Sunday, March 24, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Kansas City Royals

2012 Record – 72-90 (3rd in the AL Central)

Key Off-season Moves
·         Acquired Ervin Santana in trade from the Angels for Brandon Sisk
·         Re-Signed Jeremy Guthrie for 3/25M
·         Acquired SP James Shields & Wade Davis in a trade with the Rays for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, & Patrick Leonard.
·         Signed Miguel Tejada to a minor league contract

Dayton Moore & Moral Hazard

In economics there is a theory known as Moral Hazard, where a party will have a tendency to take undue risks, because the effects of those risks wont be felt by the person taking those chances.  This premise is easily transferred over to the sports world and the Royals offseason is a prime example of that.

            This off-season GM Dayton Moore knew that this was likely his last chance to save his job by making the playoffs.  In order to achieve that goal, he decided to ship out the 2012 minor league player of the year in Wil Myers (in addition to pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi & Mike Montgomery, as well as 3B prospect Patrick Leonard) to the Rays in exchange for their #2 starter James Shields, as well as swingman Wade Davis.  This is a clear case of Moral Hazard, because if Wil Myers develops into the superstar many in the business think he will be, Dayton Moore would likely have been collecting unemployment cheques because the Royals would’ve missed the playoffs without improving the team this year.

            What Moore has done is take a player that could’ve carried the Royals for the next 7 years, and traded him for a shot at winning in this short 2 year window.  In a way, this is very similar to what Alex Anthopolous has done with the Blue Jays this offseason, however the biggest problem with Moore’s strategy is that he didn’t go far enough.  The Royals won a measly 72 games last year, and as good a pitcher as Shields is, he’s not the type to boost the team’s win total the 15 that they will need in order to reach the playoffs. Sadly neither are the likes of Davis, Santana, or anyone else that he’s acquired this offseason.

Spring Training Battles
Second Base -

            Coming into spring training, 2nd base looked to be an open competition between the incumbent starter Chris Getz, and talented, and constantly overlooked youngster Johnny Giavotella.  For a couple years now, I’ve thought the Royals would’ve given a chance for Giavotella’s bat to make an impact at the major league level.  He’s clearly mastered the AAA level, having over 900 PAs at that level, and posting an astounding .331/.397/.477 line. 

However none of that seems to matter to the Royals.  Questions about his defense have lead the Royals to hold him down, and its happening yet again.  Giavotella was demoted yet again today, they are going with Chris Getz and his wet rag of a bat.  In almost 900 PAs with the Royals, Getz has yet to hit a single home run.  The Royals claim that Giavotella’s defense is the reason he won’t get a chance, but this is the same team that allowed Yuniesky Betancourt to butcher his way at the keystone.  If they aren’t going to give the job to Giavotella its time to let him go, and ply his trade with another team.

Back End of the Rotation -
            Coming into spring training it looked as if there were 4 positions locked up in the rotation (Wade Davis, James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, & Ervin Santana).  The final spot seemed to be an open competition between Luis Mendoza, Bruce Chen, Will Smith and Luke Hochevar.  At this point that competition seems over.  Will Smith has been demoted, and Mendoza & Hochevar are ticketed to the bullpen, leaving Bruce Chen as the 5th starter. 

            This does leave the open question as to why the Royals tendered a contract.  They now have him under contract and are paying him close to 5 million $, and his ability to be an effective reliever is an open question.  The biggest flaw that Hochevar has had in his career is his inability to pitch with runners on base.  That’s not something that you can avoid when pitching out of he bullpen.  I think that the Royals should cut him loose and only be on the hook for the 50% they have committed to his contract (which is available under the rules of tendered arbitration avoidances). 

Backup Catcher –

            This seems to be the remaining open question the Royals have with one week remaining in spring training, with both Brett Hayes, and George Kottaras still in camp.  Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows George Kottaras is my single favourite player in all of baseball.  I’ve essentially written two love letters to him in the past, and in my mind, he’s the ideal mold for a backup catcher.  He’s left handed, he has some of the best plate discipline in all of baseball, and also has a good deal of pop in his bat.  Brett Hayes on the other hand has plus defensive skills.  Basically this decision comes down to which type of player the Royals want to back up Salvador Perez.  Perez has some of the most elite defensive skills in baseball, and so its only logical for them to take the offensive catcher.  However that being said, the Royals are probably the only club in baseball dumb enough to make the wrong decision.  If Kottaras is let go, I’ll be able to write another column urging the Jays to pick him up, which is plus I suppose. 

Projected Lineup
RF - Jeff Francouer
2B - Chris Getz

Depth & Other Options
C - Brett Hayes
IF – Miguel Tejada

Projected Rotation
RP - James Shields
RP - Jeremy Guthrie
RP - Ervin Santana
RP - Wade Davis
LP - Bruce Chen

RP - Kelvim Herrera
RP - Luke Hochevar
RP - Luis Mendoza

Projected 2013 Record – 79-83 (4th in the AL Central)

Season Outlook:
            Unlike the last couple of previews that I’ve done, where my thoughts have differed with those of my colleagues here at Blue Jays Plus, I’m entire in agreement with where the consensus record has the Royals finishing this season.  I just don’t see enough improvement from them this off-season to project any higher than a .500 record, and them still finishing well out of the playoff race.  They still project to have the worst starter in baseball patrolling right fight in Jeff Francouer, and the rotation is relying on reclamation projects like Davis & Santana.  Its going to be another long season, which might become a long decade, if Wil Myers develops into the stud that many in baseball (myself included) think he’s likely to.

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