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Bleeding Royal Blue

Inside the mind of a Kansas City Royals fan

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December 2014

My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

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On January 6th, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their 2015 inductees, with expectations being that multiple players will be enshrined into the Hall this summer in Cooperstown, New York. There has been a plethora of debate concerning the voting process done by the BBWAA the last few years and how to handle possible PED users. This has cause a number of worthy players to be passed over, even without any evidence proving their taking of said substances. It has become harder and harder for voters to turn in their ballots, as the Hall allows up to 10 votes and many members of the BBWAA feeling as if more than that amount are worthy of the Hall’s honor. Last year I wrote up what my ten votes would have been if I could vote. This year I officially did get to vote, as a member of the IBWAA, and there were some notable differences between the BBWAA voting procedure and the IBWAA’s voting. For one, you can vote up to 15 candidates for the IBWAA, while the BBWAA has held fast to 10. Also, the IBWAA has already voted in Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio, while Barry Larkin(who is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame) has not. I ended up voting for 12 players and to save a bit of time I will be posting a link to my picks last year for some of the same candidates. Also, to get a better idea of just how difficult the voting process has become, read Jay Jaffe’s article on voting. So without further ado, here is my IBWAA ballot for 2015(in alphabetical order).

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1)Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell was on my list last year and I am still amazed he hasn’t gotten voted in. Many voters are suspicious of PED use, despite not evidence to any besides his body getting bigger between his time in the minor leagues and his ascension to the majors. Bagwell was not only one of the best hitters of his era, but also stellar defensively and on the basepaths. To me Bagwell is a slam dunk candidate and a major disservice has been done by excluding him from the Hall.

 

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2) Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds was also on my list in 2014 and is easily one of the greatest baseball players ever, the all-time home run king and that is all tainted by supposed steroid use. To me Bonds was a Hall of Famer before his supposed use and was a 5 tool player early in his career. We can debate all day about whether or not PED users should be allowed in the Hall(and I am someone who believes the Hall of Fame is NOT sacred ground) but what is easy to decipher is that Bonds is one of the greats of the game. ‘Nuff said.

 

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3) Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens is another 2014 vote for me and like Bonds, has the PED albatross around his neck. Clemens is the greatest pitcher of his era, a 7 time Cy Young award winner and should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. Instead we are stuck continuing an argument that might never finish and also like Bonds, might have to wait for the Veteran’s Committe to get voted into Cooperstown. Clemens deserves to have a plaque next to the Johnson’s, Koufax’s, and Gibson’s of the world. When(or if) that happens is another issue.

 

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4) Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson is on the ballot for the first time this year and is a guaranteed lock to be voted in this year. It’s pretty easy to see why; 5 time Cy Young winner(placing 2nd 3 times), 2nd career in strikeouts(4875), 1st all-time in K’s per 9 inn(10.61), 23rd all-time in ERA+(135), over 300 wins and a 104.3 career WAR. Need More?

All this from a guy who when he started his career in 1988 it wasn’t guaranteed that he would be a top shelf starter. Sure, he had the stuff(an electric fastball that reached triple digits and a hard, biting slider), but Johnson was also known for having control issues. Even as late as 1992 Johnson still had a BB/9 of 6.2, but after that year he never got above 3.8 walks per 9 the rest of his career. Johnson threw 2 no-hitters in his career, the 2nd was the 17th perfect game in major league history. Randy would also dominant on the big stage of the playoffs, especially in 2001. During the playoffs that year for Arizona, Johnson would beat Atlanta twice in the NLCS and then pick up 3 wins against the Yankees in the World Series, the final victory coming in relief in Game 7, after he had pitched 7 innings the night before in Game 6. Johnson was as dominant in an era known for lack of dominance by pitching, and held that standard for a number of years. When you think of the greatest left handed starters in major league history names like Koufax, Spahn and Carlton instantly spring to mind. Randy Johnson is easily in that group and should easily slide into the Hall of Fame this year.

 

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5) Barry Larkin

As mentioned earlier, Larkin has already been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but not yet in the IBWAA’s version. It’s a shame really, because Larkin was the next evolution of offensive shortstop, following in the footsteps of Cal Ripken, Jr. in the 80’s. Larkin pretty much did everything(a 5 tool player), which was a big part of why he was one of my favorites of all-time. Larkin was a 12 time All-Star, 1995 NL MVP, 3 time Gold Glove winner, 9 time Silver Slugger winner, 5 times was in the top 10 of WAR in the NL(7 times for just position players), the first shortstop to have a 30 HR/30 SB season and is 22nd all-time in SB% (83.11). Larkin wasn’t flashy but he was consistent and was the blueprint for future shortstops like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, combining offensive punch with defensive prowess. Larkin is what most shortstops of that era shrived to be, a Hall of Famer.

 

Mariners v Cardinals

6) Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez has been looked over for years but he was an easy pick for me last year. Edgar is the greatest Designated Hitter of all-time, and one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Apparently Martinez not playing much in the field hurts his case, but that honestly should be superseded by the fact that he was so good at one thing(hitting) that he is 76th in career WAR. Still don’t believe Edgar belongs?

The stats easily tell a story, that of a Hall of Fame player .

 

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7) Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez is much like Randy Johnson, a man who dominated in an era(the Steroid Era) where offense was king and pitching was hard to come by. Pedro was elite in this era, posting numbers who by themselves are jaw dropping, let alone when stacked next to his cohorts.

Pedro’s list of accomplishments during his 7 year peak almost look like ridiculous video game numbers: 5 times lead league in ERA(twice under 2!), 3 times lead AL in strikeouts,  and 5 times lead AL in ERA+, FIP, and WHIP. Martinez was unhittable in a period where everyone and everything was hittable. Martinez was a 3 time Cy Young award winner(2nd two other times), an 8 time All-Star, 2nd in the MVP voting in 1999, twice lead the AL in WAR(3 times for pitchers), is 6th all-time in career winning percentage(.687), 5th all-time in WHIP(1.054), 3rd all-time in K/9 (10.04), 13th all-time in career strikeouts (3154) and 2nd all-time in ERA+(154). All this from a guy who most believed would throw his arm out due to his small stature. In a time where muscle bound behemoths ruled the game, a small 5’11” 170 lbs pitcher made them all look like fools. That greatness will propel him into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown this summer.

 

Mike Mussina

8)Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina probably never dazzled anyone over his 18 year big league career. He wasn’t the most dominant, didn’t really blow gas past batters or have that one pitch that no one could hit(although his knuckle curve was a nice little out pitch when he needed it). But more than anything Mussina was consistent and stayed that way for the entire span of his career. In fact if you didn’t know better you would think Mussina was a ninja with the way his numbers jump up on you:

So here are just a few of the numbers Mussina compiled during his (what should be) Hall of Fame career: 5 time All-Star, 6 Top 5 finishes in American League Cy Young voting, 7 time Gold Glove winner, 57th all-time in career WAR(24th all-time for pitchers), 19th all-time career strikeouts(2813), 89th all-time career ERA+(123), and 270 career wins. Mussina also pitched a large chunk of his career during the ‘Steroid Era’ and the two ballparks he called home during his career(Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium) were both hitters parks. I’ve always considered ‘Moose’ the right-handed equivalent of Tom Glavine, a guy who wouldn’t blow you away but put up solid numbers year after year. Last year was Mussina’s first year on the BBWAA ballot and he compiled 20.3% of the vote, which I have to believe will go up this year. He was one I had to leave off last year but with the extra votes this year it was easy to add him to the mix. If you want flashy, Mussina isn’t your guy. But if you want a top of the rotation starter who you can rely on year after year for quality starts and quality innings, Mussina was a lock. Eighteen years of that quality should also mean he is a lock–for the Hall of Fame.

 

Montreal Expos

9) Tim Raines

Tim Raines might be one of the most undervalued players on this list but he shouldn’t be. It took me awhile, but within the last few years I have come around on my thinking when it comes to Raines and where his true place in the game should be. The good thing is that I am not alone, as his numbers have steadily increased until this past year, when he dropped from a high of 52.2% to 46.1%, probably mostly due to the gluttony of players on the list and not enough spots for all the deserving players. There are so many reasons to vote for Raines(and I state my case in the link earlier) but to NOT vote for him because he wasn’t Rickey Henderson(who just happened to play at the same time as ‘Rock’) is the equivalent of not voting for a hitter because “he wasn’t Ted Williams” I mean, being the 2nd best leadoff hitter EVER should count for something:

Luckily it appears a bump could be in order for Raines and with the possibility of 5 players getting in this year it could free up votes for future years. It might take a few more years, but hopefully the #RainesForHOF is not in vain.

 

 

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10) Curt Schilling

Just how much difference does a player’s postseason success factor into a Hall of Fame vote? In the case of Curt Schilling it matters a lot. In fact I would say without his playoff numbers Schilling probably wouldn’t get into the Hall. But when you add that to the mix, his true greatness shines through. A 2.23 ERA, .846 winning %, and a WHIP of .968(plus one bloody sock), all over 133 innings pitched in October shows just what kind of mettle Schilling really had. In fact, just go look at his postseason stats for 2001; ridiculous! When you then add in the regular season numbers it becomes much more obvious:

Schilling was a 6 time All-Star, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 World Series MVP, 4 times was in the Top 5 of the Cy Young award voting, 62nd all-time in career WAR(26th for pitchers), 15th all-time in career strikeouts(3116), and 47th all-time in career ERA+(127). All this from a guy who floundered in the majors until he was 25 in 1992 with the Phillies. Schilling the person might not be a guy who we would agree with on a regular basis(and definitely don’t argue evolution with him) but none of that matters when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. Schilling was a front line starter in the big leagues for 15 years and has the numbers to prove it. That is ‘Hall Worthy’ if I have ever seen it.

 

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11) John Smoltz

In the 1990’s there was no better rotation than the Atlanta Braves three-headed attack of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. Smoltz is eligible for the first time this year and he looks to be joining his former teammates in Cooperstown. Very few pitchers have done what Smoltz did in his career, be both a top notch starter and closer. In fact the only other pitcher I can think of that was able to do what Smoltz did was Dennis Eckersley and we know how he turned out. But there appears to be some writers and journalists who don’t believe Smoltz should get into the Hall on the first ballot. Ben Lindbergh wrote a great piece for Grantland on just this subject, and delves into not only Smoltz’s candidacy but also those of Mussina and Schilling. But near the end of the article Lindbergh points out something that should really be heavily taken into consideration when it comes to whether someone should vote for him:

While Schilling, Mussina, and Smoltz were all great starters, though, Smoltz’s story has a hook: As many voters mentioned, he did something unprecedented, becoming the first pitcher to win 200 games and save 150 more. And while he didn’t come close to the magic milestone of 300 wins, 200 plus 150 equals 350, which is greater than 300. That’s the kind of math that even the most WAR-averse voters don’t mind.

Smoltz accumulated 213 wins and 154 saves, which is quite the accomplishment for any pitcher. Add in a 2.67 ERA, .789 winning %  in the postseason, 1996 Cy Young award winner(2 other top 5 finishes), 8 time All-Star, 1992 NLCS MVP, 66.5 career WAR(39th career for pitchers, 44th all-time in career K/9(7.992), and 16th all-time in career strikeouts(3084) and you have a nice resume when looking for induction. It’s easy to sit here and say that Smoltz wasn’t as good as former teammates Maddux and Glavine, but who was? It certainly doesn’t take away from a career that is certainly ‘Hall Worthy’.

 

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12) Alan Trammell

It took me a long time(almost too long) but after really studying his case, I believe Alan Trammell is a Hall of Famer. Trammell case has probably been hurt for a number of reasons. Trammell’s offensive numbers don’t pop out at you and he never reached any of the big milestones that voters look for when it comes time to fill out a ballot. The argument for Trammell though outweighs a lot of the negatives; Trammell has a career WAR of 70.4, which makes him 94th all-time and 63rd amongst position players. To go a step further, Trammell has a career dWAR of 22.0, which places him 34th all-time. Trammell was solid with the bat, winning three Silver Slugger awards and in 1987 probably should have won the American League MVP(which went to George Bell of Toronto). Trammell was a 6 time All-Star, the 1984 World Series MVP, a 4 time Gold Glove winner during a period where he competed with Cal Ripken Jr. for the award, and walked more than he struck out in 7 different seasons(and had the same amount of both in 2 other seasons). Trammell is the batter equivalent of Mike Mussina; he never blew you away with anything but he was so consistent for a long period of time that what he put together was a Hall of Fame career. Still aren’t convinced? Joe Posnanski has made the argument that if you are of the belief that Derek Jeter is a Hall of Famer, then you should compare his numbers with Trammell’s. Joe points out just how close Jeter and Trammell were as players, with Jeter holding a slight edge over Alan offensively, while Trammell was easily a better defender. If Ozzie Smith can get into the Hall on his defense, and Jeter will get in on his offense(and leadership; you know that will be brought up) then Trammell deserves to be in for being the better all-around player. The sad part is that this will be Trammell’s 14th year on the ballot, which means he gets only one more shot after this year and then his case will be handed over to the Veteran’s Committee. I wish I had really studied his case sooner, not that my lone vote would mean much. If anything I wouldn’t have underrated Trammell as much as I did, not realizing he was way better than the memory remembers. Now about his double play partner, Lou Whitaker…

 

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So there you go, my 2015 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. I had also given a decent amount of consideration to Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire but alas I wasn’t quite on board yet for either of those three. What I can say is that it is never too late to judge each case and compare and contrast with other cases in the past. Sometimes our memory fails us and doesn’t paint the entire picture we need to fairly assess the situation. I can only hope the logjam that has accumulated the last few years eventually gets weeded out and some deserving candidates get the call they deserve. I can honestly say I feel as if I put together a list of players worthy of the greatest of all honors, a plaque at Cooperstown. It’s not a church folks; it’s a museum that tells us the history of the game we love. These 12 players help tell that story, blemishes and all.

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Royals Holiday Shopping Now Complete

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“Another great move from the Royals. They were able to procure an outfielder with some upside, athletic and for the most part on a solid contract. Good work by Dayton”

“The Royals went the unexpected DH route but brought in a slugger with some power coming off a solid season”

These are quotes I wanted to say during this winter, hoping that maybe the great postseason run the Royals accomplished this year might have changed Moore’s mind on some things. More than anything I wanted to like what GMDM has done this winter and feel confident(or at least moderately confident) headed into the 2015 season. Instead he has made two offensive signings that made me shake my head so violently that even more is loose upstairs then before and a rotation acquisition that I don’t hate.

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It all started last week with the signing of Kendrys Morales. I didn’t like the move on many fronts, but also took the stance of hoping that his awful  2014 season was more a byproduct of missing Spring Training and the first two months of the season than him beginning to regress(which is my belief). Then Moore went out and acquired long coveted outfielder Alex Rios to a one year, $11mm contract. I’ve never been a big fan of Rios, mainly for the fact that he is the ultimate streaky player, a player who has the talent but basically decides from year to year just how much of said talent he will actually use. Rios lacks consistency and his 2014 season was probably the sign of a player who’s best days are in the rearview mirror. Rios did hit lefties pretty solid in 2014, but there was very little power (4 home runs total, only 1 in the bandbox known as Globe Life Park in Arlington)to speak of. Add in that Rios will turn 34 in February and was a below average defender last season(although he might be a tad better defensively than Nori Aoki). All this made me not even want to write about Rios and left me with more questions about the Royals going into next year than answers. Yes, these guys will be complimentary players to the Hosmer’s and Gordon’s, but I felt the whole point to this offseason was to improve the offense and I wasn’t for sure that had been accomplished. Then it hit me.

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The reason I don’t like most of Dayton’s moves on the offensive front, and why I seem to always be at conflict with his game plan is simple; I value different strengths in batters than Moore. I have known this for a long time, but these signings really glared the light at the differences between what I value compared to him. I prefer hitters that tend to walk more, are more patient and don’t strikeout much. Moore prefers free-swingers who make lots of contact. Rios and Morales fit this mold, although not quite to the extreme as some of the current Royals batters. Since this is the case, more times than not I am not going to like the players he is on the hunt for. It’s a bitter conflict, as I can’t quit being a Royals fan(hey, 30 years later isn’t the time to jump ship) but I also am just not on the same page with the thinking of this Kansas City front office. Yes, I am just a fan and they have major league baseball jobs(no jokes please), but I would like to think I am not a complete dummy when it comes to evaluating talent and noticing player patterns that don’t just change overnight.

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I am smart enough to know that Kansas City isn’t going to be able to go out and match dollars with the likes of a Boston or Los Angeles, but I also think the Royals could be smarter about how they evaluate talent. There is nothing wrong with creativity by a front office; it has helped Billy Beane in Oakland for years now. The Rios and Morales signings felt like the opposite of creative; it felt like two signings that were taken by an old, tattered 1983 book that felt outdated 20 years ago. The Royals are hoping(counting) on these two to have bounce back seasons, when both are at an age where regression has begun to creep in. I wouldn’t expect either guy to put up career best numbers, but at this point in their careers I’m not even for sure they can accumulate average numbers. I would have preferred the Royals gone after an outfielder like Corey Hart or Colby Rasmus than the likes of Rios and Morales. Hell, I was more on the bandwagon of Kansas City going out and making a trade. The Royals are a team that has to spend wisely on the free agent market and it just seems that spending $17.5mm on two bounce back candidates wasn’t the best direction for a team hoping to make it back to the playoffs in 2015.

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That leads to Wednesday’s announcement that Kansas City had signed Edinson Volquez to a 2 year, $20mm contract. Volquez is essentially James Shields replacement in the rotation and is coming off a solid 2014 campaign for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are some concerns when it comes to Volquez, most notably his penchant to giving up the walk and a declining strikeout rate. The strikeout rate doesn’t worry me as much, as he has worked on pitching more to contact and relying on the defense, which will be a plus in Kansas City. Sure, Volquez isn’t at the level of a James Shields(although I personally feel that decline is right on Big Game James’ doorsteps) but if a Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura bump up in the rotation then all Volquez has to do is throw 6 innings and give up an average of 2-3 runs on a consistent basis. I personally like this move and feel with the way the market was this was one of Dayton’s better bets. This goes to show that as much as my thinking clashes with Moore when it comes to hitting, I tend to value a lot of the same strengths in pitchers, especially those that are middle rotation starters.

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So out of the three big offseason acquisitions the Royals have made this winter(this week?) I am on board with at least one of them. In a perfect world every move is a positive and elevates this team even more in 2015. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and just as I don’t trust anyone who hates every move a general manager makes, I also don’t trust the person who loves every move that is made. Free agency is a gamble and Dayton has rolled the dice with the Royals for this upcoming season. Hopefully he was more right than wrong and we can experience another magical October. My skepticism does remind me though that I felt this same way in September and we know what happened after that. So was it luck or a careful, drawn out plan? Only time will tell us.

Immediate Reaction: Royals Sign Kendrys Morales

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Royals fans have been clamoring for General Manager Dayton Moore to do something(anything!) this offseason and it looks like he has done just that, signing Kendrys Morales to a 2 year, $17mm deal with incentives. The deal is for less than what former Royal Billy Butler got in Oakland but it also raises some questions about the Royals going forward.

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The obvious question is whether Morales’ 2014 season was an aberration or the beginning of a decline. Morales was late to sign with a team last season, waiting until June 8th to sign with Minnesota, as teams were afraid to give up a first round compensatory pick to sign him. Morales struggled with the Twins, putting up a slash line of .234/.259/.325 in 39 games. Morales was traded back to his former team, Seattle, in July and didn’t do much better, hitting .207/.285/.347 in 59 games. It’s hard to tell if Morales struggled because of his skipping Spring Training and not playing until June or it was the beginning of a decline. Just one year earlier in Seattle he put up a .277/.336/.449 line, hitting 23 bombs and an OPS + of 123. If 2014 was a blip on the radar than this looks like a solid deal for Kansas City. But there are concerns this is more of a decline, as Morales is turning 32 this year and his ISO(Isolated Power, which measures a batters raw power; the final result measures how many extra bases a player averages per at bat) has declined every year since his 2010 broken ankle that cost him almost two years of baseball. There is a good chance that last year’s numbers for Morales was purely him sitting out for the first two months of the season and not participating in Spring Training to work out any rust or kinks. Or it was the beginning of a downward turn in production.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers

Just bringing Morales in posts a numbers of interesting questions, including this one: if the Royals wanted to go to a floating DH, why would you let your current DH leave(Butler) just to sign another DH? We’ve heard for the last two years that the team wanted to venture into an area that alot of American League teams are already implementing, which is not having a set DH and rotating players around that spot. The reasoning for Kansas City was to make the team more athletic while giving some of their players(Perez, Gordon, etc.) some time off in the field. Like I said, this has been talked about for over two years now and was highly discussed this winter during negotations with Butler. Why the team would turn 180 degrees and change their stance is puzzling to say the least. There are some that think this was done in a way to get Butler out of town, but I’m not so much of a conspiracy theorist to believe that is actually the truth. I do believe the market plays a big part in this decision, as the team has been on the prowl for an outfield bat this offseason. It become apparent quickly that the Royals were going to either offer an outfielder more money than they were initially willing to or scrounge the trade market to find this bat, and it appears they didn’t like that market either. Also heavily playing in this discussion is Moore’s inability to want to part with one of three highly regarded bullpen arms(Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera). I felt this would be the smarter way to go this winter, but Dayton must feel they are just too valuable to the success of this Royals team to pull that trigger. With that said, this obviously left the Royals with very few options and Morales must have looked like the best choice.

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The question is going to get asked, so lets answer it; if the Royals are not rotating the DH spot now, wouldn’t a younger Billy Butler be the better option for Kansas City? This is probably one of the most loaded questions a Royals fan can ask, but I will attempt to answer it. In theory it would appear Butler would be the better option; he is younger, has more upside and the Royals would already know what they are getting. But with Billy there is also the question of whether he is on a decline as well. His 2013 wasn’t spectacular, but 2014 was easily Butler’s worst major league season and his power has really gone M.I.A. the last two years. You could make the argument that Morales’ chances of producing more power are higher, and and he has a more consisent history of proven power. I would like to think Butler would have been the better option over Morales, even if the Royals had just picked up Butler’s $12mm option for 2015. But it might just be an argument of one declining player over the other.

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How you feel about this signing is probably hindered on whether or not you feel 2014 was an anamoly for Morales. If it was, this would appear to be a good acquisition by Dayton and will help the Royals offense in 2015. I tend to sit in the camp that believes Morales is on the decline and the numbers we saw from him last year are probably close to what we will see next year. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the rotating DH scenario, but I easily preferred it over this. It appears the flexibility on this team has gone down again, barring another move. I’m hoping I am wrong about Morales and we see the guy who has a major offensive force for the Angels and Mariners in the past. I fear instead the Royals just fit themselves with a two year albatross around their neck that will weigh this team down.

Hochevar Re-signs with Royals; Is a Trade Looming?

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Earlier this week the Royals re-signed Luke Hochevar to a two year deal with a mutual option for a third. Hochevar missed all of 2014, as he went through the dreaded(and now normal) Tommy John surgery but looks to be on track to be ready to start 2015. Hochevar is planning to start throwing off a mound later this month to get ready for the next season and appears to be headed back to the bullpen where he garnered success back in 2013. That might not be 100% guaranteed, as Hochevar has bonuses in his contract that can earn him $500K worth of incentives for non-closing relief work, $500K of incentives for closing work and up to $2MM for starting. Yes, bonuses for Hochevar starting, where he was less than average over his career and made me stamp him onto my list of most hated Royals. But that was before 2013 and before he showed value out of the bullpen. Once the Hochevar signing became official, a thought kept popping into my head; is this a move done so the Royals can trade either Greg Holland or Wade Davis?

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The Royals went into this offseason needing two major things-a new right fielder and another starting pitcher. The market for free agent outfielders has diminished heavily this winter and leaves the team in a position where a trade seems like a better option for the team. The Royals aren’t going to majorly tear apart the defending American League Champions and only have a few players that could be traded and net them some value without ripping the fabric of the team apart. The biggest position of depth is the bullpen, with the “cyborgs” of Holland, Davis and Kelvin Herrera leading the team throughout the playoffs and showing baseball what a dominant pen can do for a team in the postseason. With that said, it would appear that closer Greg Holland has the most value and is also the most expensive. He is currently making $4.675MM and that number looks to rise this winter in arbitration. MLBTradeRumors.com predicts Holland could see a raise of another $4.62MM, which would push his salary close to $10MM for 2015. I love “Dirty South” as much as the next Royals fan but I also realize that relievers are the easiest position to replace and closers normally have a small shelf life. It just seems to make sense to trade Holland now while he is at his highest value and net the biggest return you can from a trade. The Royals were burned from staying loyal to a closer in the very recent past, as Kansas City stuck with Joakim Soria, who missed the 2012 season due to his second Tommy John surgery. Soria would leave after that season, signing with the Rangers and leaving the Royals without anything in return. So it makes sense to see just what could be had by dealing Holland this winter.

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So if the Hochevar signing was made so the team could trade Holland for an outfielder, how would that reshape the bullpen? It would appear if that happened Wade Davis would move up from setup man to closer. Davis had a ridiculous 2014 season, one that made him one of the best relievers in baseball. His season was so ridiculous that Davis didn’t give up but 5 extra base hits the whole season, none in the first half of the season and gave up NO home runs. Not even one. To say Davis could probably easily slide into the closers role sure seems like an understatement and almost seems like the smart thing to do if Holland is traded. Herrera could slide into the setup role while Hochevar and possibly Jason Frasor could fill in during the 6th and 7th innings. There is no way to tell if this group would put up the same numbers that “HDH” put up in 2014, but the belief is it wouldn’t be too far off.

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It could just as easily be Wade Davis who gets traded, as there has been interest for both him and Holland. But the smarter play at this point is trading Holland, if for no other reason than to give the Royals more payroll flexibility. It’s no big secret that Kansas City doesn’t have one of the higher payrolls in the sport, but it is one that has steadily increased year by year and looks to reach the $100MM threshold for the upcoming 2015 season. A lot of this money is already earmarked for players already with the team and according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, the team really only has enough money for one of their needs, not both:

With that said, it appears a deal where they can shed some hefty payroll AND acquire one of their needs would be the wise choice to do.  Kansas City has already picked up the $7MM option on Davis, and with Holland estimated to be making around $9.3MM it would appear Holland would give them more flexibility. Either option would help the team, but with the salary that would be freed up and with Holland appearing to bring the Royals more value, it would be wise at this point to trade Holland, not Davis.

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The hard part of this whole thing is the fact that a trade even has to happen at all. What Herrera, Davis and Holland accomplished this year was magical and more than likely won’t be duplicated any time soon. It would be great to keep this trio together for the forseeable future but baseball’s landscape makes it hard to do that when you are a small market team. At some point the money is just too much and it becomes apparent that the money could be used in other, more needed areas. The Royals are at that point and with Hochevar and Frasor back in the fold it appears the team has more than enough depth to weather the storm. If Kansas City is wanting to stay as a contender in 2015 they are going to need at least one more solid bat and another starting pitcher, and that can’t be accomplished at the team’s current payroll structure. That means someone has to go, and it looks like one of the team’s elite relievers will have to be dangled for a bat. It’s not the fun part about baseball, but it is a necessary part. The only question going forward is whether Dayton Moore will pull the trigger or not. It’s not the popular move to make, but it does appear to be the intelligent one.

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