I've had over a month off from the Royals now and have been mulling over some ideas. This is my vision for the Royals in the upcoming 2010 season. Bear with me if you're bored and/or interested in one fans ideal vision for his cherished franchise.
Obviously Billy Butler is the man. He had a fantastic age 23 season with 50+ doubles. Its quite possible that a few of those doubles turn into homeruns and Billy will parlay his superb contact ability into a .315+ average. 2008 line 301/362/492 (UZR -6.24 2.5 WAR). 2010 prediction - 315/390/505, with him hopefully moving closer to average defensively. As for Mike Jacobs, he should be non tendered and Kila brought up in his spot on the 25 man roster.
2B - Alberto Callaspo
Given his minor league production, his offensive breakout this year wasn't as unexpected as some would have you think. However, as we all know his defense was atrocious, to the tune of a -7.8 UZR. So, some ideas.... With Billy being below average we need someone above average defensively to help cover some of the ground Billy can't. I move Callaspo to 3B where I believe he can be at least average defensively if not just a little better. If that doesn't work out, he can certainly be an atypical DH. He's under team control and cheap for the next few seasons, so he has value. So, with Callaspo moved off of 2B, who plays second? Betancourt could move to 2B, he might be average there. A healthy Aviles could likely play a slick 2B and if he could recapture even a decent portion of his 2008 offensive production then he could post a WAR between 2.5 to 3.5, which is incredibly useful. So, we can keep our fingers crossed for that because Aviles would be a cheap and potentially super productive in house option. Jeff Bianchi could potentially be ready mid season at SS/2B as well. Tug Hulett could also be useful, likely the pure definition of replacement level. A possible trade target could be the Phillies' Jason Donald who is said to project well above average defensively at 2B.
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt
Suck. Serious suck. This forum knows all about Betancourt's serious inadequacy. So, my vision clearly doesn't include Yuni. So where do you go from there? As previously said, Bianchi could be available midseason, but likely not. So what to do? Adam Everett is a free agent and would probably come cheap. Maybe one year for 1.5-2.5 million with a second year option. Even though his defense has declined somewhat in the last couple years, he would be eons better than what we currently have. An intriguing trade option could be to acquire Reid Brignac from the Devil Rays. Also, Jack Wilson has an 8.4 million club option with the M's and might be worth taking a look at if his option is declined. He's a longshot at best though, as he probably wants more dough than the Royals can stomach. He's probably one of the top two to three SS gloves in the game though.
The most conservative and likely option is simply to move Callaspo to 3B. I have seriously soured on Alex Gordon. I'm not advocating cutting him or even trading him at this point while his value is at its lowest. In my estimation Alex Gordon seems to be an above average athlete so I propose that we move him to RF where his arm can remain an asset. With Teahen's precedent, moving Gordon to the OF isn't actually that drastic of a move. As for Teahen, I trade him for whatever young, high upside talent you can get, or simply non tender him. He's getting expensive, and isn't likely to be a part of a winning Royals team. He could still have good value in the NL or with a team with a glaring need at 3B. And to make my big splash in the offseason, I sign Adrian Beltre. With the depressed economy and his decreased power output, his contract demands will surely be much more reasonable than his currently expiring contract. My offer - $15 million, 3 year offer. With Teahen coming off the books and Olivo as well, in my plan we can afford this contract quite nicely. And we all know about Beltre's superb defensive reputation. This year he posted a 13.7 UZR, as well as a 2.3 WAR. While I know that is nothing to get super excited about, he did battle threw injuries much of the year. Over his last five or so seasons Beltre has averaged out to be about a 3 win player. Not too shabby. Chone Figgins would be another player to consider. What will he command on the market? I love the speed, and UZR rates him highly at 3B with a 14.5. He also posted a 5.9 WAR. So yeah he's coming off a career year. But at 31, with his athletic body he could age relatively well over the next few seasons compared to a lot of other players. He also walked 101 times last year so there's that too. He's basically THE PROTOTYPICAL lead off hitter.
Olivo had a good, albeit unusual offensive season. He is likely going to test free agency. He has a solid arm but well below solid ability at blocking balls. For what he's worth he will be too expensive for the Royals. In my humble opinion, John Buck should also go. Perhaps Buck is a better defender than Olivo slightly, but his impotent arm makes him otherwise ineffective behind the plate. His bat is slow and he is also racking up MLB experience so his 2010 paycheck will be considerably higher than what he is really worth. Therefore, Pena is promoted to the starting role and he will either sink or swim. I then promote either JR House or John Suomi for a cheap in house backup role. Unfortunately these moves are probably only a slightly better than replacement level, but what can you do? Great defensive catchers with above average offensive ability don't exactly grow on trees, so you do what you can with what you have and hope that you're drafting and developing good backstops in the minor leagues.
David Dejesus is what he is - an outstanding defensive LF and a pretty decent bat. His contract is good, so unless we get any really tempting offers you keep him. No brainer. I bring Coco back as well. Not on his option though. I buy him out and offer him an incentive laden 2 year deal. With his defensive ability and speed, and an average bat he is still very likely a 2.5-3 win player. I'll take that in CF. As far as RF, as stated before thats where I have moved Gordon. I dispose of Guillen somehow (in a perfect world), Teahen is traded, and Anderson and Maier come off the bench when necessary. This gives us a well above average defensive OF with Dejesus and Crisp. Certainly enough to compensate for your new league average RF in Alex Gordon. Defensively speaking at least.
So my main theme thus far is to do what we can to improve defensively, while giving our young talent a chance to improve offensively. This is nothing new, the Mariners did it last year and the Rays before them. It is now common knowledge that defensive ability is the new market inefficiency. It is also the cheapest and quickest way to improve your pitching as well. Pepper that approach along with a couple good free agent signings and you have a competitive team in the very winnable AL Central
Our top four pitchers will, barring injuries, get 180-200 IP next year. Zack is the man, and a healthy Gil Meche I think will rebound nicely. We will continue to find out what we have with Hochevar, and if he's failing at 100 IP or so, you move him to the pen for a change of scenery. Hopefully he harnesses his good stuff If Brian Bannister's trade value picks up at some point then you make the move, otherwise he's an okay 3-4 type pitcher. Kyle Davies' last chance is this upcoming year as he could be destined for the pen as well. If that is the case then we can certainly see if Tejeda really is onto something and give him a shot in the starting rotation. Free agents to consider - Philip Humber is listed as a minor league free agent. He's worth a flyer. Kelvim Escobar could be a good candidate. Justin Duchscher , Randy Wolf, Carl Pavano, Brad Penny and Brett Myers could all be very useful at the right price. Randy Wolf is especially attractive pitching form the left side. 2 years / 14 million?
As far as the relief core, Soria, Cruz and Tejeda are locks. Farnsworth is also unfortunately as well because of his contract. I predict Cruz to have a rebound year and Soria to be his useful brilliant self. Bale likely makes the team if he stays cheap and he can get LH's out. I say adios to Jamey Wright and Colon, promoting Carlos Rosa and Chris Hayes. And for another LH option I put Lenny DiNardo in the pen. DiNardo had a great year in the hitting friendly PCL striking out 127 and walking only 38. I don't know why he couldn't be a league average reliever. Aaron Crow could potentially pitch out of the bullpen later this year. Nothing earth shattering here, a few new roles and promotions, with no additional funding needed. I see a league average to slightly above average bullpen here. The only unusual thing I do with this bullpen is use Soria more. If he's not gonna start, we at least maximize the usage of our second best pitcher in a reasonable manner. Thats why I insert Soria into high leverage game situations and keep him on a 30-40 or so pitch count, seeing how far he can go whilst hoping for the Royals to notch another run or two. If he "closes" the game then fine, if not if he's used as a true fireman a la Dan Quisenberry. That way we squeeze out extra value by having him out there more often and pitching in the most important innings of close games. He gets 85-100 or so IP in my vision.
This is not a bad staff. With an improved defense I dare say that we are above average. I don't have a lot of numbers to throw at you but I hope my humble explanations support the case that we can make several minor moves and a couple free agent acquisitions and really improve this team. Our best bet is to do everything we can to improve anywhere we can defensively. In addition to that, we have to hope that another year of development for Butler, Gordon, and Callaspo reaps dividends for us offensively.
With all of this I am clearly being a realist. We're not a World Series caliber team. But ideally, we give ourselves a chance to compete in our own division efficiently. It lets us have another year of development in the minor leagues. Add in another good draft and we are slowly inching towards a very respectable farm system that David Glass utterly destroyed from the early 90's to mid 2000s. I also hire Hal McRae in some capacity as well for the final cherry on top.
I present now, your 2010 Kansas City Royals
1B - Billy Butler / Kila Kaaihue
SS - Adam Everett / Mike Aviles / Yuniesky Betancourt
3B - Adrian Beltre / Alex Gordon
DH - Alberto Callaspo
C - Brayan Pena / JR House
LF - David Dejesus
CF - Coco Crisp / Josh Anderson / Mitch Maier
RF - Alex Gordon
SP - Zack Greinke
SP - Gil Meche
SP - Randy Wolf
SP - Luke Hochevar
SP - Brian Bannister
RH RP - Joakim Soria, Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth, Carlos Rosa, Chris Hayes
LH RP - John Bale, Lenny DiNardo
Fearless prediction with this team in 2010