Looking outside the organization for SS help?

There was a FanPost published earlier tonight regarding KC looking into acquiring a SS via trade, but it's been deleted/disappeared. However, now that the Royals are using their #3,#4, and #5 options at short with both Aviles and TPJ on the DL, this may be a topic worth discussing.




While it's safe to assume that most people expected Mike Aviles' offensive numbers to regress from last year's breakout, I'm guessing not too many people pegged him for an OPS+ of 21 and a .183/.208/.250 line as we prepare to enter June. Now, if this is entirely related to his injured wrist and he can go down to Arizona, get away from everything and fix himself in a few weeks, then the notion of looking to trade for a SS may be meaningless. However, what if the wrist problem lingers? What if the wrist heals but the horrific plate mechanics keep resulting in horrific results? Last year, the Royals were out of the race early. It appears that they may be able to stay in the thick of the AL Central this year. Can we afford to run TPJ/Hernandez/Bloomy/Hulett/crappy version of Aviles out there at SS for a team that will be prone to offensive struggles all year long? Or should we look at other options?  I think we all know what we'll get with TPJ/Hernandez--average to above-average fielding but little to no offense. Hulett has put up solid AAA numbers, but then again, so has Shane Costa. Hulett has also primarily been a 2B, so it's unknown if he can handle (or will be asked to play) SS. Bloomquist has been a pleasant surprise through the first 40+ games of the season, but can we reasonably expect his production to continue? Can he be a legitimate SS if he has to play there for an extended period of time?

Here are a few names that have been thrown around as players who may be shopped by their respective clubs. By no means is this an all-inclusive list--it's just a few names I've read about being available now that a few teams (KC, Boston, NY Mets are hurting at SS due to injuries).  It's a mix of quick fixes, reclamation projects, buy-low candidates, etc. (Also known as former 1st rounders, All-Stars, Rookies of the Year, and Gold Glovers.)

Khalil Greene, Saint Louis Cardinals, 2009 Salary: $6.5M

The Boston Globe reported earlier this week that STL contacted Boston about Greene. Perhaps STL GM John Mozeliak threw out a flyer to the Royals' brass on Sunday when the Royals were in town upon learning of Aviles' DL trip. Greene is in the final year of his contract, and STL would most likely have to eat some money to move him as he has been a disappointment. It has also been reported that he is dealing with severe anxiety. STL hasn't started him since May 17 because of this, mainly using him as a pinch-hitter while he struggles to recover.  I'd doubt that NY and Boston are two towns that would be beneficial for a person struggling with anxiety issues.

He's an interesting case, as he is a first round talent (13th pick) who has battled injuries for much of his career. He came up with a reputation of a defensive wizard, but some stats have shown his defense has declined the last few years. Playing in San Diego has also not done good things to his offensive numbers, which led to speculation that he would break out this year now that he's finally out of SD. 

Possible advantages to acquiring Greene:

  • Even in SD, he's put up an OPS+ of 95 or higher in four out of the last five years.
  • Home vs. Away Splits--
    Home: .226/.291/.365
    Away: .266/.315/.478
  • He gets better as the season progresses. His best months of the season are the season's final months. If KC is playing meaningful baseball as the season winds down, he could be a benefit.
  • He's still just 29, and his stock can't get much lower. It seems to me that he's got a higher ceiling as a player than any of our current SS options. The prototypical "buy low" candidate.
  • With the obvious parallel to Greinke's anxiety issues, perhaps our organization could help fix him mentally, leading to better physical results. Maybe that would engender feelings of signing here in the off-season (in a best-case scenario). Worst case scenario is that you took a flyer on him, it didn't work out, and he goes elsewhere after the season as a free agent.

As for his defense, here is an excerpt from a Fangraphs article about him from this offseason:

 So what do we make of Greene’s defense?

Well, his +/- ratings from 2006 to 2008 go from +13 to +7 to -4. If each year was considered an isoloated result, we’d conclude that two years ago Greene was one of the game’s best defenders at the toughest position to field but had fallen off substantially since then, to the point of being below average now.

Was Greene a terrific fielder who has since deteriorated to the point of being a minor liability? Maybe, but because of the variance in single year metrics, we certainly can’t state that with any kind of confidence. However, if we view each year as a data point, we’d find that the mean of his defensive value over the last three years is between +0 and +5, depending on how much weight you give to the most recent data points. Because of the larger sample, we can state with significantly more confidence that Greene was something like a +0 to +5 defender over the past three years, which would allow us to make a pretty decent projection for what he’ll do going forward.

As with all projections, a multi-year weighted collection of data will be more accurate than if you simply use the past year’s results and take them as the gospel truth. Every projection system worth it’s salt incorporates regression over several years to determine future output, and with Greene, that’s exactly what we have to do with the defensive data. The -4 rating from 2008 is a data point, but whether it represented an actual decline in his ability or not, we just don’t know. There’s too much noise in the data to support that kind of claim.

So, Cardinals fans should expect Greene to be something like a league average defensive shortstop or maybe a tick above. Toss in enough gap power to overcome his low OBP, and St. Louis just picked up a +2 win player for 2009. Considering his salary only values him at just over 1.25 wins, the Cardinals are getting a bargain for their money. Unless the PTBNL in the day is a significant prospect, we’d have to call this a good move for St. Louis - even with Greene’s -4 +/- score from 2008.



Felipe Lopez, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2009 Salary: $3.5M

Lopez (another first round talent) has seemingly turned on the proverbial switch after being released by Washington and signed by the Cardinals in the middle of last season. Perhaps playing for the Nationals will do that to a person. Anyway, Lopez (a Boras client) is also 29 years old. He signed a 1 year, $3.5M deal going into this season with Arizona to compete for their 2B job with Augie Ojeda. It turns out he has been one of their most valuable positional players (along with Reynolds and Upton).  He has quite a bit of major league experience at SS, but his defense has always been a liability no matter his position. He would not be a guy to acquire for his defensive prowess. Also, he's likely benefitting from playing home games in AZ (current .933 Home OPS), and his BABIP is even higher than 2008 Aviles territory at .370. He would likely demand a higher price tag than Greene.

Possible advantages to acquiring Lopez:

  • He's currently sporting a WAR of 1.4, good for 7th among all MLB 2B (tied with Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Robby Cano, Asdrubal Cabrera). He'd most likely be the best offensive option among the possible SS trade candidates.
  • Another player with an expiring contract, so KC would not be tying up any future finances if they don't feel like he's a long-term option.
  • A switch-hitter, which would allow for more lineup flexibility in the lower half of the lineup (he could also hit leadoff/2nd if needed).
  • Also has better numbers in the 2nd half compared to the first:
    First Half: .255/.324/.388
    Second Half: .278/.344/.415
  • Arizona is already 10.5 games back in the NL West, meaning they'll likely be looking to deal some of their more attractive commodities.  Conversely, the entire American League is within 9 games of its respective division leaders.

Keith Law had this to say about his signing in the off-season:

You wouldn't know it from his stat lines, but Lopez has good raw tools. He can run, albeit not quite as well as he did before he started putting on weight; he has at least average raw power; he has good bat speed; and once upon a time he was a rangy shortstop with a good arm. He's lost much of this to indolence, seldom putting forth the effort required to convert his tools into performance outside of his one outstanding year in 2005. His midseason release in 2008 seemed to be a wake-up call, which, combined with some extraordinary luck, led to the best 169 plate appearances of his career. He's capable of sustaining some parts of that surge, and a .275/.350/.420 season with average defense at second base and value on the bases is within reach if he shows up in shape and sustains his effort level all season. That would make him an above-average second baseman at a below-average salary, and he could easily slug .450 or more given his raw power and the homer-friendly ballpark in Phoenix.


Bobby Crosby, Oakland Athletics, 2009 Salary: $5.25 M

Talk about buying low. Remember when Peter Gammons said he would be an MVP candidate in the AL after he was 2004 AL Rookie of the Year. Ugh. Anyway, he's another former first rounder who is in the final year of his contract. He's also 29, and has also battled injuries for the majority of his career. He requested a trade in the spring when he saw he wasn't going to get much playing time after Oakland signed Orlando Cabrera. He's played a little bit of everything so far this year (mainly 3B now that Chavez is hurt again--shocking, I know), and it's been predictably bad yet again from Crosby. His career line isn't too far off from the career of Khalil Greene, so maybe you'd think he would be suffering from playing in cavernous Oakland Alameda County Colleseum. However, that's not the case, as his splits show better home numbers vs. road numbers. He also has traditionally performed better in the first half of the season.

Career lines:
Greene: .246/.303/.423  OPS+ of 94
Crosby: .238/.307/.376   OPS+ of 82

Possible advantages of acquiring Crosby:

  • Best defender (per UZR) of the options listed here
  • Oakland would eat salary and not require much in return. Every MLB team passed on Crosby when he went through waivers with his current salary.
  • ...ummm, I'm struggling for reasons here....probably the most 'gritty' of the bunch?

Orlando Cabrera, Oakland Athletics, 2009 Salary: $4M (4.25 if he gets traded)
Cabrera is the most experienced (34 years old) and probably the most well-recongnized name on the list of possible SS options. There were a lot of "please don't sign Cabrera" opinions floating around here this past off-season (of which I was one), but he may be put on the block if Beane feels that Oakland falls too far out of contention. His .241/.284/.300 line he's currently sporting is not going to up that price tag any, either. He's got a clause in his contract that his team will not offer arbitration to him after the season if he qualifies as a Type A free agent, meaning they wouldn't receive compensation if he signs elsewhere (I think). I don't know if this agreement is triggered if he qualifies as a Type B free agent, however.

Possible advantages:

  • Would come cheap & an expiring contract
  • His best OPS months are August and Sept/Oct
  • Has been consistently in between 2.7-3.8 WAR the last four years
  • Positive defender for his career.
  • Could possibly receive compensation if he is a Type B FA.

Other SS named in trade rumors: Jack Wilson (PIT), Yuniesky Betancourt (SEA)

There were rumors these guys would be traded for each other. Betancourt is still under contract until 2011 (with a 2012 buyout). He is not an option. Wilson is in the final year of his deal, but at a hefty price ($6.2 M for the rest of this year plus next year's buyout).  He is also unlikely as an option. there you have it. I'm getting tired, so my profiles got less substantial as I went, but that's a quick rundown of a few guys who may be available via trade. I don't see the Royals jumping to make a deal for any of them immediately, but if they internally worry more about Aviles than they're letting on, it wouldn't completely shock me to see them reach out and acquire someone--especially if they hang around in the Central. Obviously Felipe Lopez is playing the best right now of these options, and would probably be #1 on my list....but what do you think? I'd love to see Mike Aviles come back in two weeks and fall back into 2008 form, but I just don't have a lot of confidence in that happening right now. What would you do as GM?


This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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