Dayton Moore’s run of transactions since taking over as Royals GM has been so bad that the natural reaction to any Kansas City move now is scorn and derision. So, not surprisingly, when it came out last night that they had signed Rick Ankiel to a one-year contract, there were critics who immediately pointed to the career .311 on base percentage and laughed. I think this is a good deal for the Royals, though, and Moore should get credit for making his team better.
Ankiel’s story is well known, so we’ll skip the whole pitcher-turning-into-a-hitter aspect and just focus on the last few years. As an outfielder, he’s displayed a couple of strong skills – serious power, above average range, and of course, a strong throwing arm. He’s rough around the edges (most obviously with pitch recognition), which is to be expected from a guy who spent most of his life training to pitch instead of hit, but the strengths outweighed the weaknesses.
In 2007, he posted a .364 wOBA, then followed it up with a .360 wOBA in 2008. The power dwarfed the relative lack of walks, and he was a well above average hitter. Last year was a disaster, certainly – the power dried up and his wOBA fell to .288, acceptable only for a middle infielder or a catcher. But injured players don’t often play well, and Ankiel was clearly at less than 100 percent for most of the season.
Projecting guys coming off of injuries is always harder. You don’t know to what extent their performance suffered due to the injury, so you have to give that season less weight than you usually would, even though it is the most recent data point. For Ankiel, I think realistically, we can expect him to post a .350ish wOBA if he’s healthy, even though the projection systems will spit out a lower number than that.
For $3 milllion, that’s a good piece. And unlike last year’s splurge on a veteran power hitter, Ankiel actually fills a hole for Kansas City. They simply didn’t have a right fielder before this move, so Ankiel is not blocking off any other talented players. He simply makes their team better, and does so at a low cost.
Dayton Moore has made a lot of bad moves, but this is not one of them. He made his team better without spending significant resources to do so. Kudos to him for a nice signing.
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