Word came out earlier this week that the Kansas City Royals will listen to offers for Designated Hitter Billy Butler. Now, I don’t want to go too deep into this, but I think it’s important to throw out there a few things about not only the wording of this, but also the cause and affect if a trade went down.
Let’s start first with the wording: “willing to listen to offers.” To be frankly honest, most teams will listen to offers for 3/4 of their roster. Every team has a few untouchables, but other than that a smart GM will listen to offers. Doesn’t mean they are actively shopping Butler. Doesn’t mean they aren’t. It just means that if the right offer crossed Dayton Moore’s path, he would be interested. This really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. Just last winter Moore talked to Baltimore and Seattle about Butler, although it never seemed like the talks got very far. There was one name connected to those talks (James Paxton, who is one of the Mariners top pitching prospects) but past that it was just a bunch of talking. To be honest, it would have made more sense to trade Butler last winter. He was at his peak level of value and could have garnered a much bigger package then he could this winter. One reason is because of the All-Star season Butler had in 2012. The other is Butler’s contract is continuing to go up and will be the highest it’s been over the next two seasons. Either way, listening to offers is not the same as actively shopping. Which is probably a good thing, because I can’t see how shipping off Butler helps the Royals offense.
More than likely, if the Royals trade Butler it would be to acquire a starting pitcher to take over for the departing Ervin Santana. Yes, the Royals do need another starter and Butler could probably net them a nice #3 starter for the rotation. But filling that hole would open up another hole in the Royals offense. You see, Kansas City already needs a big bat for the middle of the order, probably to play right field. So if you trade Butler, you then need two big bats to acquire this off-season. I’m going to be brutally honest here; the Royals offense sucked in 2013 for the most part, and despite what some skeptics will say, Billy Butler helped the offense this year rather than hurt it. Sure, Butler’s numbers were down from his 2012 numbers, but besides Eric Hosmer’s, whose weren’t for Kansas City? Butler still lead the team in Runs Batted In and eclipsed his career high in walks. So Butler’s bat is important to this team, even if he is more suited to the third or fifth spot in the order than cleanup.
So if you trade Butler for a starting pitcher, what two players can you acquire to help the offense? The answer is there just are not a ton of options out there for Kansas City without spending a lot or trading a lot. The whole point of moving Butler would be to improve the team, not make it worse. I know Royals management thinks all the younger bats will improve from 2013, but the same mantra was spoken after the 2012 season and we see how last year went. I don’t have a problem with them trading Butler, but ONLY IF IT MAKES THE TEAM BETTER. Let me ask you a question, Royals fans: do you have faith in Dayton Moore that he can pull off the deals where Butler is traded and bats are acquired that improve this ball club? I don’t. This past year showed that good pitching can help your team a ton, but without the bats you fall just short of a playoff spot. So if the Royals are serious about trading Billy, they need to have another plan ready to go, and not one that is acquiring Carlos Beltran, which is a long shot. Sure, I’d love to see Butler traded for a starting pitcher, then sign, let’s say, Beltran and Corey Hart to DH and play RF. But do you see that happening? I don’t. Let’s hope all this Butler trade talk is just the team trying to give him a kick in the pants to focus more on baseball and less on women playing with crushed Oreo’s. The goal for Kansas City in 2014 is to improve and reach the playoffs. I don’t think trading Billy Butler will get that goal accomplished.
Most people who follow the Kansas City Royals know that there are three major needs this off-season for Kansas City to be a contender in 2014: a starting pitcher to replace Ervin Santana(which is pretty much a probable), a second baseman and a right fielder. Today I’ll take a look at possible candidates for right field. It’s safe to say that a right fielder with some pop would be nice, and might be the way Kansas City goes. But for the sake of this article, let’s take a look at some major candidates for the Royals to either sign or trade for.
Carlos Beltran is probably not only the best candidate for Kansas City, but the sentimental choice as well. Now, we should preface the rest of this with the point that Beltran is probably a long shot to sign with the Royals this off-season. But he would be a great choice and who wouldn’t want the greatest playoff hitter in baseball history on their team come September? Many a Royals fan was crushed when Beltran was traded to Houston, especially since he was such a great talent. Kansas City would welcome him back with open arms and his bat would be great to have in the middle of the Royals lineup, which tends to lean very light when it comes to power. There would be issues, though. For one, Beltran will be turning 37 within the first month of the 2014 baseball season, so he is not a spring chicken. Defensively, he is not the outfielder he used to be. Sure, you can give him the occasional start at DH, but then you are sitting Billy Butler(or Eric Hosmer if Billy is moved to first). Sure, you can replace Beltran late in games and let David Lough or whoever else is the backup outfielder get some time in the field, but then you are taking his bat out of the game. I still think Beltran would be the best choice, but I also think that is highly unlikely. It would be neat to have him sign with Kansas City, hoping to be the guy who returns to his old stomping grounds and take them to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. Yes, he would be a certifiable God in Kansas City if that happened. But it is probably a giant ‘IF’.
Shin Soo Choo
Choo had a great 2013 season, his first in Cincinnati. Choo brings a lot of weapons to the table, mainly his potent bat and the ability to get on base at the top of the order. The Royals are very familiar with Choo after his tenure in Cleveland, on top of the Royals hitting him numerous times over the years, much to the displeasure of Mr. Choo. Part of me wishes he had taken care of Jonathan Sanchez right then and there. Anyway, Choo will be a free agent here within the next few weeks and will looking to be cashing in. Like, REALLY cashing in! So more than likely, Choo is out of the Royals price range. I know Dayton Moore said that Kansas City was going to stay at the same payroll for 2014, but they said the same thing last winter and went out to spend where they felt they needed to. I personally believe the same for this winter, but even with that said, Choo will be too expensive. Scott Boras gets his clients the most money humanly possible. That just isn’t Kansas City.
Kyle Blanks/Chris Denorfia
There is a reason I mention both Blanks and Denorfia. Earlier this summer the Royals sent scouts out to check out a number of players on the San Diego Padres. At the time second base and right field where both still major issues(funny how some things don’t change). I’m pretty sure both of these guys were scouted, as was Will Venable, another Padres outfielder. Venable’s value took off not too long after that, so I’m sure he is probably off the market. But I would have to think both Blanks and Denorfia are there for the taking. Blanks had a rough year, as he spent most of the year injured or benched. Blanks has very raw talent, but he also has the main thing the Royals need: power. Denorfia had his best season in the big leagues in 2013, but his numbers just won’t jump out at you. He doesn’t have the power Blanks has but seems to be a bit more consistent. I’m not sure either guy is better than a David Lough/Justin Maxwell platoon, but I could see Moore taking a flyer on either one of these guys. Remember, Moore did the same thing with Maxwell and he turned out to be a good acquisition.
Stanton is the long shot of all long shots. It will take a HUGE package of players to acquire Stanton in a deal, and I do mean HUGE. But the Royals have the prospects to pull it off. Now, the only problem would be a deal like this would probably kill the farm system and it could take all the top players in your system(Zimmer, Bonifacio, Ventura, Mondesi,etc.). I LOVE Stanton’s power, which is just ridiculous and would solidify the middle of the Royals order. But…if it took all of those prospects to make the deal happen, it’s probably not worth it. I would like the Royals to stay in contention for years to come; not one good year and then have to wait a number of years before winning again. Once again, this would be a very long shot, so don’t expect this one to happen.
Yes, THAT Nelson Cruz. The one who was suspended from the Biogenesis scandal. But it is also the same Cruz that has played in the postseason and has had success in it. Cruz’s power is very intriguing and is the kind of bat Kansas City needs. But I have my worries with him, and it’s not just the Biogenesis thing. For one, he is a streaky hitter. Sure, when he is hot, he is hot. But when he is cold…it’s like Hoth and he has no Tauntaun to cut open and stay warm inside of. Cruz is also not the greatest defender in the world and, after having Jeff Francoeur out in right the last few years, we all know how that goes. To add to this, I’m not real big on how he has acted in the past. I don’t always put a lot of value in character, but we all know Moore does. Cruz’s value is about as low as it’s been in quite awhile, so there is probably at least a chance he could wind up in Royal blue.
Out of all the guys I have mentioned so far, THIS is the one who I think has the best chance of being a Royal in 2014. For one, he is coming off of an injury filled season in 2013, one where he didn’t even play in a single regular season game. This would also mean there is a good chance Hart could be had on the cheap, maybe even a contract with a lot of incentives. Two, Hart played under Royals manager Ned Yost, so Yost already knows what kind of player he would be getting. Hart hits for power, drives in runs and puts up a good batting average. His defense isn’t great, but it’s not awful either. He’s versatile as well, as he could play any of the outfield positions and first base if needed. As long as Hart is healed, I could see him patrolling right field at Kauffman in 2014. The Royals could actually do a lot worse.
Jacoby Ellsbury/Curtis Granderson
I know what you are thinking: aren’t these guys center fielders? Yes, yes they are. They are also both free agents this off-season. Yes, my interest would be for them to play center field. So who would play right? Lorenzo Cain. Royals management prefers Cain in right field, where they feel he is better suited. If that is the case, why not acquire a center fielder and shift Cain to right? I would have to assume Ellsbury will take a large chunk of money to be signed, so he would be a long shot. But Granderson? Sure, he isn’t the guy who used to be a perennial All-Star and put up huge power numbers. But he still has power, has a bit of his speed left, and could be had at a realistic price. I don’t know if he would want to play in Kansas City, but the Royals are closer to a playoff spot at this point than the Yankees are. It is at least another option, one the Royals should at least consider.
No matter which direction Kansas City goes in, it is obvious that they do need an upgrade at the position. I like both David Lough and Justin Maxwell, and a platoon of them isn’t the worst idea in the world, but if the Royals want to reach the playoffs they will need a more potent bat. There are options out there; one can only hope Dayton Moore does his research and makes a move that not only improves the Royals, but is smart for the team as well. If he wants an extension of his own, making a shrewd move here would be in his, and the Royals, best interest.
My mother once told me I was both stubborn and bull-headed. I remember asking her how I could be both, and she said that there was a difference. The difference was if you were bull-headed, you would purposely do things just to spite others. Or not admit you made a mistake. Well, I can freely say that some things have changed since my childhood(some), and I can say like that Social Distortion song, I was wrong about this Kansas City Royals season. I initially thought this was a 78-80 win team and thought there were problems within the team that were being ignored. Okay, I wasn’t completely wrong. So let’s do a fun exercise today, folks. I will go through my predictions for the Royals before the season, and we’ll find out what I guessed correctly and what I was badly incorrect about. Nothing like pointing out all your mistakes…although to be fair, baseball can do that to you!
What I was right about:
1) The starting rotation was better
I know, this isn’t really going out on a limb. The 2012 Royals rotation was awful. Putrid. Atrocious. Deplorable. Offensive. Pretty much any negative synonym you can think of would describe how bad they were. Improving the rotation was Dayton Moore’s main goal last winter and improve it he did. James Shields came in and was the ace the Royals needed every fifth day. Jeremy Guthrie was above what most predicted for a large portion of the season, but the real surprise was Ervin Santana. We will cover him in things I got wrong, although I wasn’t alone when it comes to “Magic”. I was also right that Wade Davis would struggle, and it took most of the season before he was sent to the bullpen. But don’t fret, children; put money on Davis starting next year in the rotation. Or as I now call him, Hiram Davies III. The rotation being better made a lot of the Royals flaws less noticeable. It just goes to show that once again, if you have pitching and defense they can mask a team’s ills.
2)The bullpen was an elite bullpen
This, once again, wasn’t a shock. The year before the pen had been fabulous and had pitched waaaaaay more innings than they should have. This year they got some relief of their own from the rotation, but it almost didn’t matter who came in; this unit was the best in baseball. They were led by All-Star closer Greg Holland, who has an argument for being the best closer in baseball this year–not for him breaking the team’s saves record(maybe the most worthless stat in the sport) but for striking out 103 batters in 67 innings thrown. Insane. After a rough first week #DirtySouth held things down and rolled successfully most of the year. After Holland, it was literally a who’s who of solid relievers; Hochevar, Collins, Coleman, Smith, Crow, and Davis(once he was shipped out there). Really the only one who slumped was Kelvin Herrera, and it’s not like he is a lost cause. Bullpens normally don’t have a long shelf life, so next year they could implode, but at least for 2013 they can say they were the best.
3) The offense struggled
During Spring Training, I felt like a kid in a car, yelling while the windows are rolled up. No one would hear me as I kept saying that the offense struggled in 2012 and the Royals did nothing to remedy it. By May, I was not only correct, I was ridiculously right–and I hated it. The offense struggled so much that even players that you thought would be fine had their issues. Billy Butler caught a lot of scorn this year, as his numbers were down from the year before. But by the end of the season, he was the team leader in RBI’s and outside of some of the power numbers, he had a close to normal season for Billy. Alex F. Gordon played Gold Glove defense, and was a team leader that they needed. But Alex struggled off and on all year and he just didn’t have the typical Gordon season. Alcides Escobar fell way off of his 2012 numbers. Likewise for Mike Moustakas. Right field and second base were black holes until David Lough and Emilio Bonifacio started getting regular playing time. The only real shining light was the return to glory of Eric Hosmer, but even that took bringing in a Hall of Famer to fix his swing. Hosmer went from purely a singles hitter in May to looking like the rookie who was going to be an MVP some day. All in just a few short weeks. The good news for Kansas City is hopefully Dayton will target a right fielder in the offseason with some pop…and the only direction to go for most of these guys is up next year. Let’s hope.
4) Bringing back Getz and Francoeur was pointless
Most anyone with a pulse was smart enough to realize another season of Frenchy and Getzie would lead to failure. Most anyone isn’t Dayton Moore and Ned Yost. I’ll be honest when I say a lot of my predictions were based on these two still being around. Luckily, Moore didn’t completely want to tank the season so Getz was sent down to Omaha in June, while Francoeur was cut just a few weeks later. Neither had even close to an average season, let alone a passable one. Getz would get recalled before the start of the second half of the season, but he didn’t see as much playing time and by September was riding the pine except for the occasional start or pinch running assignment. Francoeur was picked up by the Giants, but that didn’t last long. Just thinking of what the season could have been if the Royals had just cut ties with these two might have garnered them a few more wins…and maybe the chance of a wild card spot. I can only hope ‘the coaches son’ will be gone next year, so I don’t have to mention how Moore and Yost hold onto guys who no longer carry any value.
5) Ned Yost will screw something up when it counts
Nothing new here. Been calling it for close to two years now. He does not deal well with pressure. Or allows his starter to stay in despite him getting very lucky. Oh, and keep him in for a chance at a ‘W’. Bunting in the early innings. Weird choices late in a pennant race game. More bunting. I’m to the point that I am tired of talking about it. Let’s move on.
Okay, now onto what I got wrong:
1) The Royals finish above .500
This should probably count for like 3-4 things I got right. But…I’ve never been so happy to be wrong about something! Nothing really compares to playing meaningful games in September. Nothing made me happier than to see a packed house at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals didn’t seem to me like an above .500 team most of the year, if for nothing else than the fact that this was the streakiest of streaky teams that I have ever seen. It would have been nice for our sanity if the Royals had been a bit more consistent this year. At the end of the day, I was way wrong about this and fully admit it. But I’m glad I was wrong. As a diehard Royals fan, I just want to see my team compete and win. They did that this year, even if it might have been at the cost of another year of Dayton Moore and Ned Yost, or mortgaging the future thanks to the Wil Myers trade. Step 2 is now to actually reach the playoffs. That window is closing, so it’s time to jump through.
2) Ervin Santana was ‘Magic’
There was no way I thought Santana would be as good as he was for the Royals this past season. Honestly, I’d like to know who actually DID think he would be this good. Santana was coming off of what was quite possibly his worst season in the majors, a season that saw him lead the league in home runs allowed despite the fact he spent 2012 pitching in one of the bigger ballparks in the big leagues(the Angels’ Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Geez, even their stadium has a giant name!). In what will go down as one of Dayton Moore’s better trades, Santana was a legitimate number two starter in the Royals rotation. His numbers do not lie. I was of the thinking that he would spend most of the year injured…yep, shows you what I know. Santana is a free agent this winter, and odds are the Royals aren’t going to be able to afford his lofty cost(both years and dollars). Santana was the most unexpected surprise Kansas City had this year, and a surprise most of us didn’t see coming. It’s too bad ‘Magic’ probably won’t be back in Royal blue, since he would be a welcome return, even if he would end up being overpaid for too many years.
So in all fairness, I wasn’t really too far off. Sure, I thought this was an under .500 bunch, but that was with the thought that Getz and Francoeur would see the majority amount of time most of the year and with the offense never really figuring it out. Instead, Kansas City wised up, and Getzie and Frenchy were either exiled to AAA or sent packing when they didn’t produce. History showed that Dayton Moore didn’t have an endless leash on these guys, and their replacements, for the most part, improved on their positions. The bats were still streaky, but had enough glimpses of what everyone THOUGHT they could do and got great starting pitching to keep them in way more games than in years past. I am willing to be wrong more often if it means the Royals win and keep themselves in a pennant race. I probably had more fun in September than I have had in a long time as a Royals fan. Hopefully they will continue to prove me wrong in 2014 and we can have a discussion about how I never thought they would reach the playoffs. I’m willing to look the buffoon if it means playoffs. A little bit more optimism wouldn’t hurt me, even if the realist in me finds it hard sometimes. I just have to remember the little kid growing up that loved his Kansas City Royals. He is still around; he always makes an appearance every time I walk into Kauffman Stadium.
It was announced earlier this morning that Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost will be returning to the dugout for the 2014 campaign, signing a two year extension. The Royals finished this year 86-76, their first season over .500 since 2003. Some people will give most of the credit to general manager Dayton Moore, while others give a nod to Yost. I have been very vocal the last year and a half that Yost needed to go and that it was a detriment to keep him around. In fact, I’ve written a lot of about Neddy. Like here. Or here. Or about anywhere else on my blog, to be perfectly honest with you. I’m just not a big fan of the guy, and apparently I am not alone.
For a guy who just brought the Royals to a winning record, something that as Royals fans we just don’t see very often, he is not popular amongst the fan base. This has even been a topic of discussion lately in the Kansas City Star, as two articles have discussed this. One by Vahe Gregorian and one by Sam Mellinger. I find the one by Mellinger really interesting, as he mentions how Yost needs to change if the Royals want to go from a contender to an actual playoff participant. I don’t just hate Ned Yost for illogical reasons or because it’s easy to blame the manager. No, I hate him as the Royals manager because I know they will never get to the promised land as long as he is in charge.
Before we go much farther, I do want to say that Yost does have some positives. He does a great job with the players, a group of guys who like him and still buy into what he says. If they didn’t believe, there is no way he should be coming back. One thing I’ve heard numerous times within the last month was how Yost kept a positive attitude in the clubhouse during the rough patches of the 2013 season. That is a positive and something that Yost can take credit for, especially with a really young bunch of players. If you saw the end of game 162 Sunday, you saw a bunch of players who hugged their manager and obviously care. All of this is a positive.
But if you are a Royals fan, you can, off the top of your head, mention many reasons as to why he shouldn’t be coming back. My main reason, and the one that most of us point to, is his inability to properly handle pressure. Remember the 12 game losing streak in 2012? What about the month of May this year? If not for Moore’s Hail Mary of hiring George Brett as the hitting coach at the end of May, who knows how low things would have gone. Bottom line is Yost has no answers. In fact, that is why he was fired by Milwaukee in the heat of a pennant race with 12 games left to play in 2008. Milwaukee management talked to him about what he thought the team was doing wrong and what they needed to do and Yost had no answers. None. That speaks volumes. It shows that if stuck in a tight situation late in the year, don’t expect a whole lot of answers from Neddaniel. Instead, expect a whole bunch of crap being thrown at the wall.
There are other things as well, obviously. He shuffles the lineup more than he should. He still thinks bunting is a good form of producing runs. He still wants to get his pitchers a win(#killthewin). He says nothing of actual value whenever interviewed. Hey, as someone who has ACTUALLY interviewed Yost, trust me, it’s all just cliches and pointless gibberish. His actual in game management is very lacking and I think that actually is a big reason why fans haven’t warmed up to him.
There are two games this past season that stick out as a guy who was either over-managing or just not using his head. The first was the game in early May against Chicago. James Shields had been shutting the White Sox down all day, and hadn’t run up his pitch count. He left the game after 8 innings and in came Greg Holland. Now, the complaint isn’t having Holland in. No, the complaint was that Shields had been dominating yet he was pulled, while just a few days earlier he had kept Jeremy Guthrie in a game where he hadn’t been really dominate but he wanted to give him a chance to get his first career complete game shutout. Their pitch count had been almost completely identical. My complaint wasn’t really that he had brought in Holland. My complaint was that the two pitchers had almost identical numbers up to that point, yet Ned felt the need to pull his ace while keeping his number three starter in the game—what kind of reasoning is that? That’s what scares me; he is the guy making those decisions yet he isn’t consistent and has no real game plan once in the game. By the way, Guthrie finished his shutout, while Holland gave up the tying run and the White Sox would win the game in extra innings(and was the beginning of their losing May).
The other game was just a few weeks ago. Once again, Guthrie was pitching against Detroit and had barely been squeaking by. In fact, it would be safe to say that he was getting lucky, yet Yost decided to let him go out and start the 8th. By the end of the inning, the Tigers had gotten a home run from Alex Avila and Detroit would take the lead and eventually win the game. Most people watching that game knew Guthrie should have been pulled. I mean, the Royals did have the best bullpen in baseball this year. Instead, Neddy said in postgame he “wanted to get Guthrie a win.” Are you serious? The Royals are in a pennant race and you are worried about a pointless personal stat? That move(or lack of one) showed why Yost should not have been asked back for next year. But the Royals had a winning season, correct? But winning doesn’t mean everything.
At the end of the day, I personally believe Yost is NOT a manager to get you to the promised land. He is the guy you hire to help develop your younger players. But once you are to a point where you can seriously contend, that would be the time to move on. Instead, we get more Yost. I’m glad the Royals had a winning season this year, but it seems counterproductive if the main person who hurts your ball club is coming back. I tend to think the Royals won’t reach the playoffs as long as Yost is in charge. They won this year in spite of Edgar Frederick; let’s hope we don’t find out just how much he can hurt this team when it really counts…but it seems like it will have to happen before some people(ie. Dayton) realize Yosty will cost this team real glory.