Decision Time - Emil Brown

Continuing a series of diary postings/polls centering on specific players and if the good folks here at RR believe the Royals should stick with them or relieve them/us of their/our misery.

The players I will focus on are those which the Royals can retain, but who can demand more than minimum salary.

Previous Entries and the consensus opinion of the RR management:
1. Runelvys Hernandez diary link- RR management says: "Cut him loose"

Decision Time - Emil Brown

Emil is a somewhat easier player to evaluate than Hernandez, but he presents the Royals with a much more difficult decision.  After putting together virtually identical seasons in 2005 and 2006, we know what Emil brings to the team.  What the Royals have to decide is if he is worth the money and plate appearances he absorbs, or if these resources could better be used elsewhere.

Emil is entering his second year of arbitration (and likely his last year as he will probably be among the groups of "super-twos.")  Thus the Royals can lock him up for 2007 with an arbitration offer and only are obligated to give him a one year deal.  In all likelihood Emil will than be able to declare for free agency around this time next year, unless he gets hurt in 2007 and is forced to spend three years in the arbitration pool.

Statistics used below are Year, At bats / (BA - OBA - Slug) / HR , RsBI.  I went with the taters and the RBI's because Emil can only play DH or a corner OF slot, and whether you agree or not, homers and runs are expected from players in these positions.

2005 - 545 / (.286 - .349 - .455) / 17, 86
2006 - 527 / (.287 - .358 - .457) / 15, 81

Amazing consistency.

What this means is that when Emil goes into arbitration he will be in a strong position.  While he is fairly old (32 next year) he has shown that he is what he is, and that 2005 was not a flash in the pan.  He won his hearing last year and made $1.8M.  I expect he could argue that consistency trumps age and win a bump for next year.  Let's just say he will cost about $2.4 to keep.  Emil, hard working man that he is (he spent 2002-2004 playing minor league and Mexican league ball trying to get back into the majors) will know a good thing when he has earned it and would sign a multi-year contract with the Royals at seller's terms for life-time financial security.  I'll speculate if the Royals offered 3 years at $5.5M he would sign.

Why would the Royals want Emil?  He has led the team in RsBI two straight years.  Someone has to drive in runs and since no one else in KC seems to want the job, Emil looks pretty good.  His bat (.815 OPS), while not up to the standards expected of a starting left fielder/DH, is among the best on the team.  Emil comes off as an insecure player (which cannot be surprising given his career trajectory and the frequent references to him as a "place holder,") but he doesn't complain about his usage and seems stable and healthy in mind and body.  Also, Emil actually seems fine playing in KC.  I do not receive the impression he has any desire to leave as long as he is given opportunity and respect.

Why would the Royals want to get rid of Emil?  He is what he is.  He fields like a stonemason.  He can steal a base here and there but no one would confuse him with a threat on the pads.  His batting numbers across the board are good but no better.  He strikes out much more often than might be hoped (16.8% of his plate appearances over the last two years.)  The only realistic avenues for Emil to improve his play would be to cut down on his hacking and bring his OBP up around .380 or somehow turns a few more doubles into homeruns (he has hit 71! doubles in the last two years!!!)  Either would be good, but neither would transform him into a top-shelf player.  He's good, but hasn't demonstrated the ability to be great, and when you are 32 years old, that is defining.

In sum, Emil is a league average outfielder available for a fair salary with no long-term contract risk involved.  Seems like a no-brainer - bring him back.  Certainly the Royals could use more league average players content with their time in Kaufman.  Easy decision, except....

Every game Emil starts means one less game started by Shane Costa, Mitch Maier, Justin Huber, and, if he is moved to the outfield next year, Mark Teahen.  It is a given that DeJesus is going to be an everyday player.  As long as Reggie Sanders is healthy he is going to start about five games a week.  If Gordon comes up next year (as expected) that means Teahen will have to move to a new spot, most likely outfield.  DH is held down by Sweeny and German (and, GOD LET IT HAPPEN, the return of Matt Stairs.)  The Royals seem to have stars in their eyes when Gathright takes the field so he will get at least another 300 opportunities to grow or disappoint.  This all puts Brown in competition with the younger players for the remaining playing time.  Throw in Chris Lubanski, Chad Allen, Billy Bulter, Donnie Murphy, etc. and Brown looks like he might be retarding the long-term hopes of the Royals as long as his performance keeps the log jam in place.  Is he tradable for value?  Will he gracefully accept a bench role on the team to allow these younger players to develop or concede the position back to him?  Will the Royals pay +$2M for a bench player?

This situation seems to demand that either Reggie Sanders, Emil Brown or Mark Teahen be traded.  Sanders would bring little in return given his contract baggage.  Teahen would bring a lot, but we would all gouge our eyes out if he left and something happened to Gordon.  Brown might bring some value, but from whom?

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.