The American League (Second) Wild Card Shuffle

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A few seasons back, Major League Baseball decided to spice things up and added a second Wild Card spot to the playoffs. In November of 2011, MLB announced they would be adding this second wild card, with the top two Wild Card teams playing each other in a one game playoff to determine who would go on to the division series and who would go home. In a lot ways this second Wild Card was added to hopefully add to the excitement of pennant chases, much like the electric last day of the 2011 season(do you remember how awesome that day was? If not, go ahead and revisit it!)

Now that I just gave you the equivalent of a sugar rush, let’s get to the real meat and potatoes of this; the second Wild Card spot is up for grabs in the American League this year with four teams battling for the spot with only a game separating these teams. No one team in this group stand out amongst each other with each team holding equal positives and negatives to their run for a playoff spot. Obviously around these parts we are cheering for the Royals to make the playoffs. With that said, lets look at what each team will bring to this ‘Wild Card Shuffle’.

Kansas City Royals-Currently holding 2nd Wild Card spot, 34.0% chance of reaching playoffs(BaseballProspectus.com/odds/)

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins

The Royals have seen a big increase in their chances of making the playoffs over the past week, in fact almost a 18% increase in that span. As most Royals fans can attest to, this has been a very topsy turvy season already, as the Royals went on a 10 game winning streak in June, took over first place of the American League Central from Detroit. Kansas City followed that by going on a losing streak and even straddling .500 before the All Star break. The Royals currently have a 4 game winning streak and are 7-3 over their last ten games. Outside of back to back series coming up with Oakland and San Francisco, the Royals will then play 12 straight games(outside of a lone game against the Yankees) against teams under .500, followed by 3 games to wrap up August against Cleveland, who are currently at .500. If the Royals are going to make a run, now would seem to be the best time to do it.

Positives: One of the best defenses in baseball, great bullpen, solid rotation

Negatives: Inconsistent offense, poor plate discipline, iffy manager  

Toronto Blue Jays-1/2 game out of the 2nd Wild Card spot, 25.8% chance of reaching playoffs

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A week ago, the Blue Jays looked golden; in that span their chance of making the playoffs has fallen 34.3% and have basically let the other teams around them back into the boat. The Blue Jays could still be the team to beat in this position, but it’s going to take a bit to widen the gap. Toronto is almost the polar opposite to the Royals schedule-wise over the next month; the Blue Jays have Detroit, Milwaukee, Seattle, New York and the once surging Rays to contend with in August. The Blue Jays have been hit by the injury bug as of late, and they should be getting a few of their offensive pieces(Encarnacion, Lind) back soon. The Jays have a young pitching staff and still need some help in the bullpen, but if they piece things together they are a real threat to the Royals for that spot.

Positives: Great offense, young pitching, aggressive GM

Negatives: injuries, thin bullpen, rough schedule

Seattle Mariners-1/2 game out of the 2nd Wild Card spot, 23.0% chance of reaching playoffs

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Seattle is an interesting ball club to say the least. You have to wonder where the Mariners would be in the standings if their offense was just league average. Instead, they have a weak offense, in fact one so weak that it makes the Royals look like ‘Murderers Row’.  But Seattle’s GM Jack Zduriencik has already been working to fix that, adding Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia before the trade deadline and very well could be adding more. Jack Z’s job is probably on the line, so he could very well be proactive over the next month. Add in a stellar pitching staff that is better than Kansas City’s  and you have a team that the Royals should be worried about. The Mariners still play a number of playoff contenders to play this season, including 15 of their last 18 against teams vying for a playoff spot. Seattle very well could be the Royals biggest obstacle in front of them when it comes to grasping a playoff spot.

Positives: Fantastic pitching, a GM with his job on the line,excellent at run prevention

Negatives: weak offense, rough schedule 

New York Yankees-1/2 game out of the 2nd Wild Card spot, 34.5% chance of reaching the playoffs

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The fact that the Yankees are still in this conversation is a minor miracle. Their starting rotation has been decimated, they have been hit with a number of injuries and unless Derek Jeter is truly a God(as has been hinted at by almost every major media outlet this season), the Yankees shouldn’t even be in this position. But…here they are. Actually, out of these four teams, the Yankees have the best percentage chance of making the playoffs. Getting players back from injury will help, but they also need to add to their weakened rotation. Unfortunately for them, the likes of Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano just won’t work. The Yankees are known for stocking up this time of year, so don’t be shocked to see another pitcher head to the Bronx before the month is up. If that happens, their odds will improve, although they still have 24 games left against teams trying to reach October(and that isn’t even counting games against Cleveland and Tampa Bay, who are on the fringe). I would like to see the odds are stacked against them, but I have counted New York out before and they’ve proven me wrong. Don’t be surprised if they are still in this spot come late September.

Positives: Improving offense, excellent bullpen, deep pockets

Negatives: Pieced together rotation, tough schedule, old shortstop

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You probably noticed I didn’t add Cleveland to this list. The Indians are currently 4 games out of the Wild Card spot, so technically they are still in it, but they would have a tougher road to go and more teams to climb over(same for Tampa Bay). Sure, it could happen. If anything, we have learned over the years that it’s not over until a spot is locked up. This might be the most interesting race to follow over the next seven weeks and one that could fluxuate quite a bit between now and then. Obviously us Royals fans are hoping that 29 years of playoff-less baseball ends this year, but there are no guarantees. Any of these four teams could grasp that last spot and play either the Angels or A’s for the one game playoff. None of these teams stand out above another, but the team that can play the most consistent over the rest of the season will probably be the team there at the end. At the very least it will be a fun seven weeks to cheer on your team if you are in Kansas City, Toronto, New York or Seattle. It will also be stomach churning at times. All this for October baseball. You gotta love it!

 

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.”

The Royals Right Field Answer Might Be in Tampa Bay

David DeJesus

 

ed. note: Right after finishing this I found out DeJesus suffered a fractured left hand off of a check swing and was placed on the 15-day DL. I have not seen when they expect him back, although a guess would be 3-6 weeks, or close to the trade deadline. 

The Kansas City Royals are in first place and visions of playoff games and parades dance in our heads. The Royals are on an unprecedented streak of ten straight wins and it almost seems like the winning will never stop. Only it will stop, and when it does the Royals still will need to win the majority of their games to be contenders. With Kansas City (FINALLY!) being a contender, it only makes sense for the team to upgrade a few worry areas before the July trade deadline. With word coming out this week from GM Dayton Moore that the team would be allowed to add payroll to help out before the trade deadline, it appears the green light has been given to make those upgrades. Obviously the most pressing spots are right field and third base, but I’m pretty positive that Royals management still believes in Mike Moustakas and are giving him until (at the least) the end of the season. That leaves right field, as it has become pressingly obvious that Nori Aoki just isn’t cutting it. I like Jarrod Dyson, but the more he plays the more his flaws are in sight for all to see. So upgrading right field is a must, but the Royals also don’t have a lot to deal. Unless the team wants to part with a major prospect(which isn’t recommended) or a key part of the current roster(which will leave another hole) it appears Moore is either going to have to be creative or go for a player that won’t take much to acquire. There are some good option’s out there, like Chris Denorfia or Seth Smith both of San Diego, but I think a great option for Kansas City is in Tampa Bay at the moment and is familiar with the Royals organization. No, I am not talking about Wil Myers(I knew that is where everyone would go); I am talking about David DeJesus.

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Let’s preface this with this little nugget of information; despite the Rays being in last place in the American League East and 13 games out of the lead, they still feel the majority of their roster is a championship team. So the Rays won’t be holding a fire sale, or a garage sale, or buy one get one free sale. What they will be doing is dealing a few players for other parts, guys like Ben Zobrist, Jeremy Hellickson and DeJesus. DDJ isn’t a major part of their offense and at 34 probably isn’t a major part of their future. That should make it fairly easy to deal for him. In my mind, a minor league arm or two should be all it takes to acquire DeJesus. It shouldn’t be someone like Miguel Almonte or Christian Binford, but maybe someone at AA NW Arkansas or A Wilmington. So a deal for DeJesus should be an easy one to work out for the Royals.

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If the trade happens, I have to believe that you pencil DeJesus in as the right fielder and leadoff hitter. Now, he isn’t as fast as he was in his Royals’ prime, but that is to be expected at 34. The thing is, DeJesus never was a big base stealer, as his high for any season was 11 in 2008 for Kansas City. The Royals know what they would be getting with him, and that is a solid  above average performer. DeJesus’ numbers are up this year across the board, with his higher walk percentage(11.9%)and lower strikeout rate(5.7 AB per SO) really sticking out. You have to feel good that DeJesus might  not steal many bases or hit many home runs, but he gets on base and has always been able to smell out extra bases at Kauffman Stadium. Right now his OPS+, slugging percentage and OBP are way up over the last few years and is already halfway to last year’s extra base total. It appears that despite a little bit of regression over the last few years, DeJesus is performing smarter in 2014 and his numbers are greater because of it.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays

Now there are a few things for mild concern, as no player is ever perfect. DeJesus’ defense is just about average nowadays which is probably why he has been the Rays DH most of this year(37 games at DH compared to 15 in the field). He’s not quite a liability in the field(and probably still an upgrade over Aoki defensively) but he’s never possessed a strong arm and has obviously lost a step or two. The good thing is he was always known for being a smart fielder, knowing where he was at and where that hitter liked to place the ball. I’ll take a smart fielder any day over one that takes bad routes to the ball. DeJesus also won’t supply much power, but as long as guys like Gordon, Perez and Butler supply some that shouldn’t be an issue. DeJesus’ main job will be to get on base and be a veteran presence in the clubhouse.

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Now it appears as if the Royals won’t make a move to upgrade until mid-July, so they will have some time to feel things out and see what direction they want to go. I personally would prefer a move sooner rather than later, but it seems as if a wait is in our future. I don’t expect a blockbuster move or one that shakes up the foundation of the team, but adding DeJesus to a clubhouse he is familiar with could really pay off. DeJesus is easily an upgrade over Aoki and can be had on the cheap. DeJesus also has another year on his contract, so acquiring him would also give the Royals their right fielder for 2015, as the team waits on Jorge Bonifacio to take over that spot. Add in his postseason experience and good clubhouse character and you have a guy who would make a perfect fit for this Royals team as they contend for a playoff spot. DDJ was never a guy who gained much attention but is the definition of a solid ballplayer and is probably one of the most underrated players in team history. Having him be a part of  the first Royals team to make the playoffs since 1985 seems like an appropriate role for a guy who played on some awful Royals teams. He might not be flashy, but he might be exactly what this Royals team needs.

 

Nori Aoki: Man of Laughter and Tears

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

Building blocks are a great mental exercise tool. Using these tools to figure out what is a good fit and what isn’t helps you for later in life on a number of different levels. One of the most obvious things you learn is that some shapes don’t fit into other shaped holes. So the idiomatic expression goes, “a square peg in a round hole”. At first glance you think the square will go into the hole made for a circle; but alas they just don’t go together. What looked like a good idea originally can end up being a major misstep. So is the acquisition of Nori Aoki by the Kansas City Royals.

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

When the Royals originally acquired Aoki it looked like a genius move by Dayton Moore(no, seriously). Moore had traded from an overflowing bullpen by dealing Will Smith to Milwaukee for Aoki. It was almost hard to fathom that Moore had traded from an area the team was overloaded in and helped fill a hole the Royals had. Right field had been a problem area for Kansas City for the last few years, as Jeff Francoeur had become a black hole of suck after one turnaround year in 2011. By the end of last year David Lough was splitting time with Justin Maxwell in right, with Jarrod Dyson also occasionally starting in center and shifting Lorenzo Cain over to right. Aoki was supposed to not only fill the spot defensively but fill the leadoff spot as well. The Royals had been on the lookout for a “true” leadoff hitter for awhile; Alex Gordon had been filling the spot for the most part the last few years and while he had success there, the team really wanted to use his bat lower in the order(despite the fact that his biggest success to date was batting first). Aoki seemed to be a good fit: a slightly above average defender that would not hit for much power but would get on base.

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

But the player Aoki was in Milwaukee the last few years has only shown up in slight glimpses for Kansas City. We already knew he wouldn’t walk much; his highest walk rate was last year at 8.2%. This year he is sitting in line with that, at 6.9%. But his strikeout rate is way up, 5.9% to 11.1%. He has already almost reached his strikeout total from last year(29 to last years 40) in not even half the amount of games played. Sure, you can chalk some of that up to changing leagues; it takes most players a little bit of time to adjust to the differences in the other league and the style of baseball played in each. Most of it is Aoki swinging at more pitches than ever before in his career. He is swinging at about 45% of the pitches he has seen and is only seeing on average about 3.81 pitches per plate appearance. For a guy who’s main responsibility is to go deep in the count to allow himself a better opportunity to get on base, he just isn’t doing his job.

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

The thing is, his numbers really aren’t much different than they were before this year. Most of his numbers show that he should be on pace offensively for close to his 2013 numbers, taking out his home run totals. Aoki had hit eight bombs last year, but you all know how Kauffman Stadium is a cavernous canyon where home runs go to die, so don’t expect much there this year(insert sarcasm here). The strikeouts seem to be dragging Aoki down, despite the fact he is still putting the ball in play quite frequently. His total bases also seem to be a tad bit down, .541 to .660. This factors in things like hit by pitch(HBP), which happens to Aoki quite often. Looking at the numbers, it really appears the issue is more that Aoki just isn’t a typical leadoff hitter. He doesn’t walk, he doesn’t hit a ton of extra bases, and his value early on in his career was his ability to get on base, whether it be by hit, error or free pass.

 

mlblogs.com
mlblogs.com

There is another issue: regression. Aoki is currently 32, which is about the average age that a major league ballplayer starts to slide downward when it comes to his production. Aoki had a slight progression downward last year, and it seems to be continuing into 2014. Offensively it means his bat speed slows down a tick and he can expect a gradual decrease in speed. This would explain why his ground ball rate is up and explain a portion of the strikeouts. He also has regressed on defense and the Royals have noticed. The Royals have gotten to the point where late in games Aoki is taken out defensively and Dyson comes in to play center field while Cain slides over to right. It’s been obvious by watching Aoki that he has lost a noticeable step or two and takes odd routes to the ball from time to time. Apparently he has been working with Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz and maybe that means an increase in playing time late in the game as the season wears. Either way, it seems apparent that Aoki has not been the player the Royals expected to get when they traded for him and it leaves a few questions for later in the season.

kansasfirstnews.com
kansasfirstnews.com

The question has already been asked on whether or not Aoki will lose playing time and outside of being replaced defensively, manager Ned Yost has said no. That would mean at this point Aoki is the right fielder and leadoff hitter unless something changes. Could the team go out and acquire someone to play right field? Possibly, and there seems to be a good candidate in San Diego. Chris Denorfia is a very possible trade candidate and I’ve mentioned him this past offseason as a candidate for the position. As always the Padres are in sell mode and it probably wouldn’t take much to acquire a player like Denorfia, who isn’t an All-Star but is about as reliable a player as there is out there on the market. There is also the possiblity that Yost could play Dyson more, although it always seems that his flaws are on display more when he gets increased playing time. The amount Dyson is used now might be the best thing for him and his numbers.

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

Nori Aoki hasn’t been the player Dayton Moore thought he was acquiring this winter but it’s hard to really feel like it was a wasted trade. The Royals traded from a position of depth and took a chance on a guy who they thought could help them. Unfortunately, they seemed to have caught him at the beginning of the downturn of his career. There is still a few months for Aoki to salvage his season and elevate his numbers to more respectable levels and prove that there shouldn’t be questions about his playing time. Until that happens though, there is always the outside chance the Royals will look for more production from the right field and leadoff spots. If that isn’t enough to warm your soul, I recommend a laugh at Aoki’s expense. Thanks to the genius of one Grant Brisbee, numerous pictures of Nori jumping, ducking or flying out of the way of pitches were compiled for our sick pleasure. Yes, Aoki is a superhero and a damned treasure. Not always in that order. My tears might come from his on field play, but my laughter is the photographic proof.

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Royals Offseason Needs: Right Field

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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.

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Carlos Beltran

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’.

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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.

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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.

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Giancarlo Stanton 

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.

Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz   

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.

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Corey Hart

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.

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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.

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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.

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