Thoughts on the Sanders & Mays Signings

Now that Christmas is fully behind us, lets scan around for the blogosphere's reaction to the monumental Reggie Sanders -- who JoePo calls "one of my favorite people" -- and Joe Mays signings...

First of all, lets consider this nice summary in The Star, written by Jeff Passan, before Mays was added,

Indeed, the Royals have spent generously in an effort to restock a team that lost 106 games last season. Emboldened by owner David Glass earmarking at least $22 million to upgrade the team, the Royals have added Sanders, Grudzielanek at second base, starting pitchers Scott Elarton and Mark Redman, first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, reliever Elmer Dessens and catcher Paul Bako for $21.75 million.

So thats what $22 million gets you.

Still, Lee Warren, at Royal Reflections, offers one of the more positive appraisals of the Sanders' signing:

The signing of Reggie Sanders was a big one for the Royals. At the age of 38, he can still hit for power (he's hit at least 21 home runs in 6 of the last 7 seasons), he still drives in runs, and he still steals bases. He's not the long term answer in right field, but it'll be nice seeing him there for the next two seasons. I'm already envisioning Sweeney's numbers going up since we now have a legitimate clean up hitter behind him.
Bradford Doolittle, the Star's "Stat Guy", has sounded the alarm on the Sanders deal, calling into question Sanders age, production and cost:
The last two seasons for St. Louis, Sanders has posted road OPSs of 738 and 789. His overall OPS those seasons was .797 and .886, so you have to believe he was taking advantage of the confines of Busch Stadium. In Kansas City, he'll be moving into a park in which runs were scored a little below the league-average rate and away from a park that gave a slight boost to the hitters.

Worst of all, here are the games played for Sanders over the last EIGHT SEASONS: 135, 133, 103, 126, 140, 130, 135, 93. That's 301 games missed, or nearly a quarter of the games in which he could have played. That won't get better as he moves towards 40 years of age.

Defensively, Sanders suffered a huge drop in zone rating from 2004, from .888 to .785. Will that improve with another year under his belt?

I'm not sure the KC is as solidly a pitcher's park as its been the last few seasons, as these things tend to randomly fluctuate, but the overall points stand. Reggie Sanders simply hasn't been that good, or availible and recent years. Doolittle concludes:
Sanders' acquistion means that either Chip Ambres or Aaron Guiel will likely be pushed off the Royals' roster. Either one would have provided similar or, possibly, superior production and would have done it at a fraction of the price. Either one could be easy moved aside when it was decided that Alex Gordon and/or Billy Butler were ready for the big leagues. Moving Sanders aside won't be nearly so easy.

This is the worst move the Royals have made in an off-season of questionable activity. The Royals employ a statistical analyst but this person either looks at the wrong statistics or holds no sway with the team's decision makers. The team has fallen into the common trap in the free-agency game of paying a player based on past performance rather than future performance.

This one is going to come back to bite them.

Doolittle is slightly more optimistic about the Elarton-Mays-Redman triad, as he calls it, though not by much:

As I've written before, Royals fans should hope that the veteran pitching acquistions by the Royals post ERAs close to league average. That's the upside of the Redman-Elarton-Mays triad. The downside is ugly. The likely outcome of a collective mid-5.00 ERA is an improvement from last season but is hardly what the Royals have in mind with these acquisitions.

I still like Redman the best of the three but I like Mays' chances to post a better ERA than Elarton. At the very least, he gives the team another option, additional depth. Hopes for real improvement still are carried by the arms of Greinke, Hernandez, Affeldt, Bautista and Howell. But if those guys aren't ready to produce this season, at least there are semi-competent placeholders who can keep them in the minors for a while longer.

The point made here is a salient one, these are iceberg signings, with the downside to each being much larger than the upside. The best case scenario is mediocrity, the worst, utter failure. This sentiment is echoed at The Daily Lancer, although slightly reversed:
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.
The organization's hatred of Mike Wood continues to be baffling, especially since he was arguably better than Golden Boys Runelvys Hernandez or Zack Greinke last season. And as noted before on this site, sadly, Greinke is indistiguishable from Gobble for months at a time.

Lastly, the estimable Bill Heeter sounds a note mixing resignation and optimism, stressing a different angle to the Winter Signings,

And unlike recent years, Allard Baird has actually gone out of his way to build a defense that can get people out for a change.

Unless Baird finds another outfielder on clearance, I'm guessing he's pretty much done with his shopping for the winter. Now we just have to wait and see if things work out in reality like we hope they will. If they do, we can expect a much improved Royals team over last seasons' edition.

Maybe theres something to this, this possibility that Allard's going for a White Sox-Lite model. This might work is we had a starter as good as Mark Buerhle, instead of just a bunch of guys worse than Jon Garland. And moreover, I'm not sure how much good Minky can do at first base, nor if Grudz, Bako and Sanders are actually positive defensive players at all.

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