2.06.2009

Exhibit 16.8

Royals Offseason Review

I was waiting to write about the Royals offseason until it was actually finished and...and...and...I suppose it finally is. Barring something unexpected, it seems like the current roster goes to Surprise for spring training and all of the redundancies and gaping holes work themselves out on the fly. Personally, I expected the team to look a bit more like the team that will take the field on opening day--or at least the team I hope will take the field on opening day--but the stagnant economy has led to an odd stasis in the free agent and trade markets as most teams seem to be paralyzed by the impossibility of trading their high priced players to free dollars for the increasingly cheap free agents. Most teams seem to be holding at least one or two contracts they'd gladly ship out if given half the chance, especially if it means $6 million for, say, Luis Castillo could become $6 million for Adam Dunn.

That nobody wants a $6 million dollar Luis Castillo, that Adam Dunn is going to wait until one of the big market teams gets desperate, that a lot of free agents require giving up draft picks to sign, that most owners have lost billions in the last 9 months...well, these are problems. And, as isn't particularly surprising, everyone's reaction is to sit on their hands, close their eyes, and wait it out.

But not our beloved Royals. You see, they have a renovated stadium financed largely by the good people of Kansas City and, more than that, an owner who just so happens to be the former long term CEO of a little company called Wal-Mart. Just yesterday Wal-Mart nearly doubled analysts' projected increase in sales. While most retail stores' profits are rapidly decreasing, Wal-Mart is doing better than ever. The reasons for this are as sad as they are obvious, but, in the far less important world of baseball, the economic downturn has meant only good things for the Royals.

Unfortunately, this unexpected leveling of the playing field has mostly meant that they alone have the right to overpay for the Kyle Farnsworths of the world. Oh well.

Let's take a look at what they've done with Mr. Glass's depressing windfall:

Traded RHP Leo Nunez for DH/1B Mike Jacobs
The offseason's first move continues to be perhaps the most confusing. The Royals have an abundance of 1B/DH types. Some of them are young and filled with promise (Butler, Ka'aihue), some of them are old and not very good (Gload, Shealy), all of them are still on the team as if this writing. Jacobs, a salary dump from the Marlins, is somewhere in between. He hits a lot of homeruns, he plays awful defense, and he doesn't get on base. Otherwise, he's great.

My thoughts on the move can pretty much be summed up as follows: If Jacobs mostly DHs and hits 30HR, I don't think most Royals fans will care how bad his on-base percentage is. I'm one of those fans. If Jacobs plays everyday at 1B and forces Butler to Omaha for most of the year and hits 30HR, I'm going to constantly be lamenting his OBP and awful defense. It'll end up somewhere in the middle.

Traded Ramon Ramirez for CF Coco Crisp
The Red Sox didn't have a starting spot for Crisp anymore and the Royals (for reasons that are only sort of clear) hate playing David DeJesus in center. I'm actually sympathetic to this line of thinking as I think DeJesus has proven to be more durable in LF. It was a little annoying when it meant Joey Gathright in CF with Teahen on the bench, but Crisp is a legitimate starter who has a chance to put up nice numbers at the plate while playing plus-plus defense. Ramirez is tough to give up, but, considering they essentially gave up nothing for him, turning nothing into one season of great relief pitching and two years of an above average (if overpaid) center fielder is a nice move.

There's definitely an argument to be made that Crisp shouldn't lead off, but there really aren't any better options in a lineup that, outside of Gordon, DeJesus, and Callaspo, has some kind of grudge against first base.

Signed RHP Kyle Farnsworth for 2 years/$9.5 million
Things we know about Kyle Farnsworth:
1) He's insane
2) He hasn't been good since 2005
3) Everyone hates him

Yep, I think this will work out great. It's a shame we couldn't lock this guy up for more years.

Signed UI Willie Bloomquist for 2 years/$3.1 million
I don't care as long as he gets less than 175 ABs and backs up every position except catcher. If he does anything else, I hate him. If he is the opening day 2B, I hate you. As long as you are the Royals' general manager. Are you?

I'm kidding. Sort of.

Extended RHP Zack Greinke for 4 years/$38 million
Hooray!


There were other moves, too, but that last move is really the big one and what makes the offseason a success. Nothing else the Royals have done since the Meche signing carries over to the 2011 season and, if they're being honest, that's when the team has its eye on seriously competing. Everything else is about putting a competitive team on the field, creating a winning culture through competition, and (I believe) stretching out the payroll so that it's there if the Royals want to make a big splash after Guillen, Farnsworth, Crisp, and Bloomquist all come off the books. Only Jacobs has a chance to still be around when this team is ready and even then he seems like trade bait since he plays the only position where the Royals show depth throughout their system.

Of course, people a lot smarter than me will tell you aiming for .500 is a bad way to build a team. That school of thought says that spending money on guys like Farnsworth and Bloomquist is a negative since it could go to Latin America or be saved for a time when competition is possible and not just a pipe dream. This line of thinking has never made much sense to me as nothing about such a criticism seems to account for how baseball payrolls actually work.

There are still plenty of issues. The Royals don't seem to want any of the second basemen they acquired to actually play second base. They have at least one too many starting pitchers and it remains to be seen if they'll make the right move in choosing the backup position players or if they'll get sentimental and march out Ross Gload again when they no longer need his "ability" to play the OF and they have better options.

Still, most teams are similarly stymied with ungainly rosters so the Royals aren't in bad shape. If nothing else, this team is looking better than last year's overachieving squad and .500 is a legitimate goal. Greinke's extension is the real key, however, and if he pitches to form the Royals look to be a team with great pitching, poor offense, and wildly uneven defense (great in the OF, bad in the IF).

They should be fun to watch, and not just on the days when Kyle Farnsworth decides to throw at batters.

1 comment:

derspete said...

i'm convinced: a nine-game package it is. do you get fsn kc? the tv schedule was released yesterday and i'm working on filling out my google calendar :). here's to more wins than losses in ought-nine!

and with respect to 16.7, that sepia-toned lingo has me wishing for a little larry mcmurtry tinge in a new a-peterson chappy-- maybe if the royals take the division??