Thursday, July 29, 2010

If I were Dayton Moore...

The Royals are in their usual position of spinning off pieces at this trade deadline. Since they rarely have very good players, the deals they make are typically fairly small and address a need here or there. They've already traded away Alberto Callaspo to the Angels for Sean O'Sullivan and Will Smith, two nearly major league ready starting pitchers. Although neither are anything special, considering how bad the back of the Royals' rotation is, it isn't a bad deal. They also traded Scott Podsednik, a useful fantasy player, but a disaster if he's your starting left fielder, to the Dodgers for a couple of very minor prospects. Neither are expected to be major contributors at the major league level, but the key here is the Royals now have playing time opening up for their young and young-ish players stuck in the minors.

Right now, priority #1 has to be to trade Jose Guillen. Yes, he's owed $4.5 million on his disastrous 3 year, $36 million contract. No, he can't play defense. Yes, he's had repeated run ins with management and other players due to a bad attitude and lack of effort. But he can hit pretty well, and there are some teams out there (the Giants immediately come to mind) that have some pretty putrid outfielders of their own. I would call up Brian Sabean, especially now that some of his other targets have already been moved, and offer to eat the salary. Jose Guillen is a sunk cost. No matter what the Royals do, they're not going to be able to recoup that money - it is gone whether they trade him or not. Considering that they've already budgeted that money and the fact that ponying up the $4.5 million ought to net them a much nicer prospect, Moore just needs to suck it up and get whatever he can for Guillen. A solid, if unsexy, relief pitching prospect would be a nice find; the Royals' bullpen has very little depth beyond Soria and Robinson Tejeda. I'd try something similar with Rick Ankiel, although since he's coming off an injury and was not effective when he was healthy, it could be a very limited market.

With the two trades, my proposed trade for Guillen, and DeJesus' injury, the Royals would all of a sudden have loads of playing time. For the time being they've been playing Wilson Betemit at 3B. Betemit is a nice stop gap and a solid utility player, but come September, they ought to take a a look at Mike Moustakas at third base. Moustakas destroyed the ball at AA this year, and while he's currently struggling at AAA, he clearly is the third basemen of the future for them.

With Guillen gone, the Royals would need a full time DH. Thankfully, they have Kila Ka'aihue rotting in AAA. Despite years of terrible production at DH, the Royals have let Ka'aihue rot in AAA without ever giving him a chance with regular playing time. He put up a 1.000 OPS in AAA in 2008 at the age of 24, which earned him a call up, but he had a chance as a full time player. The following offseason, the Royals traded Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs. Nunez has closer the last two years for the Marlins. Mike Jacobs put up a .297 OBP for the Royals in 2009 and was then non-tendered. Whoops. Ka'aihue slumped a bit in 2009, but has been unbelievably good at AAA again this year. According to Minor League Splits, his minor league equivalent OBP is .370, only the now injured David DeJesus and Billy Butler have higher OBPs.

Finally, the Royals need to play Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier full time from here on out. Maier is the only true center fielder under contract for next year, so they need to see if he can put up acceptable numbers or if they need to look elsewhere. Finally, Alex Gordon, the next George Brett, is now a left fielder. According to scouting reports, his defense has been solid. After missing most of last year with a hip injury and getting demoted this year, the Royals need to give him one last shot with regular playing time to see if they can salvage something out of this fallen top prospect. Despite his horrendous .573 OPS (which actually beats out fellow fallen 3B prospect Brandon Wood's .411 quite handily), there are reasons to hope. Gordon hit .315/.442/.557 in the minors, so if he can finally translate that minor league success to the majors, the Royals could have at least a league average left fielder on their hands.

Despite years of futility, there is some hope for the Royals. Beyond the players I've mentioned, they also have Eric Hosmer (1B) who is excelling as a 20 year old in AA and Mike Montgomery, an excellent 20 year-old left handed starting pitcher who also was promoted to AA this year. Some have gone so far as to say that the Royals have the best farm system in baseball. Making the little right moves, such as giving some older minor leaguers a shot, could help surround these up and coming young players with a nice supporting cast.

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