Tuesday, December 27, 2005

An early look at the division

The AL Central is shaping up to be the best division in baseball. The White Sox, Indians, and Twins have three of the best pitching staffs in baseball. It's tough to find two teams more complete than the White Sox and the Indians. Both of those clubs look outstanding on paper and capable of winning 95-100 games. The Twins have made some improvements to their offense and have some good young arms. The Tigers look pretty mediocre as usual. The Royals have improved their club, but so have most of the teams in the division.

Chicago White Sox

Rotation: Buehrle, Garcia, Vazquez, Contreras, Garland
Bullpen: Cotts, Politte, Marte, Jenks, Hermanson (CL), McCarthy

The White Sox have a very good rotation. The rotation finished 6th in ERA last year and 3rd in WHIP. Javier Vazquez is an upgrade over Orlando Hernandez and Brandon McCarthy had a nice debut as a starter (4.03 ERA in 10 starts). The White Sox bullpen also looks very good. Hermanson saved 34 of 39 games last season and the setup duo of Cotts and Politte was extremely effective (ERAs of 1.94 and 2.00 respectively). The addition of Jenks and McCarthy to the pen make it especially strong.

Position Players: Pierzynski (C), Konerko/Thome (1B/DH), Iguchi (2B), Uribe (SS), Crede (3B), Podsednik (LF), Anderson (CF), Dye (RF)

The White Sox return most of an excellent defensive team (2nd in the majors in defensive efficiency). The White Sox lineup still has pretty good power (200 HRs last year), however the Sox finished 15th overall in OPS. The strength of the offense will depend on the health and production of Jim Thome, a career .970 OPS hitter. If healthy, the White Sox would have a very potent 1B/DH combo with Konerko and Thome.

Cleveland Indians

Rotation: Lee, Sabathia, Byrd, Westbrook, Johnson
Bullpen: Wickman (CL), Rhodes, Cabrera, Riske, Sauerbeck, Betancourt

The Indians' rotation features two major changes: addition of Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson. Paul Byrd for Kevin Millwood is a slight downgrade and Jason Johnson for Scott Elarton is pretty even. So, the Indians' rotation that finished 10th in ERA last season should still be an above-average rotation in 2006. The Indians' bullpen finished first in ERA and WHIP last season. Wickman had a career year as closer, saving a career high 45 games. Wickman's age and inconsistency could be a downfall of the Indians' bullpen. The Indians retained their strong bullpen and should have one of the best bullpens in baseball again in 2006.

Position Players: Martinez (C), Broussard/Hafner (1B/DH), Belliard (2B), Peralta (SS), Boone (3B), Crisp (LF), Sizemore (CF), Blake (RF)

The Indians' young lineup was one of the most productive in baseball. Hafner, Peralta, Martinez, and Sizemore put up great numbers for the Indians, helping the Indians finish 4th in team OPS and HRs. With a solid core of young position players, the offense should continue to improve. The Indians also finished 3rd in the majors in defensive efficiency. Like the White Sox, the Indians have a very complete baseball team.

Minnesota Twins

Rotation: Santana, Radke, Silva, Lohse, Baker
Bullpen: Nathan (CL), Rincon, Crain, Mulholland, Guerrier, Liriano, Durbin

The Twins round out 3 very good pitching staffs in the division. The Twins' rotation finished in the top 10 in ERA and 1st in K/BB ratio (3.47) last year. Removing Mays from the rotation should improve the rotation, especially with some good young pitchers waiting to obtain a spot in the rotation (Liriano, Durbin, Baker). Given the Twins' starting pitching depth, Liriano and Durbin will probably end up in the bullpen, giving the Twins' a nice group of power arms. The Twins could have a very formidable group of setup men to get the game to their outstanding closer Joe Nathan.

Position Players: Mauer (C), Morneau/TBA or White (1B/DH), Castillo (2B), Bartlett/Castro (SS), Batista (3B), Stewart/White (LF), Ford (CF), Kubel (RF)

The Twins' offense was a problem last year, with an team OPS lower than the Royals. The Twins added Tony Batista, Luis Castillo, and Rondell White to improve the offense and are still searching for a DH. Those players, minus Rondell White, should improve the defense as well. The Twins finished 7th in defensive efficiency last season. Much of the Twins' success depends on the performance of the young players (Mauer and Morneau performing at original expectations). The Twins have a pretty complete team, but are still needing some help offensively.

Detroit Tigers

Rotation: Bonderman, Rogers, Maroth, Robertson, Verlander
Bullpen: Jones (CL), Rodney, Walker, German, Spurling

The Tigers' rotation features two potential future aces in Bondermand and Verlander. Bonderman, Verlander, and Zumaya could be a potent trio in the near future. Bondermand, Maroth, and Robertson gave the Tigers roughly league-average efforts last season. Overall, the Tigers' rotation should be pretty average unless Bonderman and Verlander improve considerably. The Tigers' bullpen is a questionmark. The Tigers signed Todd Jones, a 37-year-old closer who saved 40 games last year for the Marlins. Rodney, Walker, German, and Spurling pitched pretty well for the Tigers last season. The Tigers bullpen looks pretty average at this point.

Position Players: Rodriguez (C), Shelton/Pena (1B/DH), Polanco (2B), Guillen (SS), Inge (3B), Monroe (LF), Granderson (CF), Ordonez (RF)

The Tigers' offense is pretty much like the rest of the team, very average. If Ordonez produces a .300-30-100 season like he did regularly for Chicago, that'd help the Tigers' offense. Curtis Granderson had an impressive debut and could also help the Tigers' offense. The Tigers finished 16th in defensive efficiency last year and will probably be average defensively again in 2006.

Rotations: 1. White Sox, 2. Twins, 3. Indians, 4. Tigers, 5. Royals
Bullpens: 1a. White Sox, 1b. Indians, 1c. Twins (3-way tie for first essentially), 4. Royals, 5. Tigers
Offense: 1. Indians, 2. White Sox, 3. Tigers, 4. Royals (maybe generous), 5. Twins

It's pretty tough to put the Royals ahead of anyone in the division in most categories. The White Sox, Indians and Twins all have outstanding bullpens with proven pitchers. The Royals could certainly join that group of outstanding bullpens if the young power arms pitch well. The Royals' offense and rotations should be improved, but not enough to move up in the division.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Home for the Holidays

I've taken a bit of a hiatus from the Daily Lancer lately, but I thought I'd stop by to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I'm not religious myself, but I always appreciate the warm feeling of family, community and reflection that I get on days like today. Merry merry.

Speaking of reflecting, I've been reflecting on the actions of the Royals over the past several weeks, and while they haven't acquired any individual difference makers at any position, I can at least see the sense behind the acquisitions. Barring disaster (which is admittedly difficult to bar given the Royals' recent history), the Royals have improved their defense immensely and I'm very happy to see that they're focused on this. The Royals have finished last in defensive efficiency 3 of the last 4 years, and I don't think there's any question it affects the way their young pitchers approach the game (and leads to their finesse pitchers getting pummelled). Its difficult to quantify, but my hope is that Greinke, Hernandez, Affeldt and the like can finally pitch without the pressure of having offensive defenders behind them.

I'm less enamored with the starting pitcher acquisitions, but Mark Redman and Scott Elarton are ostensibly actual major league starting pitchers in contrast to the Kyle Snyders of the baseball universe. The Royals' recent track record with pitchers of this ilk (Lima, Anderson, May) is, er, spotty, so how I can I NOT expect that one or both of these guys will finish in the bottom 10 in VORP for pitchers? The notion that this team will finally have a collection of players who can actualy catch the ball is the only thing that sustains my belief that these acquisitions will work out.

I do not like Joe Mays. $1 to 2 million for a replacement level 5th starter is a foolish investment, and I don't buy the "depth" argument (warm bodies are not depth). Mike Wood, Jimmy Gobble and Jeremy Affeldt are better in-house candidates than Mays, all with upside and lower cost. Baird seems to believe that Mays is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and that he'll finally be all the way back next year. I'd argue that All-The-Way-Back Joe Mays is below league average anyway, but I suppose if Baird is right then he'll be worth the investment. I'm not betting on it (and I have a poor recent record with gambling anyway...)

In any case, I give Baird credit for staying with the program rather than drifting in an attempt to salvage his job. All of his acquisitions are short-term, low-to-moderate cost and allow the Royals to keep their not-ready-for-prime-time prospects in the minors for at least one more season (I believe I wrote the same thing before the 2004 season, however, so that could be damning praise). I can't say with any confidence that this plan will bear any fruit, but at least it is a plan.

Baird will be fired after next season but it won't be because he's not a good soldier for the organization.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The 2006 Kansas City Royals: Part II

The 2006 Royals' pitching staff is almost complete. The Royals may still add another free agent starter, preferably one with some upside (BH Kim or Wade Miller). The Royals' two biggest additions to the rotation were veteran starters Mark Redman and Scott Elarton. Bobby Madritsch (surgery), Victor Santos (Rule V), and Sean Etherton (Rule V) may help the Royals at some point during the season, but that depends on individual circumstances). The bullpen returns a core of power arms that pitched very well last year. The Royals need them to continue to pitch well in 2006.

Starting Rotation:

#1 Runelvys Hernandez
#2 Zack Greinke
#3 Mark Redman
#4 Scott Elarton
#5 Jeremy Affeldt/Kim or Miller

AAA rotation: Bobby Madritsch, JP Howell, Jimmy Gobble, Brian Bass (has yet to master AA, but it's about time to find out if he's worth a spot on the 40-man)

I previewed the Royals' rotation recently: Starting Rotation Post, so I won't go into much detail. On paper, the Royals' rotation still looks pretty bad. The Royals' rotation has some upside with Greinke, Hernandez, and Affeldt. The Royals' rotation will improve the most if those three pitch up to their potential. Redman and Elarton will improve the rotation some, but are probably the difference between finishing 28th in starter ERA as opposed to 30th. Howell will probably start at AAA. The Royals have okay depth from their AAA rotation. Gobble might get consideration for the bullpen because there's just one lefty (Sisco), but his numbers against lefties aren't good.

Bullpen: Mike Wood, Elmer Dessens, Joel Peralta, Denny Bautista, Andrew Sisco, Ambiorix Burgos, Mike MacDougal (CL)

The Royals' bullpen was one of the few bright spots last year. MacDougal, Burgos, and Sisco were lights out during the last 3 innings of games last year. All three had ERAs under 4 and averaged more than 1 strikeout per inning. The Royals should still have a strong core of power arms, with the new face probably being Denny Bautista. The bullpen could be very strong overall with two solid middle relievers (Wood and Dessens) at the front of the bullpen. However, I am concerned about the consistency of MacDougal, especially in Hansen's absence. MacDougal and Affeldt have been very inconsistent throughout their careers so far, so I'm also concerned that Burgos and Sisco will show the same inconsistencies. It's difficult for hard throwers to have consistent mechanics and I don't expect the Royals' pitching instruction to be very helpful. The bullpen should be pretty good with the talent at the back-end and has the potential to be outstanding.

Offseason Notes:

The Royals appear to be close to signing Reggie Sanders to a 2-year, $10 million deal. Sanders offers help in three badly needed areas: power, speed, and OF defense. Sanders has averaged 23 HRs and 17 SBs over the past 3 years and is a solid average defender. He would allow the Royals to move Brown to left, where he won't be as great a liability on defense. I'd much prefer a one-year deal with an option, but the contract isn't too bad. It is a fairly substantial risk for an injury-prone 38-year-old outfielder. Although, I'm not too concerned about it because he only had a broken leg, neck injury, and a sprained back last year.

In other news, the Royals have traded Matt Diaz and Chris DeMaria for Ricardo F. Rodriguez and Justin Barnes. Neither are particularly young, but both have pretty good strikeout numbers. Barnes, in particular, pitched well at Class A last year, striking out 79 in 76 IP and walking just 25.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The 2006 Kansas City Royals

The 2006 Royals roster is almost complete. The Royals may still add a corner outfielder and/or another starter. Overall, the Royals have made considerable changes to the roster by adding several stopgap players. The difference between this year and last year is the quality of the stopgap players. The Royals have added some decent veteran players who should improve the ballclub in 2006. How much improvement will occur is the big question. The recent additions probably add 10 wins to the Royals' record. Any additional improvement will come from the Royals' youth.

The Infielders:

Catchers (2): John Buck, Paul Bako
First Basemen (3): Mike Sweeney, Matt Stairs, Doug Mientkiewicz
Second Basemen (2): Mark Grudzielanek, Esteban German
Shortstop (1): Angel Berroa
Third Basemen (1): Mark Teahen

The Royals' infield should be improved. The Royals got a consistent hitter in Grudzielanek who can get on-base for Mike Sweeney. Last year, the Royals' trio of 2nd base prospects combined for a .578 OPS and their FRAA was -6. Mark Grudzielanek had a .741 OPS and his FRAA was 0. So, Grudzielanek should bring much more consistent production offensively and defensively. The Royals' other second basemen, Esteban German, should also improve the top of the lineup with speed and good on-base skills. Overall, I think this will be the most improved position. The catcher and shortstop positions production probably won't change much. I expect Teahen to improve offensively and defensively after being rushed last year. The Royals' production at first should stay about the same, but the defense will improve some. Mientkiewicz provides good insurance in case Sweeney gets hurt and his defense will be helpful.


LF: Chip Ambres, Aaron Guiel (hopefully replaced with FA)
CF: David DeJesus
RF: Emil Brown

The outfield is very similar to last year without a free agent signing. Ambres and Guiel should match Long's production (.699 OPS and -7 FRAA). Emil Brown is a terrible fielder in RF (-14 FRAA). The Royals' corner outfield defense was pathetic last year. Long and Brown dropped more balls than the Sooner's freshman receivers. Ideally, the Royals should sign a good defensive RF and move Brown to LF.

If the Royals keep the status quo in the outfield, the outfield will be well below-average. If the Royals can add Jeromy Burnitz, Reggie Sanders, or Preston Wilson, the outfield would improve substantially. Not only would that add a 20+ HR hitter to the middle of the lineup, but it would vastly improve the Royals' outfield defense which needs help badly.

Potential 2006 Lineup

David DeJesus CF (.359 OBP)
Mark Grudzielanek 2B (.334 OBP)
Mike Sweeney DH
Jeromy Burnitz RF
Emil Brown LF
Doug Mientkiewicz 1B
Mark Teahen 3B
John Buck C
Angel Berroa SS

The top of the lineup looks much better. DeJesus and Grudzielanek give the Royals two batters who can get on base for Sweeney, Burnitz, and Brown. I feel comfortable with the first 3 hitters in the lineup. But, after that, the lineup is well-below average. The lineup still lacks power and speed, but it is an improvement over last season.

I'll discuss the 2006 pitching staff shortly.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Starting Rotation

How much better will the Royals' starting rotation be? Well, subtracting Lima and Anderson is a step in the right direction. The Royals appear to have done a decent job of adding some SP depth to the roster. Hopefully, the added depth will ensure that Luis Cota doesn't make his major-league debut after 5 good starts at High Desert.

Starting Rotation:

The Royals have added 4 new starting pitching candidates this offseason, upgrading the Royals' depth. The Royals have added Mark Redman, Scott Elarton, Elmer Dessens, and Bobby Madritsch. The Royals may also get Victor Santos and Seth Etherton back if they don't stay on their new team's big league roster. So, the Royals' starting pitching depth has improved, with 11 to 13 potential starters.

Sure Things (4): Zack Greinke, Runelvys Hernandez, Mark Redman, Scott Elarton
Other options (7-9): Mike Wood, Elmer Dessens, Jeremy Affeldt, Jimmy Gobble, Denny Bautista, JP Howell, Bobby Madritsch, Victor Santos, Sean Etherton

The depth is better, but is the quality better? Mark Redman and Scott Elarton are an upgrade over Lima and Anderson, but who isn't? Redman and Elarton (minus the Colorado stint) have been roughly league-average pitchers over the past 2 years. Factoring in an improved, but still poor Royals' infield defense, I expect both pitcher's ERAs to be around 5.00.

The biggest improvement will have to come from Greinke and Hernandez. Greinke had a terrible season last year, but had a couple of months where he pitched like a No. 2 starter. Greinke's control went from great in 2004 (K/BB ratio of 4) to pretty good (K/BB ratio of 2.1). Greinke also struggled badly against lefties who had a .941 OPS against him. Hernandez pitched well into mid-August, when fatigue and a suspension took a toll on his performance. Hernandez struggled with his control, which is not uncommon for pitchers coming off of TJ surgery. So, with improved control and endurance, Hernandez should improve this season.

The fifth spot is pretty much wide open at this point. Jeremy Affeldt will go into the spring preparing to start. I think Affeldt will be motivated to win the 5th spot, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him win it. Affeldt seems capable of pitching very well if he's motivated. Mike Wood is probably the second most likely option. Wood made 10 starts last year, but gave up 12 HRs in that short span. Still, Wood has shown he can be a decent fifth starter. The next option is probably JP Howell. Howell struggled in his first season, but that was mainly because he was rushed to the big leagues. I think Howell will probably start at AAA. Denny Bautista will also be in the mix. However, because of the Royals' fascination with power arms in the bullpen and his durability questions, he'll probably be in the bullpen. Gobble will probably start in AAA or could make the team as a middle reliever. Madritsch, Santos, and Etherton may become options by midseason, as injuries or poor performance take their inevitable toll.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Breaking News: 4 New Royals

According to the Kansas City Star, the Royals have signed Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Grudzielanek, Paul Bako and Scott Elarton. The good news is that the most of the deals are short-term deals. The Kansas City Star says that Elarton is likely getting a two-year deal and the others are one-year deals (Grudz has an option for a second year). While none of these moves are really anything to get excited about, the Royals did add some veterans to help solidify some of the weaknesses on the team. Mientkiewicz is a good defender at 1B and Grudz is an average defender at 2B, both improvements over the existing players defensively. I'm a bit anxious about the Elarton signing because he's been pretty inconsistent and will have a mediocre defense behind him this year. However, Elarton has put up league-average ERAs over the past two seasons with the Indians (4.53 and 4.61).

Before I go into detail about each player, here's why I consider today's signings good progress for the Royals. The first step the Royals must take is making this team respectable. These players should improve the offense, defense and pitching as well as add some major league veterans (not AAA ones). Moreover, these signings don't distract from the overall plan of the Royals. The Royals acquired players to fix team weaknesses until the organization has players ready to fill their roles. The Royals signed most of these players to one-year deals, which is in the best interest of the club. The next wave of prospects (Butler, Gordon, Huber, Murphy, Blanco, etc) need to spend a year at AA and AAA before assuming regular roles with the big league club. The free agent market is also much, much better next year. So, the Royals could find a impact player or two who could make a difference for the team in the long-term. Of course, to get an impact player to come to KC, the Royals must show significant progress and hopefully these moves will help the Royals accomplish that.

The best signing out of the group was Mark Grudzielanek. Grudzielanek gives the Royals a solid average defender at 2nd basemen and a decent offensive second basemen. The signing was fairly economical at $4 million for this year and a $3 million option if he gets 500 ABs. I'm not too excited about the option if it prevents the Royals from obtaining a compensation pick for him if the option isn't vested. Not sure about the details of the option.

The Doug Mientkiewicz signing was a pretty good one. Mientkiewicz got a 1-year deal at $1.85 million and 700K in incentives. He has a reputation as an excellent defender (although his FRAA was -5 last year, defensive stats are flaky). He'll improve the Royals' defense at first considerably and ensure that Joe McEwing or Estaben German aren't playing first or batting third in the lineup.

The Scott Elarton deal is questionable. Elarton struggled at Colorado but has been pretty successful for the Indians over the past two seasons. Still, his home runs allowed and inconsistency are worrisome. At 2 years and $8 million, the Royals might have been able to find a better option. For example, Byung-Hyun Kim had a pretty good season for Colorado and few teams have expressed interest in him. Kim is one of the younger starters on the market and wouldn't require a significant investment.

Paul Bako's main duties are to handle the young pitching staff and help John Buck improve his skills as a catcher.

Overall, given the inflated prices of free agents and the decimated state of the team, I think Baird has done a pretty good job so far. The starting pitching acquistions aren't particular impressive, but should help stabilize the rotation and add depth. Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek will improve the Royals' infield defense and help the offense some. Baird has improved the team without mortgaging the future payroll and without deviating from the overall plan.

Next up, Baird's continued search for a power-hitting corner outfielder. The Royals have reportedly made a 3-year, $15 million offer to Jacque Jones. The Royals have also expressed interest in Reggie Sanders and Jeromy Burnitz, whom I would prefer. I like Jones as a short-term option, but the Royals can do better in the long-term. Sanders and Burnitz would solidify the middle of the lineup and improve the outfield defense. The Royals may also look to add another starter.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Winter Meetings Wrap

The Royals made some pretty uninspiring moves at the Winter Meetings. The Royals traded Bayliss and Blackwell for Mark Redman. After looking at this deal for a while, I'm becoming more suspucious at Redman's Lima-esque second half (7.08 ERA). Redman has been pretty consistent over the past 4 years, posting ERAs under 5 and pitching more than 175 innings each season. So, I'm not terribly worried.

The Royals also signed Elmer Dessens to be a "6 to 9" out guy. The back of the Royals' pen is pretty well set, but the Royals needed some middle relief help. Dessens gives the Royals another option for spot starters. Another move with little upside, but not much investment.

The Royals traded their Rule V Pick to the Rangers for Esteban German, a 26-year-old second basemen. German had outstanding numbers at AAA last year, stealing 43 bases in 49 attempts and putting up a .313/.400/.423 line. But, as we learned from Pickering, minor league numbers don't necessarily translate into big league production. Baird called German an "underestimated player", similar to Ibanez or Brown. Of course, for every Brown and Ibanez, there's a Mateo or Nunez. Perhaps Baird's scouting has found the Royals a second basemen with good on-base skills and speed, which would be welcome additions. The Royals didn't lose much by trading their Rule V Pick.

But, I still don't understand why the Royals didn't grab one of the pitchers available. The Royals could have selected JD Martin, stuck him on the 60-day DL and let him make a few spot starts in August once injuries start to take their toll. Martin was just 22 and pitched great at AA, with a 2.38 ERA and 63 K's to 8 walks in 56 2/3 innings. Bob Zimmerman or Rafael Rodriguez could have given the Royals another power arm in the bullpen. The Royals didn't have anything to lose by selecting one of those pitchers.

The Royals also lost three potential starting pitching candidates, DJ Carrasco, Victor Santos and Sean Etherton. The Royals lost Santos and Etherton in the Rule V Draft, so would be returned if they don't stay on their new team's big league roster. Santos was pretty good for the Brewers over the past 2 seasons, averaging 26 starts and a 4.78 ERA. The Pirates picked him up, probably to replace Redman, and may end up with the better end of the deal (2 pitching prospects and a cheap, effective starter). I think Santos should have been protected on the 40-man roster. The Royals 40-man roster is a joke, with guys like Kyle Snyder and Shawn Camp. The Royals can do much better than that.

The Royals' uninspiring moves have taken up about $6 million or so in payroll for next year, so the Royals aren't finished. Baird still wants another veteran starter (Tomko, Kim, Armas, Elarton, etc.) and a corner outfielder (Sanders, Burnitz). Hopefully, those moves do more to improve the Royals because they still have a long way to go.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Breaking News: Mark Redman to the Royals

Mark Redman to the Royals for Jonah Bayliss and a player to be named later. That seems like a pretty good deal for the Royals. Bayliss has potential to be a good reliever, but for the time being, the Royals have good depth there and Bayliss is expendable. So, as long as the player to be named later isn't one of the Royals' top prospects, it's a good deal for the Royals.

Mark Redman makes $4.5 million this year and has a mutual option for next season. Redman gives the Royals a good pitcher who should be league-average or slighty worse than league-average. Redman's best year was in 2003 with the Marlins, when he had a 3.59 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 190 IP. His strikeout rate dropped to about 4.5 K's/9 IP in 2004 and 2005. Redman isn't a hard thrower (fastball in the mid 80s), but has a nice repertoire of secondary pitches, including a curveball, splitter and a very good changeup. Overall, seems like a pretty good deal so far, giving the Royals a decent veteran starter. But, I'll have to wait until we find out who the PTBNL is before I call it a great trade.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Winter Meetings

The Royals have watched Paul Byrd take $7 million less to play for the Indians. So, that begs the question. Will any free agents come to Kansas City? Maybe so, if money is the bottomline. But, the Royals have done little to make Kansas City an attractive destination.

The Royals are likely destined for the second-tier of starters including Kenny Rogers, Jason Johnson, Byung-Hyun Kim, Scott Elarton, or Tony Armas. Most of those pitchers are certainly an upgrade to the rotation and should be a better investment than Paul Byrd for 3 years, $21 million. The Royals are also interested in acquiring Kris Benson from the New York Mets, probably for relief help (Affeldt or MacDougal). The Royals would save a compensation pick by trading him. However, the Royals are very closing to signing Elmer Dessens and Todd Pratt, both of whom will cost a second-round pick. Furthermore, the Royals are letting DJ Carrasco, one of just two starters with an ERA under 5.00. Is there a big difference between Dessens and Carrasco that I'm missing?

Just as I'm writing this, the Benson to the Royals rumor continues to gain momentum. It's sounds like the Royals don't want to give up MacDougal and Affeldt for Benson (rightfully so) and might just trade Affeldt and a prospect. So long as that prospect isn't Butler, Gordon, Huber, or Cota, that's a fine deal to me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Trail's Gone Cold

I've been sitting back and watching the free agent machinations play out over the past few weeks to assess the Royals' acquisition possibilities. I'd managed to delude myself into believing that the Royals stood a fighting chance of acquiring some relatively young, talented free agents who still had some upside, but after seeing the amount of cash doled out for mediocre middle relievers, 5 year contracts for 30-year old closers with exactly 2 years of success, I'm feeling much less sanguine about this offseason.

Word on the street is that the Royals are targeting Paul Byrd to the tune of a 3 year, $21 million contract. I could not be any less excited about Paul Byrd. He's a health disaster waiting to happen, and his ERA would jump 2 points pitching in front of that horrid Royal defense. And the Royals want to be on the hook to this guy for 3 years? If Paul Byrd is getting THAT contract, what will Matt Morris get? What will Jarrod Washburn (whom I don't like anyway) get? I shudder to think.

I know free agent season is hardly over yet, and perhaps the Royals will surprise us all by signing A.J. Burnett to a 5 year, $60 million deal, but the harsh reality is that this team is not going to get much better through free agency. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Jeff Bianchi, and (hopefully) Andrew Miller - you can't get here fast enough.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Free Agent Update

In the latest Kansas City Star Article, Baird suggests that the Royals are still after Paul Byrd. Baird says that the Royals will have to give Byrd a similar contract to what Loaiza got earlier this week. The Royals are also interested in Matt Morris, Kenny Rogers, Joe Mays, Scott Elarton, and Shawn Estes, but have no interest in Javier Vazquez. The Royals need to add at least one reliable veteran starter and probably another starter as well.

The Royals have apparently made an offer to Jacque Jones, believed to be a 2-year deal. It looks like it will take a 3 or 4 year deal, however, to sign him. That really doesn't fit the Royals' plans, as they have several OF prospects near the majors. The Royals have also made a offer to Reggie Sanders, a two-year deal as well. The Royals are also considering Jeromy Burnitz, Preston Wilson, and Juan Encarnacion. I'd like the Royals to sign two power-hitting corner outfielders that improve the OF defense and at least one reliable starter. That should be doable given the Royals' $25 million budget.

The Royals' best bet may be to sign a couple corner outfielders who can improve the team's outfield defense and solidify the middle of the lineup. Burnitz, Sanders, or Wilson will not require long-term deals. If the Royals load money on the first year, they will have enough money to add a couple good starters from next year's free agent crop, which is MUCH deeper than this year's.