Buy or Sell, There is No Standing Pat

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Hey, have you heard the trade deadline is this week? If you have, you know that the Kansas City Royals have been connected to many a rumor, as they fly around like texts from Billy Butler this time of year. This is just a smattering of names rumored to have Dayton Moore’s interest right now: Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, Antonia Bastardo, Chris Denorfia, Andrew Miller, Jonny Gomes, Dayan Viciedo, Ben Zobrist, and even a hint of Ryan Howard(although I don’t think there is must interest on KC’s part as much as Philadelphia wanting to dump him on someone). It’s apparent the Royals are going to have to pick up another bat if they are serious about contending for a playoff spot. If they aren’t serious(and seriously, what team will really admit that?) then they need to be sellers. But the reports that are leaking out make one wonder if much of anything is going to happen.

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Let’s begin with the trade that went down today. Earlier, the Royals traded Danny Valencia to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for two players who have been playing in AAA, Erik Kratz and Liam Hendriks. By no means is this a “blow the doors off the barn” type of trade, but it does upgrade a few minor things for Kansas City. Kratz will take over the backup catcher spot for Brett Hayes(who was Designated for Assignment to make room for him) and will add a bit more offense to that spot. The move also allows the Royals to carry a backup infielder again, as Christian Colon will be recalled from Omaha. Yep, the Royals have been playing without a true backup infielder for a few weeks now. To make matters worse, it’s not the first time that has happened this year. Roster management isn’t exactly Dayton’s strength. The move also shows that the team has faith that Mike Moustakas has gotten past his struggles of earlier this year(and last year). I’m not 100% convinced Moustakas will ever be anything more than a guy who hits .250, slams around 20 homeruns and plays good defense. But that is another topic for another time. If anything, this move tightens up the bench, which is a must for any team who wants to go deep into the playoffs. Or is this a precursor to a bigger move?

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Unless this is all just a major smokescreen, it looks like there might not be a bigger move. Alex Rios of Texas was discussed for quite awhile; it now looks like his salary is an issue and would hold Kansas City back from acquiring him. Marlon Byrd? He looks like a no-go as well, as he has a no-trade clause and won’t waive it unless the team acquiring him picks up his 2016 option. The Royals are pretty set on acquiring a right handed bat(which I feel is a bit short-sighted; if there is a quality bat out there, you go after it, no matter what side of the plate it is) and the options are limited. The scary part is up in the article talking about the Royals bowing out of the Rios talks. It’s been mentioned a few times that salary is a key factor in a move not being made, as in “the Royals don’t want to take on more salary so they will hold off on a deal until August.” This blows my mind. We’ve heard for years by management that “2014 is the season” and “we are all in”. If that was true, you pick up the extra month of salary and give your team the best option of winning. It seems odd that money is now the issue, since Royals owner David Glass has stated he is “obsessed with winning”. If you are obsessed with it, you go all out to make it happen. You are not obsessed with it if you have a limit. This also opens up the other issue; even if the purse strings were opened, is this team a “real” contender?

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays

As of this writing, the Royals are 5 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central standings and only 2 games out of the second wild card spot. Technically, they are contenders. But…that second wild card is a bit of an illusion. Sure, it is a reachable goal. But is it worth it to trade off part of your future(a prospect) for a few months of mild improvement(a right handed bat)? I am about as torn on this as I humanly could be. On one hand, the Royals haven’t been to the playoffs in 29 years. We are all dying to get there and there might not be a better chance for a few years. On the other hand, this team just doesn’t scream playoff contender  to me, and hasn’t most of the year. This is a wildly inconsistent offensive team and I doubt even acquiring any of the names mentioned earlier will stabilize this bunch. So with that said, is it worth it for this team to go out, pick up players, get the second wild card spot, play one playoff game on the road, lose, then turn around and lose James Shields and Billy Butler at the end of the season? That is the million dollar question.

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I’m not trying to be a downer, but the realist in me knows we wouldn’t be having this conversation if that second wild card didn’t exist. If the old playoff system was intact, the Royals would be sellers, pick up a nice haul for Shields and start preparing for 2015. Unofficially, that second wild card is a version of beer goggles to some teams that would normally be sellers. That is why there isn’t much out there talent-wise and why a team like Tampa Bay, who once was in the cellar in the American League East, now believes they can get to the playoffs(they are currently only 4 games out of the wild card) and probably won’t be trading David Price or anyone else for that matter. But…that second wild card DOES exist and teams who normally wouldn’t be in play ARE in play. This includes the Royals and is why as much as part of me would like to see what they could get for Big Game James, I know they have to go for it.

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But are they? It doesn’t feel like they are. My dad would say they are “half-assing” it. What team, especially one with the offensive holes this Royals team have, thinks that the likes of Raul Ibanez, Erik Kratz, and Jason Frasor shows that they are “all in”? I’m not saying go out and kill the farm system to make this team better, but this team needs more than a 42 year old outfielder, a backup catcher, and a middle reliever to get them to “the promised land”. I have to believe this team will take a step back in 2015, so if they are going for it they can’t just wait until August to make a move, when players have to slip through waivers just to make something happen. No, the time to go for the kill is now(actually the real perfect time would have been when they were still in first place) and instead it feels like no matter what move is made, it will feel like a letdown.

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After 8+ years of the current Royals regime, it feels wrong that a simple thing like a few $100,000 will be the difference between an upgrade and the status quo. Sure, it’s not my money, but winning means more butts in the seats at “The K” and more filled seats mean more dollars. It’s a simple equation that ownership refuses to learn and in the long run it will cost them. For some, the Royals hovering around .500 is good enough for them and will satisfy their needs. But for some of us, we want more. We want what we had in the 70’s and 80’s. We want consistent winning, consistent contending and management that “gets it”. Instead, we get a GM who values the wrong things and an owner who thinks you should run a baseball team like it is Wal Mart. Folks, we deserve better. We deserve to see October baseball. I’m not sold we will see it this year. What I do know is right now is not the time to straddle the fence on what to do with this team. It’s quite simple; as Yoda would say ” Buy or Sell, there is no standing pat.”

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Should Billy Stay or Should He Go

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There probably isn’t a more polarizing player on the Royals roster right now than Designated Hitter Billy Butler. The once beloved Butler has seemingly fallen from grace in the eyes of the fans and even in management’s eyes. Within the last few days word has leaked out that the Seattle Mariners have discussed the availability of Butler, a player they have coveted for awhile now. Butler is enduring the worst year of his career and it appears that at the age of 28 he might have started regressing already. So with all of this out there, the question needs to be asked: should the Royals trade Billy Butler?

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That question is an interesting one, one that isn’t a straight yes or no answer. Let’s first look at the facts: Butler has provided very little offensive punch this season, as he is on pace for the lowest homerun, RBI, and OPS numbers of his career. Since Butler has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball for quite awhile the prevalent thought(mine included) has been that at some point he would turn around this season and put up numbers more representative of his career. With only 68 games remaining, the likelihood of that happening lessens everyday. His trade value has never been lower and with him carrying a team option(a hefty one at that; 12.5 million) for 2015, it’s pretty plain to see he won’t be in Royal blue next season. The smart choice would be to get something(anything) for him, but it’s not as easy as that. The Royals don’t have a ready replacement for him(Raul Ibanez?? Suuuuuure) and they are pushing for their first playoff appearance in Kansas City since 1985, so the Royals need all the fire power they can get. Since you probably wouldn’t get a better hitter for Butler, trading for his replacement would have to almost certainly be done separately. There is also this little dilemma; if you trade Billy to the Mariners, you are trading him to the team that is in front of them for the second Wild Card spot. So in effect, the Royals might very well be helping out the team they will be fighting for said playoff spot.

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So if Kansas City decides to pull the trigger on this trade with Seattle, they are probably either going to ask for a bullpen arm in return, either from the majors or minors. The Royals are probably also going to have to pay a portion of Butler’s remaining salary this year(8 million). The Royals have been searching for additional bullpen help, so this would help solve that. I wish I could say here that Billy would net more than that, but his value just isn’t that high. Mariners DH’s have hit a weak .236/.289/.356 this season, which means for them Butler would be an upgrade. I can’t foresee any other team being interested unless they wanted to use him as a part-time player or a bench guy(especially if a National League team was interested). Seattle is probably the best option for Kansas City to make a deal with at this point.

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If this happens, the Royals will then need to go out and pick up someone to be his replacement. There have been rumors that the Royals are interested in Jonny Gomes of Boston, who is a solid OF/DH type, but is better when facing southpaws(.306/.403/.429) than righties. Gomes would be a solid batter but one who’s flaws are more apparent when receiving more playing time. Cody Ross in Arizona could also be an interesting addition and he has helped teams make a push for a playoff spot in the past(San Francisco immediately coming to mind). Hell, the Royals might even add a couple bats and split them between RF and DH. There is also the option of the Royals using the DH as a rotating spot, letting their other starters play there occasionally to give them a rest on defense while keeping their bat in the lineup(see Perez, Salvador). The only problem with that is that their bench is weak to say the least and the lineup would see a decline playing Christian Colon, Brett Hayes or Danny Valencia more than they are now. Raul Ibanez? Like I said before this really isn’t an option. The man is 42 and was released by the Angels for a reason earlier this season. In the ten games since his return to Kansas City he is hitting a meek .135 with just 5 hits in 37 at bats. So if the Royals are looking to improve their offense by trading Butler, a couple other moves will probably have to happen as well.

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So what should the Royals do? In my opinion, the Royals have a legitimate chance of getting into the playoffs this year, but only if there is an upgrade in the offense. I’ve long been a supporter of Butler, if for no other reason than the fact that he had a consistent track record of producing for the Royals. Unfortunately, he just isn’t producing this year and the Royals aren’t in a position of just letting him fight through it all year. So would I trade Butler? Yes, but ONLY IF IT IMPROVES THE OFFENSE. I put that in bold, because the team shouldn’t just trade him to trade him. No, they need to be confident that if they deal him what they have to replace his bat will be of greater value than what Billy would have brought them for the rest of the year. Otherwise you are weakening an already bi-polar offense that has two players(Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas) who the team doesn’t know if they can trust to be solid offensive contributors. It’s sad to say, but it might be the best for both the Royals and  Billy to part ways. In two years Butler has gone from being willing to run through a brick wall for the team and its fans to “favoriting” a post about the trade rumors between Seattle and Kansas City on Twitter:

At this point, the Royals need an answer offensively. It appears more and more everyday Billy Butler isn’t that answer. Soon enough we will know if “Country Breakfast” is helping the Royals or the Mariners make a playoff push.

Just One Fix: Helping the Ailing Royals Offense

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We are through eleven games so far into the 2014 campaign and to say the Kansas City Royals offense isn’t clicking is a major understatement. It’s been awful. Disgusting. Weak. Punchless. Craptastic. Describe it any way you want, they are simply not getting the job done. The good thing? We are only eleven games in. Seriously. I get that as Royals fans we are programmed to expect the worst, but the reaction of the fanbase this weekend was frightening. The season is over already? Eleven games, people. Chill out.

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I heard a lot of ideas that fans had yesterday to fix this club. Fire Yost/Moore/Grifol? Sorry, it’s none of these guys’ fault. For once, the blame doesn’t fall on their shoulders. Trade Butler/Moustakas? To who? For what? Their value has never been lower, but they should trade them? The Royals wouldn’t get anything of value in return for them, so that is a pointless argument. Bring back Brett? I love George Brett, but he isn’t coming back and he shouldn’t. He isn’t what elevated this team last year; Grifol is the one who worked on Hosmer’s mechanics, not George. George was just there for motivation, which he was fine at, but he was the hitting coach in name only. To be honest, why would the Royals bring Brett back? Is that the answer every time this team struggles offensively? When I answered that question in my head, I kept coming back to the same thing: no more hand-holding. No more coddling. The younger core of this group has been in the majors now for over three years. They need to either produce or lose playing time. With that in mind, it got me to thinking of what the Royals should do. Now, I’m not totally sure I have the answer to this; hell, maybe I’m not even close. But if I was in charge, or even just asked my opinion, this is what I would do.

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First thing I would do is shuffle the lineup. Move Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler from 3rd and 4th to 6th and 7th in the order respectively. I would then bump Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez from 5th and 6th up to 3rd and 4th. Gordon and Perez are at least having good at bats, with Perez getting off to one of the few good Royals starts to the season. I would then move Lorenzo Cain up from 8th to 5th in the order(nice call, Dalton!). Cain is also getting some key at bats, so he should be rewarded for it. With all these moves, it would move Mike Moustakas down from 7th to 8th in the order. Here is the thing though; I actually think Moose had some of the best at bats of the Minnesota series.

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Did I just say that the guy hitting .111 had some of the best AB’s in that series? Yes, yes I did. Moose had 2 hits in Friday’s game and a hit in yesterday’s contest. Moustakas was also able to accumulate a walk in games 2 and 3 of the Minnesota series. Mike actually looks like he has a game plan when he steps up to the plate(unlike Hosmer and Butler) and is still taking quite a bit of pitches compared to the rest of the team. We even saw him drive the ball throughout the three games, so there is reason to believe that he is just a tick off and about go on a bit of a hitting streak. I know Moose is struggling and not hitting even close to how he was in Arizona this spring, but he doesn’t look lost like others do. I know it’s frustrating, but I’m willing to be a bit more patient with Moustakas, at least for awhile.

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With all that lineup shuffling, I also think it wouldn’t hurt to have a few of the hitters struggling to sit out a game or two. Nothing major, just take a day off, no pressure and sit with hitting coach Pedro Grifol and go over a few things. Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to get your head on straight. Maybe let Justin Maxwell play a few games at DH while Danny Valencia gets some reps in at 1B or 3B. I know Ned Yost thinks it’s better to be in the lineup everyday to get out of a slump, but at this point it is just hurting the team. It won’t hurt for guys like Butler or Hosmer to sit out a game or two. In fact, Yost has a habit of not getting his bench players much playing time. Who already forgot Brett Hayes is on the roster? It looks like there has already been some work being done, as Grifol talked to Butler about moving off of the plate and stand in his normal spot in the batter’s box. It’s good to hear that a veteran like Butler is open to trying something, anything, to help his situation. A game or two talking baseball with Grifol might just be the thing for a few of these hitters.

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So it isn’t much, but that is what I would do to try and get the Royals offense going. Honestly, I don’t think a drastic event needs to happen for the hitters to come alive. They mainly just need to go out there, relax and try to keep it as simple as possible. This Royals offense has been living off of potential for years now; it’s time for them to either prove their worth or the team will have to consider Plan B. The Royals aren’t in a position where they can completely dismantle this team in the middle of the season, but something would have to be done if the offense continues to sputter along. The main thing is the blame needs to start falling on the players, not everyone else. 2014 could be the season we find out who really belongs and who needs to move on. But remember, we are only eleven games in; there is still lots of time to turn this thing around. Patience will be our greatest weapon.

2014 Kansas City Royals: Be Royal…Code for Playoffs?

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Two weeks from today, the Kansas City Royals will take the field and open the 2014 season in Detroit. Optimism runs high for the Royals this year, as they are coming off of their first winning season in a decade. Not only were they not eliminated from the playoffs until the last week of the season, but they are returning a large portion of the team that got them to this point. Now, I wasn’t quite sold on their chances in 2013 and I even admitted my mistake once the season was over. Going into this year, I think this is a team who will post another winning season(the Royals haven’t posted back to back winning seasons since the early 90’s) but playoffs? Let’s go ahead and take a look at this team and what can be expected coming into what very well could be a make or break year.

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Let’s start with what was the biggest strength for Kansas City in 2013, the starting pitching. Most of the same faces are back from last year. James Shields will once again anchor the rotation, leading a staff as free agency is beckoning him. Last year I foolishly didn’t believe Shields was a true ace(silly me), but I was proven wrong as ‘Big Game James’ showed he was up for the challenge. Following him will be Jeremy Guthrie, as he put up solid numbers that continue to defy logic. I only say that since Guthrie continues to give up more hits than innings pitched year after year but also puts up respectable numbers. One would think at some point that would catch up with Guthrie, but he’s been doing it for years and other than his dreadful few months in Colorado, he has been able to not let a large portion of those runners score. Following the ‘Jeremy Guthrie Magic Trick’ will be newly acquired Jason Vargas. Vargas will actually start the second game of the year, but that is more about not pitching Vargas and Chen back to back, since they are practically the same pitcher. Vargas’ signing this winter was the most highly debated, especially after the Royals went out and re-signed Bruce Chen as well. By no means am I saying Vargas is a bad pitcher or that the Royals overpaid for him(although signing him for four years is debatable), but it doesn’t make sense to have him and Chen on the same team. Vargas is replacing Ervin Santana, who put together a splendid year in 2013. It’s doubtful Vargas will put up numbers even comparable to Santana, but he will eat innings and (hopefully) keep the Royals in the game. Chen will be the fourth starter, at least for the first half of the season. If the Royals are serious about this contending thing they won’t have Bruce in the rotation come July. Look, I like Chen and he is great for the clubhouse but the formula they used with him last year(rotation only half the year, other half in the bullpen) is really the way to go with him. The fifth spot in the rotation seems to be young flamethrower Yordano ‘Ace’ Ventura, who might make all of us forget about Santana. There are some lofty expectations on him, as comparisons have even gone as far as future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. If Ventura is even close to what we think he could be, the Royals will be in for a fun year. So with all this said, as much as I like the rotation(and that is without even mentioning how we could see either Danny Duffy or Kyle Zimmer replace Chen at mid-season), I have to believe they won’t be as solid as they were last year. I’m not saying that in a negative way as much as saying that they were so good  last year that it seems inconceivable that they would be able to achieve that two years in a row. So expect a slight dip this year with the starters…but not much.

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Another solid bunch is the Royals bullpen. The bullpen was so solid last year that only the Atlanta Braves had a better pen in baseball. Leading the bunch was closer Greg ‘Dirty South’ Holland, who surprised even his biggest fans by shaking off an early season slump to put up some of the best numbers of anyone in Kansas City’s history(yes, even up there with Quisenberry and Montgomery). The pen was so deep last year that a guy like Louis Coleman, who was nasty both in the minors and the majors, was only in the big leagues for a portion of the season. One of the main cogs in the bullpen last year was Luke Hochevar, who will miss the 2014 season to have Tommy John Surgery. No worries, Royals fans, as former starter Wade Davis, who is a much better reliever than starter, will be taking his place this year. Add in Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, and (probably) Donnie Joseph and you have one of the best bullpens in the game. Now, bullpens tend to rollover every few years, so we could be seeing some changes in the near future, but if they can last one more season then the Royals can worry about changes during the offseason.

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Now onto the starting lineup. To be flatly honest, this Royals lineup might be the most solid one they have had in years. Before last year, I really felt like the Royals hadn’t done enough to fix their 2012 lack of offense. Honestly, I was proven right. If the offense hadn’t been so streaky one wonders if the Royals would have actually made the playoffs. But this year, things are different. Just taking a glance and there are no major holes in the lineup, no Getz’s or Francoeur’s dragging it down. There are a few question marks, guys coming off of down years in 2013. Mike Moustakas might be the most talked about Royal in this conversation, as he pretty much stunk up the joint last year. It didn’t matter if he was facing lefties or righties, starters or relievers, Orioles or Indians, he just didn’t look good at the plate. Moose tucked his ego aside, went and played in the Venezuelan Winter League while working on his swing. Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol managed the team Moose was on, so he was able to work with him on a personal basis. What we have seen this spring is more of an open stance from Moustakas, less movement in his swing and a better ability at hitting lefthanders. If Moose can bounce back, that leaves one less worry with this offense. Alcides Escobar was another concern, as he went from having a great offensive 2012 to a downright dismal 2013. It didn’t matter if you hit him at the top of the lineup or the bottom(although he should have had no business at the top of the lineup, where he batted a whopping 49% of the time), Esky was one of the worst hitters in baseball last year. Granted, we all know he is in there for his defense, but a little bit of offense would have been nice. Most Royals fans(and I assume a good portion of the Royals braintrust) would agree that even if Escobar hits in the .260-.270 range, his defense would make up for the rest. The Royals have him signed to a very team-friendly contract, but if doesn’t produce this year then they might have to start looking elsewhere, or at least until Adalberto Mondesi Jr. makes it to the big leagues.

MLB: Spring Training-Kansas City Royals at Milwaukee Brewers

Elsewhere in the lineup, Eric Hosmer is expected to hit much like he did in the second half of the season, as is Salvador Perez. Two guys who’s numbers were down last year was Billy Butler and Alex Gordon and both are being counted on to improve on last year. I know many soured on Butler, as he didn’t put up the power numbers he had the year before, but he was still one of the better hitters on the team. Gordon is being moved down to fifth in the order and will be asked to drive in more runs this year. In the past he has struggled when lowered in the order, so it will be interesting to see how he does. The two new additions to the Royals lineup are right fielder Nori Aoki and second baseman Omar Infante, who are expected to bat first and second respectively. Aoki should get on base at the top of the order, even if he doesn’t walk as much as expected out of that spot in the order. Infante might be better suited to sixth in the order but should be fine second, as he can do about anything asked of him from that spot. Both should be improvements over the players they are replacing and should give the lineup a different look. Lorenzo Cain will be the center fielder and at this point I believe most just want him to stay healthy. Royals management expects continued improvement from the youngsters, which very well could happen. We could also see some struggles as well. Either way though, this offense looks way better than it did last year and one can only hope it produces more to help out the pitching.

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The bench though is where there are a few concerns. Since the Royals plan on carrying 12 pitchers when they break camp, that leaves them with only four spots for their bench. One will be the backup catcher, which at this point appears to be Brett Hayes. It also appears as if both Justin Maxwell and Jarrod Dyson will be with the team to backup in the outfield. That leaves one spot, and most of the spring it appeared the Royals would be daring and not keep a backup infielder and instead keep 3B/1B Danny Valencia. Valencia has use, as he scorches lefthanders, but it would appear a backup infielder might be of more value. That seems even more apparent as both Escobar and Infante have battled injuries this spring. The Royals swear they can fill Valencia in at second and move Infante over at SS, but Danny has never played second and it doesn’t appear smart to start that now. The Royals options as backup infielder aren’t very promising, but they could suffice if absolutely needed. Pedro Ciriaco would seem to have the first shot, as he has hit well this spring and is out of options. Jason Donald has also had a good spring but is out of options. There is also former first round draft pick Christian Colon, who can man second or shorstop, but is pretty much just a glove-man at this point. The Royals don’t have great options(and let Emilio Bonifacio, their best option, go before Spring Training), but they knew this all offseason. It would seem insane to go into the season without a backup infielder, and I hope they come to their senses. If not, we could see Valencia at second base and possibly even Moustakas sliding over to shortstop. That’s just scary and nonsensical, folks.

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Finally, Ned Yost will be coming back for another season as manager of the Royals. You all know my thoughts on Neddy, and at this point I’m not even going to give you links to my columns ranting about Yost(which also seem to be some sort of weird therapy sessions). My feelings haven’t changed about him. I don’t think he is the guy to get Kansas City to the promise land. He did a good job last year of not letting the guys get too down after their craptacular May, which I give him kudos for. He has learned at this point to just let them play. But we all know he likes to tinker, and that hasn’t changed. Expect some bunting, expect some questionable lineups, and most definitely he will keep a starter in longer than he should. But until the Royals decide he isn’t the guy, it doesn’t matter what I think. Ned is the devil you know at this point.

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So with just two weeks remaining until the games count,  the Royals almost have their roster set and ready to go. I’ve bounced around a lot of ideas as to what I think will happen this season and where I see them come October and a lot of other issues will factor in during the season(injuries could play a major part, as the Royals lack a lot of depth, especially in the lineup). Last year, I picked them for right around .500, or just a tad below. This year, I believe at the very least this is a winning ball club. Playoffs? I’m not quite there yet. I definitely don’t see them toppling Detroit in the Central and am not totally sure they can get past Cleveland. But if the youngsters continue to develop and Ventura is as good as advertised, this could be a really fun season. In some ways this season is ‘Playoffs or Bust’, as the window for this team is closing. Shields is a free agent at the end of the year, and Butler and Gordon both can be free agents after 2015. There is more young talent on the way, but it’s anyone’s guess just when we will see them. I personally see this team winning 83-87 games, just barely missing out on the postseason. A lot of things went right for them last year and the percentages say that doesn’t happen two years in a row. I do think this team will be fun to watch, even if they win 83. Dayton Moore has finally put together a winning team, one that he pretty much developed. July might be a true test of how much he(or David Glass, as he would have to open the pocketbook) wants it. If the Royals are in it, they have to go for it. This team can contend, but might be still one or two players away from the playoffs. Once again Kansas City, it’s time to prove me wrong. Make me eat my words. I would gladly do it if it means I am watching the Royals play in October. Maybe by then I will understand what ‘Be Royal’ means.

P.S.-I’m pretty sure we will hear this song this year at the K. I just hope they realize the lyrics don’t really make sense for a winning team. Just saying.

Ramble On: Royals Notes of Interest

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With the Hot Stove season in full tilt, and the Winter Meetings coming up fairly soon, I thought today we would take a look at some items of interest going on with the Kansas City Royals.

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Obviously the main news is the Royals have discussed a trade with the Colorado Rockies and Dexter Fowler has been the main Rockie of interest discussed. Word is that Colorado really likes Wade Davis and might be willing to make a Davis/Fowler trade straight up. Names also mentioned on Kansas City’s side have been Aaron Crow and Tim Collins. Basically, the Royals are willing to part with their surplus of great arms in the pen to fill a hole elsewhere on the diamond. Smart move in that regard and Fowler is about the level of player you would get for a reliever. But would this move be an upgrade? I have been hemming and hawing all day, going back and forth on whether or not this would improve the Royals both offensively and defensively. Fowler has great speed, is only 27, a switch hitter with some power and even takes a walk(the Royals must not know this yet!). Fowler has also been fairly injury prone, has not produced big numbers at Coors Field despite his home/road splits( At Coors: .298/.395/.485 Away: .241/.333/.361 for his career) and for some reason doesn’t have the best defensive metrics. So would he be an upgrade? Probably, but not by much. I tend to think using a platoon of David Lough/Just Maxwell with Jarrod Dyson occasionally filling in for Lorenzo Cain in center field with Cain then sliding over to right to be about the same as if the Royals go out and get Fowler. Fowler is still only 27 years old, so there is a chance he hasn’t reached his peak yet. It would be great for the Royals to be the benefit of that upside, but the possibility of regression is there as well. Either way, I have a feeling we won’t hear anymore on this front until a decision has been made on Carlos Beltran, either way.

George Kottaras

Almost a week ago, the Royals traded backup catcher George Kottaras to the Chicago Cubs for cash. The week before he had been taken off the 40-man roster to make room for newly signed pitcher Jason Vargas. At the time it seemed like an odd move, as Kottaras was a very serviceable backup for catcher Salvador Perez and quite possibly the best pinch hitter the team had on their bench. The running joke was that Kottaras was either going to do one of two things when he was at the plate: take a walk or hit a homer. Kottaras easily was one the most patient hitters for the Royals in 2013 and might have been the most patient I have seen in a long time. So seeing him get cut seemed a little out of place. But there were rumblings that this was a financially inspired move. Even Bob Dutton heard from a Royals official who said this was a money move. So how much money would Kansas City save if Brett Hayes ends up being the Royals backup catcher this year? $500, 000. So this could be about finances–hell, Kottaras was traded for “cash considerations”. But I think one more thing factors in here: Ned Yost is a former catcher who loves his catchers to play great defense. Nothing wrong with that, in fact I am a big proponent of holding on to great defensive catchers. But Kottaras wasn’t chopped liver behind the dish; word was that he called a good game and worked really hard to make sure he was fully prepared for every start. Add in his patience at the plate(with some pop, may I add) and logic would tell you to stick with Kottaras for one more year. Instead he will head to Chicago and the Royals will go with either Hayes, or Francisco Pena. Neither will put fear in opposing pitchers. Though not a big deal, it’s a move that just doesn’t sit well with me.

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Speaking of things that don’t sit well with me, the Royals gave General Manager Dayton Moore a 2-year contract extension on Black Friday. At the time it felt like a move tucked away on the busiest shopping day of the year, a holiday weekend where few would pay much notice. It still feels that way, as I have to believe the Royals realized it wouldn’t be a popular move. I’ve said my peace on GMDM more than once, and in a lot of ways don’t want to just retread the reasons I feel the Royals are held back by having Moore as their GM. If you want to read my thoughts, read this. It pretty much sums up my thoughts. Craig Brown of Royals Review hit the nail on the head, which I pretty much completely agree with. Now, the extension isn’t a big surprise. Once Yost’s contract was extended, it seemed like just a matter of time until Dayton received his extension. Even if you are like me and wish the Glass’ had waited a few months into the season before extending his contract, Sam Mellinger makes some good points as to why the Royals needed to give Dayton the extension. So I get why this was done; I just don’t think it is in the best interest for the future of this ball club. Hopefully I am wrong and the Royals will flourish, contending for the foreseeable future. But there is a better chance the last seven years are a better indicator of what we should expect.

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Finally, it just doesn’t seem right for me to write up some Royals thoughts without mentioning the fact that CHRIS GETZ IS NO LONGER A KANSAS CITY ROYAL!!!!! Anyone who knows me or has read this blog knows I am not a big fan of Mr. Getz. I have felt for awhile that the Royals should part ways with ‘The Man Who Was Mistake Free ‘. I poked fun at him with a fake mailbag column. Actually, come to think of it, Getzie was a pretty good muse for me. He brought out the sarcasm in my writing, sarcasm that doesn’t always show up in print. At the end of the day, Getzie was allowed to be a regular part of this team for way too long, or at least too long for a very average player. As a human being, I wish the best for him in the future…as long as it is far away from Kansas City. As a Royals fan, I am elated he is finally gone. I’m sure some will say I’ll have to find some other player to poke fun at now that ol’ Getzie is gone. I would counter that I am looking forward to not having a player on the field that I don’t feel belongs. I’ll feel even better about this if the Cardinals pick him up. I’m off to party now, to celebrate Happy ‘Chris Getz is No Longer a Royal’ Day–but I have a feeling this isn’t the last word from me on Getzie. There might be one more mailbag in me…until then, let’s celebrate!!!

                     

Saving Salvy’s Knees

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As most Kansas City Royals fans will tell you, catcher Salvador Perez is a special player. He isn’t just special because of his great throwing ability, or solid bat. He is a leader to the pitching staff and I have yet to hear one pitcher say they disliked throwing to him. In fact, almost every pitcher to a ‘T’ has said they love throwing to Salvy. Perez is loved by his entire team and helps loosen up the mood in Kansas City’s dugout. So when people throw names like Bench and Molina around when comparing Perez to someone, it isn’t just rose colored glasses or fan lust. But there is one thing that concerns me about our possible perennial All-Star, and it has nothing to do with anything Salvy himself does. No, what concerns me is how Perez never seems to get a full day off behind the dish. Even in games where George Kottaras starts in his place, before that game is over with, Perez is back behind the plate. This concerns me to no end.

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Before we start, I’ve heard the arguments, and I get where some people are coming from. Perez is only 23. His only major injury was last year’s meniscus tear in his knee, which held him out for the first couple months of the season. You could probably also throw in there the concussion Perez encountered just a few weeks ago(and I do consider concussions very serious). Overall, Salvy has encountered very little wear and tear on him and is young enough to where it will probably be awhile before he shows the affects of crouching behind the plate for a 162 game season. But the point isn’t that he should be fine for the immediate future. No, what concerns me is where it puts him in about 5-6 years.

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There is a thinking in baseball that catchers shouldn’t be tall and lanky. In fact, only 11 catchers over 6’4 in MLB history have ever accumulated 2,000 career at bats. The most high profile on this list is Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, who is a two-time batting champ and an exceptional hitter. Perez is only 6’3, but in my eyes that is close enough. The general thinking is that tall catchers don’t last because they encounter more injuries, especially in their knees, than smaller, squattier(I know, not a word. Consider this me making a new word) players who wear the tools of ignorance. Mauer is the perfect case of that, as his injuries over the years have made it to where the Twins have started playing him at first base. Minnesota knows that at some point, they will probably have to move Mauer to another position to keep his bat in the lineup. He wouldn’t be the first. Carlton Fisk had a stint in the outfield late in his career, even though it didn’t really stick. Johnny Bench was moved around, playing some third base, first base and even the outfield. These are elite catchers in the pantheon of the game, the best of the best and they were forced to move away from being a full time catcher. So history shows where Perez’s future could lie.

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Knowing all of this now, I bring the question back up: why is Ned Yost insisting on putting Perez into  every single game behind the plate? I get that Perez is better defensively than backup George Kottaras. Kottaras is known to call a good game, but arm wise it’s not even close. Same for blocking pitches in the dirt. Like I said, Perez is just a really special ballplayer in that regard. I firmly believe that a lot of the reasoning Yost has for bringing Perez in late in the games he doesn’t start is for his defense and to hold a lead. Trust me, I get the thinking. But is it really worth it? Kottaras is probably one of the best backup catchers in the game, as he has the uncanny talent of basically being a ‘I’m either going to collect a walk here or hit a home run’ kind of player. His OPS this year is ridiculous for a guy hitting below .200. Really the only reason to take Kottaras out of the game is to have a better arm behind the plate. Like I said, I get the reasoning, but I don’t agree with it.

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The perfect example of why I don’t agree with it happened a few weeks ago in a game against the New York Mets. Perez was brought in late in the game as a defensive replacement, and proceeded to catch a foul ball off his mask, causing a concussion. Now, I am fully aware that this could have happened at anytime, or any game. It’s part of the danger of being a major league catcher. But once again, Kottaras could have still been in the game, as there was really no reason to bring Perez in. If I had a choice, I would rather lose Kottaras for a few games than Perez. What if the concussion had held him out longer than the seven games used for concussions in baseball? Just look at someone like Justin Morneau, and how long it took him to come back from his concussion. It would seem that the more a player is in the game, the higher percentage of him getting hurt goes up. That is obvious. Perez so far this year has appeared in 95 games, 87 that he has started. He also missed time earlier in the year, as his grandmother had passed away. Perez was gone for nine games during his leave. Add in the seven he was on the concussion DL, and that is 16 games Perez was not available. The Royals have played 118 games so far this year, so he has missed a total of 23 games. So there are games that he didn’t come in as a defensive replacement, but not very many.

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What befuddles my mind more than anything is that his manager, Ned Yost, was a former big league catcher. It is very well known within baseball that a catcher needs more days off during the season than a regular position player. A catcher squats a ridiculous amount of times in a game and the up and down movement wears a player down after awhile. So it would make sense that if your manager was a former catcher, they will take care of you and give you the extra time off you need. But Yost doesn’t seem to follow this philosophy. Perez isn’t the first catcher that he has attempted to run into the ground. Anyone remember Jason Kendall in 2010? Kendall played so much that year that I forgot backup catcher Brayan Pena was even on the roster. He had to be collecting dust and cobwebs as he watched Kendall play day after day. If it wasn’t for an injury late in the year that ended Kendall’s career, who knows just how many games Pena would have actually gotten into. For a guy who spent his career behind the plate, it sure seems like he’d rather run his catchers into the ground and say ‘to hell with the future’. For a team of youngsters, that just makes no sense to me whatsoever. To me, Yost should know when is a good time to rest his pitch caller and when not to.

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It seems weird that I am preaching the case for resting a 23 year old catcher who is in only his third big league season, but I am. The Royals have Perez locked in for possibly the next six years, so this is an investment they should be taking care of. It’s a proven fact that tall catchers just don’t hold up as well to the rigors of catching duty on a daily basis the way a shorter catcher does. Just look at guys like Ivan Rodriguez and Yogi Berra as the cases for the short catcher. Hopefully Yost wises up within the next month and gives Perez some extra days off. The Royals could fall out of playoff contention sometime in September and if that happens, it would be as good a time to give more starts to Kottaras or even a Brett Hayes if he is back on the roster at that point. Unfortunately, you have to baby your catcher a bit more than say, your outfielders. If that means giving a guy like Salvador Perez an extra day off from time to time, you do it. Trust me, in six years you’ll be glad it was done. There is a famous line from the Neil Young song ‘Hey Hey, My My’: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. In the case of Perez, I hope we don’t find out whether that is actually true.

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