Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Although starting pitching is by far the Royal's biggest off-season need, the team could use an upgrade at second base as well.
Outside of starting pitching, second base might be the weakest position for the Kansas City Royals. As a group, Royals second basemen last season contributed -.8 fWAR. The only position worse for the Royals last season was right field, which has a theoretical upgrade ready in-house.
The Royals second base options already in the organization look far less promising than Wil Myers. Chris Getz is a below-average second baseman who struggles to stay healthy for an entire season. Johnny Giavotella has looked incredibly over matched in his two call-ups to the major leagues with little signs of improvement. Irving Falu and Tony Abreu are essentially replacement players who could fill a utility role for the Royals, but should not be options for starting. Finally, Christian Colon spent a second season in Double-A and does not appear close to contributing at the major league level.
Since the Royals current options at second appear uninspiring at best, it makes sense for the team to explore options in the free agent market. For inspiration, the Royals only need to look towards a division rival. The Minnesota Twins signed Jamey Carroll to a two year, 6.75 million dollar deal last offseason, and were rewarded with 2.4 WAR from the veteran. For a front office that should be feeling the heat to put together a contenting team, finding cheap wins is essential.
The options on the second base market this offseason, however, are a mixed bag. Below is a table of free agent second baseman and their statistics from last season.
We can all have a nice laugh at Betancourt being included on this list, but one should never rule out Dayton Moore signing Batter Nine You Sucky.
Jeff Keppinger appears to be a solid fit for the Royals. Keppinger had a nice season for the Rays, and has hit left-handed pitching well in his career. Even though we should expect his overall numbers to regress towards his career mean next season, he still can provide value to a team willing to platoon him. A Keppinger/Getz platoon could potentially give the Royals average second-base play, which is far better than they received this season. Keppinger also has some positional flexibility, and could spell Mike Moustakas against left-handed pitchers.
Marco Scutaro is another option for the Royals, as he continues to laugh at traditional aging curves. Scutaro's 2012 campain was his fifth season posting at least 2.4 WAR, which is even more impressive considering he was 33 when he put together his first above-average season. The middle infielder has been durable as well, playing in at least 140 games 4 out of the last 5 seasons. The big question mark around Scutaro is his age; he will turn 39 next year, increasing the risk of injury/decline.
All of the other options at second base don't appear to be better than the incumbent options, so I don't think the Royals should pursue any of them seriously. Although Keppinger and Scutaro both offer potential upgrades for the Royals, the team only has so much money they should allot towards second base. Although the team's second basemen were below replacement as a group, starting pitching is the team's biggest need this off-season by a substantial margin. The Royals have a finite amount of money to spend this off-season and the vast majority of that needs to be spent on improving the rotation.
If the market for Scutaro and Keppinger is similar to last season's market, the Royals should have an opportunity to upgrade a weak position at an acceptable cost. Jerry Hairston Jr. and Carrol both signed deals in the two year, six million dollar range. I would probably be willing to sign either Scutaro or Keppinger for 2/8, but any higher becomes too much risk on platoon player or a player close to 40.
With Year 7 of The Process coming up, the Royals need to put a winning team on the field. Second base is a position in need of an upgrade, and the Royals have a couple of options at potentially cheap upgrades. The Royals should pursue these options next season, but have a limit on how much of their resources they are willing to devote towards the upgrade.