better than Cleveland and Chicago in run differential. And, Hosmer is the next superstar in baseball???

Colin said...

I'm not a fan of either the Royals or the Mariners. Anyone who would refuse to trade Myers and Montgomery for Felix has lost all perspective.

Michael said...

The only reason I wouldn't do it is because of money. He gets almost 20 mill a year for the next 3 years. I don't want one player, who only plays every 5 games, to take up a third of my teams payroll.

If it were just based on talent, I'd do the deal, hands down.

Antonio. said...

Pitchers have such a large impact on one single, solitary game compared to his position player counterparts, that it equals out in the end. 30-32 stars is ~ 145-150 starts by a positional player.

This is how pitchers can score as high on the sabr categories as position players.

Michael said...

I still dont want one player taking up a third of the payroll.

Antonio. said...

I used to think that, but it really just depends, doesn't it? We have 11 players that have played a solid number of games...all making league minimum. So we have 5.5 (roughly) million tied up into approximately half of our 25-man roster. That means we can have a single player taking up a large percentage of our payroll. If we had a set ceiling and a lot of arb eligible players and a lot of potential free agents that we wanted to bring back, then yeah, I wouldn't want a player to take up a third of the payroll. But we can have one guy take up 33% for the next three years. And to get any kind of rotational improvement, we're probably going to have to almost no matter what. It's worth it for an elite pitcher like Hernandez.

Michael said...

Only hole in your argument is that one player, at least, will be arb eligible after 2 years, not three. Obviously I'm speaking of Hosmer. Crow and Collins will be arb eligible after two more seasons as well. Collins probably won't cost much in arb as a reliever, and with Crow it will depend on if he's made a starter again and how successful he is at that if they do.

Hosmer, I think, will be pretty expensive. Ryan Howard, for example, got $10 million his first time in arbitration. Now, Hosmer won't have the HR's Howard did, but I could still see him costing 7-8 million his first time through.

Michael said...

Lets also take a look at the rest of the roster, with approximate salaries.

C-Salvador Perez, Manny Pina. Total cost of about 900,000.
1B-Eric Hosmer-500,000
2B-Johnny Giavotella-500,000
3B-Mike Moustakas-500,000
SS-Alcides Escobar-500,000
OF-Melky Cabrera-$4,000,000 (projected)
Alex Gordon-$4,500,000 (projected)
Jeff Francouer-6,500,000
DH-Billy Butler-$8,000,000

They can probably put together 3 more bench players for about $2,000,000 total.

SP-Luke Hochevar-$4,000,000 (projected)
Felipe Paulino-1,600,000
Aaron Crow?-$1,000,000

RP-Joakim Soria-$6,000,000
RP-Tim Collins, Louis Coleman, Greg Holland, Blake Wood, $2,000,000 total.

So we still need two starting pitchers and probably 2-3 more relievers. They have enough minor league depth that I think they can get the relievers pretty cheap, so we'll go 1.5 mill on them as a guesstimate.

Total Spent-$44 million, and we still need two starting pitchers. The Royals record for player salaries was the 71.4 mill we spent last year. Add in Felix's 18 mill, and we are at 62 mill. And we are still short one starter, unless we deem Montgomery or someone else ready, which I highly doubt.

I did this exercise for myself, to see if we could make it work....and at least for one year, we could. The next year, we'd have to take into account a raise for Gordon, Soria, Hochevar, and Paulino, assuming we keep them all. Then we might have some tough decisions to make...

Antonio. said...

The high is actually 74 million. Your numbers are slightly off, but only slightly, so they're workable. Can't we find another starter for 12 million? (Also, I wouldn't call Hosmer a shoo-in for Super Two status...don't you have to have certain types of numbers, which are attainable if he's healthy and doesn't slump. I'm not predicting a Sophomore Slump, but I'm not predicting he won't have one either.) Also, you still have a second wave of young players to start bringing in to replace various players... And if you add an 18 million dollar pitcher and a 12 million dollar one, you'd have to think our 74 can go even higher due to increased revenue of winning...right? Generational players such as Hernandez almost always pay for themselves.

Nathan said...

If the team wins next year, revenue and salaries will rise together.

Unknown said...

Of course, you can always be like
Rany, and take both sides of every argument you've ever made..

ChrisInKC said...

Super 2 status has nothing to do with stats, it is simply the top 17% (or thereabouts) of service time players with less than 3 years of service time. And I think you are low-balling the Gordon contract, more like 6 mil, a Butler type contract in total $'s with less years. Plus they already set Francouer at $6.5 per, I don't think Gordon will sign a longterm deal for less

Fast Eddie said...

The Leo Nunez (Oviedo?) story doesn't justify the Mike Jacobs trade, because Mike Jacobs' real name is still Mike Jacobs.

Michael said...

The numbers I used are mlbtraderumors.com estimated arbitration numbers. If he does in fact sign long term, we'll know his costs then.

Royals said...

Alright Rany, who are your targets? Shields? Garza? Billingsley? Zimmerman? Nolasco? Minor? Pineda? One of the Oakland guys....Beane would rape us. Not Wandy.....

Antonio. said...

ChrisInKC:

Butler has more production backing him up...and only made three this year. Frenchy made 2.25 this year. I could see Gordon signing for 4.5 this upcoming year, and then like 7.5, then like 11, then like 12...that's a 4/35 deal.

Michael said...

Rany, it has now been two weeks. Please oh please give us your list of starting pitching targets!!

pjbronco said...

Where is the new entry??? You're killing me here Rany!

Eric said...

I'm wondering why so many Chris in KC thinks there is nothing to trade worthwhile. The Mariners NEED offense.

The Royals have some guys to offer in trade that have some offensive ability: Cabrera (OF), Cain (OF), Smith (OF), Lough (OF), Myers (OF), Eibner (OF), Robinson (1B/DH), Theriot (C). Colon is only a year removed from being the 4th pick in the draft.

These guys are our depth, but notice 5 minor league outfielders on top of the best outfield in baseball? Some of those guys just aren't ever going to get a shot in KC, and eventually we're going to lose them because we can't protect all of them on the 40 man roster forever. If some team needs some offense, and these guys provide them upgrades over their starters, they would definitely consider upgrading 3-4 positions, including a bullpen arm or two (I could see Dayton parting with 1-3 of Woods, Tejeda, Adcock, Collins, Teaford, Herrera, and either Crow or Coleman) along with starters Will Smith or any of the A ball pitchers.

That is a ton of talent to have available to trade without touching Montgomery or Odorizzi, not to mention Starling.

I'd rather Dayton trade for guys who are a bit younger with upside, trading 1 or 2 guys several times and get several prospects, throw them against the wall and see what sticks.

I'm also hopeful that the new pitching coach will provide better results than McClure. Sure, he did what he should have with Chen and eventually Hochevar. But why couldn't he figure out something with Davies and all the other guys we've had the past 5 years? Not to mention not preventing Soria from trying to bring in the new pitch when he noticed it was causing struggles last year?

K.C.Tigerfan said...

Okay, will somebody please send the police in Chicago over to check on Rany???

Rany, if you are okay, do you realize that my three week old son has never read one of your posts????

Pat Doran said...

People will laugh, but I don't know how to comment on a Ranytweet. So, by golly, I'll just do it over here.
Hand wringing over the possible Type B designated on the (in-division) traded Wilson Betemit?
I looked at the list and Yuniesky (you can't spell his name without an "e") Betancourt also grades out at Type B.
Sometimes you just have to move on.
Cheers