Getting Out of the Cellar: Kansas City Royals

Yesterday we discussed the team that has the longest path out of the cellar. Today we’ll switch gears completely and examine the team that is closest to losing the last place tag. The Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians jockeyed for fourth place positioning in the season’s final month, and Cleveland won by a mere two games. They also finished just 14 games behind Detroit, which is closer than four last place teams were to their next closest competitors. With an elite minor league system the Royals could be ready for a rise from the cellar. It could all start in 2011.

Unfortunately, the Royals find themselves in a position similar to that of their 2010 off-season. They won’t draw elite free agents, and they might not even draw many, if any, from the second tier. That’s not such a detrimental position, because the team does possess an elite minor league system that could start paying off as soon as next year. Because of these potential stars, the Royals will probably seek stopgaps for positions it can’t fill internally. That might hurt the team early in the season, but it will make spots available as their youngsters move up.

While the Royals have the shortest path out of the cellar, I wonder if they’d be better staying there for one more year. This can be said for most of the 2010 last place teams, but considering the Royals position I wonder if they’d be better off cashing in their trade chips this winter in order to further fortify the team going forward. They do lack a few positions on the farm and could use their current talent as a means to acquire even more young talent. This can be overdone — we’re not playing MLB The Show here — but the Royals do find themselves in a position where it could work.

Three, perhaps four, current Royals stand out as attractive trade candidates. The first is Zack Greinke, already the subject of off-season trade rumors. David DeJesus was likely on his way to being traded last July, but a wrist injury ended those talks. He’ll make just $6 million this season, his last before hitting free agency. The Royals could obtain a useful player in exchange for him. Joakim Soria could close for nearly every team in the league, and there are certainly teams that would want him as an elite setup man. It might be hard for the Royals to part with such a fan favorite, but a rebuilding team has more pressing concerns than its bullpen. With Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas on the rise, Billy Butler might also find himself as a man without a position. He could DH, sure, but the Royals might find more use for him in a trade.

Here’s where the Royals could upgrade:

Catcher

They didn’t like Miguel Olivo. They didn’t like John Buck. They did like Jason Kendall, but he had shoulder surgery in September and will be out until at least May. That leaves Brayan Pena, whom they also seemingly don’t like, and Lucas May. Perhaps they’ll go for another second-rate catcher, such as Gerald Laird. What’s more likely, in the event that they acquire a catcher, is that they do so in a trade.

Whatever the Royals choose to do at catcher, it won’t be an easy decision. They have a top prospect, Wil Myers, playing that position in the minors, but there’s no guarantee he sticks there. We might see them trade for one, though decent catchers are not exactly something a team seeks to trade. However they approach it, I’m sure they can do better than the 0.7 WAR their catchers produced in 2010.

Middle Infield

If the Royals do trade one or more of the above players, a middle infielder should certainly be one of their targets. Maybe they still like Yuniesky Betancourt, but they can certainly do better at shortstop. Their second base combination of Chris Getz and Mike Aviles did produce 1.5 WAR, but they could stand to upgrade here, too. There isn’t much on the open market that will help them going forward, so the best way to fill this position in the future is by trading a current player for a prospect.

This is where I think Greinke becomes the most useful. We’ve seen teams cling to their prospects recently, and middle infield prospects are among the most coveted. If the Royals want to pry one away from a team, Greinke offers them their best shot. Then again, there are guys like Johnny Giavotella and Christian Colon on the farm who could also potentially fill those slots. But since there are no sure things it would probably behoove the Royals to acquire at least one middle infielder if they’re going to trade Greinke.

Outfield

Here’s where the situation gets tricky. Do the Royals trade DeJesus now, or after he comes back from his season-ending wrist injury? Do they open the season with Mitch Maier in center, or do they give legitimate shots to David Lough and Jarrod Dyson in spring training? Will Alex Gordon stick in left? An additional outfielder could go a long way in dealing with these questions.

There are plenty of options on the market, and I suspect the Royals will choose from among the second tier players. Maybe they’ll go for a young reclamation project such as Melky Cabrera. Two players they signed last off-season, Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, are also free agents. Not that I’d encourage Kansas City to sign them, but they’re out there. However they choose to do it, they’ll probably need one more player to fill that outfielder role.

Pitcher

Chances are the Royals won’t trade for a pitcher, since that’s a strength of their system. Maybe they’d look for a veteran to eat innings at a decent clip — Aaron Harang does come to mind, but I’m not sure if the two are a match. Whatever the case, the Royals don’t really need a pitcher if they’re going to use 2011 as a complete transition year. They can focus on position players, while letting their farm take care of the pitching aspect.

When I started this series I thought the Royals would be the easiest, since they were the closest to leaving the cellar. But after examining their situation I now think they have it the toughest. No team wants to punt a full season, but that might be what it takes for the Royals to get over the hump and back into contention. They have a number of veteran players whom they can use in trades to help fortify the future. These chips, combined with a superb minor league system that could start paying off in 2011, creates a situation in which could lead to contention as early as 2012. That might be a bit optimistic, but the Royals appear to actually have a chance.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


28 Responses to “Getting Out of the Cellar: Kansas City Royals”

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  1. odbsol says:

    Outfield – That sounds like leaving the door open for a full-time Frenchy signing.

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  2. Luke in MN says:

    If Royals fans can see the light at the end of the tunnel that their farm system provides, I would think punting a season to make sure things work out well when they get there would be the least of their problems.

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  3. tbr says:

    I think that the Royals have basically already said they are punting, even if they haven’t said so in so many words. Dayton Moore said right after the season ended that this offseason will look like no previous one under his regime, and that priority one is to do NOTHING that will block any of their prospects with the knowledge that only a couple will arrive in 2011. To me, that’s saying “Hang on Royals fans, because 2011

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  4. tbr says:

    I think that the Royals have basically already said they are punting, even if they haven’t said so in so many words. Dayton Moore said right after the season ended that this offseason will look like no previous one under his regime, and that priority one is to do NOTHING that will block any of their prospects with the knowledge that only a couple will arrive in 2011. To me, that’s saying “Hang on Royals fans, because you’re going to be in for a rough ride in 2011; but we think it’ll be looking up after that.”

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  5. tbr says:

    Dang double post! Sorry…

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  6. tbr says:

    I think that the Royals have basically already said they are punting, even if they haven’t said so in so many words. Dayton Moore said right after the season ended that this offseason will look like no previous one under his regime, and that priority one is to do NOTHING that will block any of their prospects with the knowledge that only a couple will arrive in 2011. To me, that’s saying “Hang on Royals fans, because you’re going to be in for a rough ride in 2011; but we think it’ll be looking up after that.”

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  7. tbr says:

    AAAUUUUGH!!!! More posting fail! *beating head against wall*

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  8. camisadelgolf says:

    What kind of prospect would it take to get DeJesus? The Reds have minor league talent to spare, and David DeJesus would be a perfect fit to platoon with Jonny Gomes. Maybe Matt Maloney + Carlos Fisher for David DeJesus?

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    • Paul says:

      I would jump on that because Maloney would immediately become their #3 starter. There is very little discussion about their rotation in this article; none of the prospects is going to open the season in the rotation, and it’s unlikely they will rush them. Here is their rotation without Maloney:

      Grienke
      Hochevar
      Davies
      O’Sullivan
      Pucetas

      Meche will be a 7th inning guy in the last year of his deal because he can’t stay healthy anymore. This is dire. Problem is GMDM sees DeJesus as more valuable than I do (in this context). No need for Fisher because they haven ten guys nearly ready who are just like him. Maloney and some low minors piece like Cody Puckett would be a great deal for the Royals and DeJesus in a contract year and new baby might put up huge numbers there. I am not going to hold my breath, though.

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    • PL says:

      Apparently Vin Mazzaro & Justin Marks gets it done.

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    • Dan says:

      Apparently Vin Mazzaro. A much better haul than the one you outlined.

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  9. Pretty Toney says:

    When do you think some of these prospects start getting callups to prep them for 2012? Moustakas probably late May-early June? Hosmer in September? What about the SP’s?

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  10. Paul says:

    I don’t see them doing anything at all in free agency in the OF. If anything they move DeJesus and just run all the minor leaguers on the 40 man through there all season, which would include Lough, Dyson, Jordan Parraz, Derrick Robinson. I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see them release one or both of Gregor Blanco or Mitch Maier during spring training. Dyson was absolutely dynamic on defense in September and he can hit for a speed guy, and if Lough goes to camp with the more professional approach at the plate that he worked on in the second half, they might just give him a job.

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  11. PL says:

    DeJesus was just traded for Vin Mazzaro & Justin Marks. A’s making big moves this offseason…

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    • this guy says:

      Beane is absurdly overrated, but this is one deal I like. Dejesus will be playing for a free agent pay day, so the As get a highly motivated player with talent.

      Mazzaro is a project with upside for a developing team. Good arm, but raw. As deal from depth to cash in on a wild card sleeper. Solid pick up.

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      • PL says:

        Not to mention DeJesus will most likely be a type A, which will help the re-stock the kind of barren (for them) A’s farm system. Great move by Oakland grabbing a cheap ($6MM) but massive upgrade in LF or RF. DeJesus was headed for a 4.5+ WAR season last year before he got hurt by crashing into a wall. Sweeney and Raj Davis combined for 2.0 WAR combined, yuck.

        Now the A’s need to go get Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko and they are set for a tight division race next year.

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      • this guy says:

        I think he’s going to have a big year. Konerko won’t go to the As. I see Derrek Lee is their best bet for a power hitter.

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      • Paul says:

        Great deal for both teams. Will be interesting to see how his power plays in Oakland. He is really looking to drive the high fastball out of the park these days and his power on that pitch is legit. I think he could have hit 25+ in good hitters park to RF.

        Mazzaro was desperately needed, and I’ve heard some good things about Marks, yet another lefthander. This deal is pretty similar to the Callaspo for O’Sullivan/Smith deal last year, except they get a little better players in return. Deals the Royals really need to be making.

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  12. R M says:

    Wouldn’t mind seeing the Red Sox go for Soria….that would certainly go a long way towards curing their bullpen woes.

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  13. James says:

    MLBTR has speculated Manny might be a good fit in Oakland

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    • PL says:

      Jack Cust was still the 4th best DH (if you only use hitting metrics) in the AL last year, and he was sent down for 6 weeks while Jake Fox was allowed to stink it up. If Cust had been there all year, the A’s would have made up a couple more games on Texas. Really sunk their year with that choice.

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      • wrinklebump says:

        I was also a bit puzzled by that.

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      • AMusingFool says:

        Cust got 2.4WAR over 112 games. If you assume that same pace over the 39 games Fox played, that’s only .8WAR more. Add in the 0.1 that Fox took away, you’re almost to one win improvement. While it was a suspect decision, it’s not much more than a blip, overall.

        And I can’t remember for sure, but wasn’t the decision driven by trying to save money, not as much by performance?

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  14. youth_movement says:

    Why not punt 2011? We’ve punted the last 25 years!

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  15. solar power says:

    Great site, I Will come back over the next couple of weeks and see what other little gems have been added.

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