Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Royals Offseason

If there is one word that characterizes the offseason for the Royals, its dreary. The team continues to bottom-feed with nice little moves on the minor league side while making curious spending decisions on marginal major league players. I recogznize that the theme of the year is "don't overspend", and I would applaud the Royals for their restraint were I to have any reason to believe they were prepared to spend any money at all.

It goes without saying that next season is the latest in a long line of rebuilding years, as the Royals (nor I, nor any other of my fellow fans on the Royals discussion board have any hope of competing until 2007 at the earliest. In any event, here's my quick rundown of the moves thus far, listed in rank order according to quality of the move:

1) Andy Sisco (Rule 5 draft). While it is patently pathetic that the Royals' most significant move of the offseason was a Rule 5 draft pick, it doesn't take much more than Internet access and modicum of Royal curiosity to believe that this was their best move to date. For a mere $50,000 and a roster spot on a borderline AAA big club, the Royals secured themselves a high ceiling player with practically no risk to themselves. The only potential move that could unseat Sisco from the top spot might come as a result of the amateur draft if the Royals don't go cheap with a "signable" player, which I fully expect them to do. Is Chris Lubanski's little brother available?

2) Leo Nunez (acquired for Benito Santiago). Nunez is probably a C+/B- prospect who is slight of frame yet with a manly arm. Not counting on him to amount to much, given my belief that all Royals pitching prospects are ultimately doomed to failure due to some as-yet-unnamed curse (we're looking for a corporate sponsor). The coup was simply shedding most of Santiago's salary for 2005, which can be used on David Glass' next "Kick-Ass" party.

3) Jose Lima (free agent). - My favorite comment on the only significant free agent signing of the offseason came from a fellow poster on Royals Insider - "Appears to be having fun". I had a hearty chuckle. Not sure how much fun it will be to pitch for the Royals, with their horrid infield defense and leadfooted corner outfielders, but at least Lima keeps things "loose" in the locker room, right?

I keep my expectations low so I'm pleasantly surprised. Prediction - Lima spends much of the season on the DL.

4) Terrence Long (acquired in trade for Darrell May and Ryan Bukvich). The best player in the deal may be Dennis Tankersley, whose stock has fallen faster than Enron's in the last 2 years. If addition by subtraction weren't illogical, may would use it to describe the departure of Darrell May, whom I still think can be a pretty effective pitcher. His 2003 was as spectacular (his VORP was 44.2, right below Roger Clemens) as his 2004 was miserable (VORP -1.2), and I think his true value is in the 10 to 20 range, which isn't terrible. The Royals traded for need here, and while Terrence Long officially plays in the outfield, what the Royals REALLY needed was a legitimate outfielder. But they weren't going to get it for Darrell May, of course. Its basically a wash. 10% chance of Long surprising.

5) Chris Truby (free agent). In Fox News parlance, "some people say" that Chris Truby was a find given his rather gaudy AAA numbers last season. Actual humans say that Truby is most likely a AAAA player at best who put up career numbers in the minor leagues at the ripe age of 31. Mark Teahen, your life is calling.

6) Eli Marrero (acquired in trade for Jorge Vasquez). Any time the Royals trade with teams like the Braves, I automatically assume the other team knows something the Royals don't, so I'm quite sure Vasquez will be contributing on the major league level soon (and the guy can strike batters out, which just doesn't fit with the pitching to contact theory of the Royal braintrust). Anyway, I liked this trade at first. Marrero has been snakebitten for much of his recent career, but put together a solid part-time season in 2004 and absolutely crushed left handed pitching. But then I heard that Marrero was going to be used as a platoon player in left field with Long.

Let me get this straight. The Royals aren't willing to spend money on any real players, but they'll shell out $5 million for a platoon of Long and Marrero? Yeesh. If Marrero assumes a full time role in the outfield, I'd give this a higher rating. If not, then why not just use a replacement level player? What possible purpose does having a player like Marrero serve in a part time role?

This is certain to be a better offseason than last year, which may go down as one of the worst in recent memory for any baseball team. The Royals are taking fewer risks this year and once again haven't locked themselves into any long term deals (and none of the players they've acquired are worth it).

Given what the Royals have said about their payroll next year, it looks like the team has a few more moves or one big move left in them. I would still love to see the Royals make a run at signing Odalis Perez, who is young, consistent and effective and has an unreasonably low market value. With the right deal, he'll anchor a young rotation, and will be tradable if the Royals decide to go in another direction (slang for stinking up the joint again in 2005).

It won't happen. I just hope the Royals don't take on more $2 to $3 million marginal players this offseason. With Lima, Long and Marrero, they've reached their quota.


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