I was in airports all day... Moved from the Diaries... Love the LaRue LaRumors!!
Per Marc Lancaster at the Cincinnati Post:
According to a baseball source, the Reds are on the verge of trading catcher Jason LaRue to the Kansas City Royals. The Reds will receive a player to be named later. I imagine they'll be sending some cash Kansas City's way, as well.
More when I get it.
I know Jason LaRue fairly well as a player. A very solid catcher who, until last year, was a plus with the bat compared to most catchers. He will take the job from Buck I'm pretty sure.
He is due to be paid about $5M next year, which is too much. Since he lost his starting job in Cincinnati they are trying to move him along rather than pay a back up catcher top dollar.
This will be an upgrade for the Royals.
The story linked above also contains this laugh-out-loud bit of bravado from LaRue:?If you look at the record, Kansas City was one of the best teams in baseball in the second half. There are a lot of good core guys, a lot of young guys, and they?re moving in the right direction.?
One last editorial intrusion here... check out JQ's last comment comparing LaRue and Buck.Here are some numbers breakdowns on LaRue and Buck. I used the last three years as the basis of comparison. Despite having such a horrible 2006 LaRue comes out as having the better bat. The batting averages are almost identical but LaRue has more power and draws more walks. They throw out almost identical percentages of runners (33% vs. 34%.) Neither lets many balls get by him, although Buck is even better at this than LaRue. The only +/- numbers I have seen that take the Catcher position into account rated LaRue as a +6 (over a 150 game season) for last year. Buck was rated a +3. What this means is that, according to this rating LaRue would have saved three more runs than Buck over the course of a season based upon his defense. I do not know what methodology was used.
Three Year Averages (LaRue / Buck)
Gms 293 303
BA .243 .242
Slug .421 .400
OBP .339 .292
OPS .760 .692
SB% 67% 66%
PB/9 .09 .05
So, based upon the above numbers I think we can conclude that over the last three years LaRue has been a somewhat better player than Buck, but we also know that LaRue is getting old and so the gap between the two might disappear next year. One would expect LaRue to decline a bit in his 33rd year, and Buck to grow a bit in his 27th, at least by the law of averages.
Clearly by looking at these numbers the catching position will be very competitive in spring training and April. Personally, I believe competition normally brings out improved performances for all involved. So this is all good. I speculate that Buck may have failed to improve over the last three years because he had no one pushing him.
Regardless as to which player wins the position, the overall strength of the Royals catching corps will be much greater in 2007 compared to 2004-2006. Instead of Buck backed up by Phillips or Bako we will have either Buck backing up LaRue or vis versa.
Maybe I am being overly optimistic here, but I think the Buck/LaRue combo will produce about 20 more runs over the course of the year than did the Buck/Bako combo. The improved defense of LaRue/Buck also will save another few runs. If this holds up (if LaRue returns to form, and Buck does not regress) than the Royals have gained a swing of 20+ in run differential with the acquisition of LaRue. In general a swing of 10 runs should turn one loss into a win, thus the signing of LaRue, if all holds up as described above, should improve the Royals by two or three wins.
This is all very lazy Sabrmatics of course, but it describes my optimism behind this signing. By way of admission I should admit I am LaRue fan. I'm glad I'll be able to see him play again in person. I expect LaRue will win a lot of fans in KC the same way Mientkiewicz did last year. Not by being necessarily a great offensive force, but by busting ass out there, letting the fans know that he is going to do everything he can to bring home a win. That's how I think of LaRue. I like the guy.
A lot of Reds fans had become disenchanted with LaRue over the last year due to his slump and his inability to cut down on his strikeouts. I think the criticism was not without foundation, but lost site of the fact that LaRue had been one of the better catchers in baseball from 2002-2005. During this period was a superior defensive player and delivered an average year of .248 with 14 homers and 54 RBI's, a nice offensive contribution from the backstop position.
I don't know if LaRue is worth the $2.5M he will be paid by the Royals, but since it is Glass' money and not mine and I don't like that man to begin with I'm not too upset with him having a somewhat lighter wallet, and I do think beyond doubt LaRue is an upgrade to the team on the field. LaRue will make the Royals better.