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More on LaRue, Wright and Counsell

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As the "off-season" that wasn't rolls on...

Thanks to "JQ", "daveyork", "thedude925" and all the other members who I've stolen from the last few weeks. Plus, I'm writing a three volume novel on Buddy Bell, Andres Blanco and Angel Berroa in my spare time, so time's been tight. Nevertheless, due to Glass's annual "I'm stepping up this year" I promise to be responsibly active.

The LaRue trade has overshadowed the Matt Wright acquisition, which I believe has the potential to at least be interesting. While long-time readers will know that I can't resist a smattering of cynicism before the ex-Brave retread angle, Wright has had some success in AA and AAA. I'll leave it to the professionals as to whether those numbers project to anything, but as minor league signings go, it's one to flag for later review. Plus, we now have another Moore-guy to plug in for de la Rosa when his ERA is 6.55 after 5 starts. The Braves blog Talking Chop did an interview with Wright back in October which is worth checking out.

Jenn's favorite baseball team just lost a pitching prospect to the Royals. Her devastation is palpable.

Of course, the news on LaRue is sitting right below this one, with lots of high quality comments by many. As "chukar" pointed out, Rob & Rany have weighed in. As these things go, I tend to agree with R&R, it's a possibly solid pickup, but we're also forced to confront uneasy questions about Buck at this point. Is he ever gonna hit?

Rany: Unfortunately, I doubt this is step one in a two-step plan. Which is probably for the best, given that step two would involve trading Buck, who isn't going to fetch a lot on the market, as there are few teams out there who are in a position to give a catcher with a 700 OPS a third straight season as a starter in order to see if he can develop into something. Buck isn't very good, but he also isn't that bad; he's a consistent .240 hitter with pop, and he made some strides on the edges last year compared to 2005 (more walks, fewer strikeouts, and virtually the exact same extra base-hit totals - doubles and triples were the same, just one homer less - in 30 fewer at-bats.) He's close enough to average that even a little improvement makes him, if not part of the solution, then at least not part of the problem. And lord, do we have problems.

Rob: Right, and at 26 he's just about to become the best player that he's going to be. He deserves 400 plate appearances, which leaves 250 for the other guy . . . but how can you spend $3-$4 million on the other guy? I don't get it. This reminds me of Allard Baird routinely blowing middle seven figures on players who have absolutely no chance of being around when the Royals are ready to win. I've spend so many months figuring Moore has the franchise on the right track, I want to assume he knows what he's doing. But I just can't figure this one out.

So the nightmare scenario with LaRue is this then: in some alternate universe this is the year that John Buck hits .270/.325/.490 and becomes valuable, but because in our universe the French Cowboy is around, Buck hits his standard .240/.300/.390 in split time with LaRue, who similarly doesn't return to form.

In the nightmare scenario then, the Royals have simply spent money to stand in place and also hampered the growth of a quasi-useful, semi-cheap John Buck.

But again, the nightmare presumes that a happy alternative with Buck is possible. Look at his career numbers, he's damn near been identical for three seasons, and he is already 26. If anything, LaRue might spare us the indignity of those awful Berroa-Buck-Gathright innings that usually lasted about 10 pitches. However, while rumblings of interest persist for a pickup like Craig Counsell, given the Royals' stated affinity for Berroa, that plan remains less possible. We've completely turned the corner in terms of Berroa coverage by the way. It took two years for people to be openly critical of him in the mainstream, but this has been followed up by the counter-revolution, which has gone too far to defend him. Such as:

Last season was his poorest since winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003. He hit just .234 and really scuffled in the second half. Though he had a career-low 18 errors, his concentration level sometimes seemed to lapse. Berroa, on a team that lost 100 games, became the fans' favorite whipping boy.

"Everybody has to have a target," Silverio said. "Like A-Rod in New York."

Returning to LaRue, all in all, what does it matter? Yes, its incredibly stupid that the Royals essentially do this every year: sign a few random guys to display their willingness to sign a few random guys. But as long as the signings/money don't preclude real actions at some imagined point in the future (current year+2 is the standard formula since 1994) then it really doesn't matter. Considering we've never really seen that future point, its all utterly speculative. And, since it isn't my money, who am I to care?

Plus, guys like Knobby and Dougie and "All Star Mark Redman" taught the Royals how to win, and how to be men.