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Al Central Roundtable Preview Part III: Kansas City Royals

We continue our roundtable discussion of America's Favorite Division this Sunday morning with some thoughts on our beloved Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City Royals

Marc Normandin of Beyond the Box Score: The Royals spent roughly $22 million on free agents this winter. Rate a few of these moves from 1-5 (1 being helpful, 5 being unhelpful) and give an explanation of what you would have done, had you been in the situation yourself as Royals G.M.

Will of Royals Review: Well, I've been repeating this caveat all winter, but I'm not sure Allard Baird is fully behind alot of these moves. They just seem like a really lame version of Steinbrenner or something, only the goal isn't winning but just appearing to make an effort. The Elarton and Redman pickups are solid 2 or 3s however, solid, decent, helpful moves. Elmer Dessens and Joe Mays are OK, as long as they aren't actually used that much, which kinda tells you all you need to know. As for Sanders, Grudz and Minky. Umm. Yea. I think Grudz is a nice enough move, maybe a 2 in the best case scenario. I dred the next two seasons of Reggie Sanders and Doug Mientkiewicz. In the best case scenario these are moves that merely don't hurt you. Sorry, but I just don't get hot and bothered over defensive first basemen. I expect about 100 games of .270/.310/.460 Reggie Sanders, which is basically in line with his PECOTA projection. Plus, he has approximately a 60% collapse rate. If I was GM? I would have held a press conference saying I'm saving money for `07 and `08, and that Greinke will make 20 starts, never topping 100 pitches. Its hard to make so many moves and not improve a 106 loss team, but we're coming close in Kansas City.

Jesse of Twinkietown: Having firsthand knowledge of Mays (3) and Dougie Baseball (4), let me just say Will...good luck. Mays isn't a bad guy at the bottom of the rotation, and ideally Minky is a defensive replacement who doesn't have to bat that often. He batted .300 in 2001 and 2003, but I'm not sure where that ability went. I think he was simply figured out. Overall I agree with you on the type of moves the Royals made. They weren't moves to necessarily make you better as much as they were to keep the constantly evolving AA lineup out of the majors. Grudzu (2) I'm not opposed to, he'd be a nice pick-up if there were something bigger to match him with. Reggie Sanders (3) isn't it. Reg should give a few flash games, but overall he's past his hay-day and his stat line will show that. Dessens (3), Elarton (3) and Redman (2) aren't great, but they're better than any other options the Royals have. On the positive side for the Royals: Greinke, Teahan, Butler, Sweeney, Sisco, DeJesus...there are good things going on. There just need to be one major overhaul. How that overhaul occurs and what exactly happens with that overhaul, you're a better expert, Will, than any of us.

Jay of Let's Go Tribe: I think the Royals have gotten a bit of a bum rap for their offseason moves. There is something to be said for putting a halfway decent product on the field for your customers. There is also something to be said for providing a reasonable defense for your young pitchers to develop in front of - I think they are justifiably concerned with how Greinke completely lost his focus. It is worrisome that they are allowing these moves to block one or two nice young players they have coming up, but none of these deals are long-term. The Royals won't be re-made in a day, and it isn't reasonable to expect them to field a 100-loss team every year until their new core is in place ... which might be quite a ways in the future.

The Cheat: I agree with Jay. While the moves the Royals made aren't going to make them much more competitive, they do, at the very least, give the more casual fans the impression that the front office is trying. They might have been better served in the long term if they got rid of Sweeney and his contract in exchange for some young impact players, but I doubt the club would be able to draw flies at Kaufman without the face of the organization anymore. I feel that the front office was pressured to use the money they recieved from the revenue sharing program, with MLB threatening to cut off future such payments if the money wasn't used in a certain time frame. Perhaps I've grown too accustomed to wearing my tin foil hat, but the Royals and Pirates off-seasons smelled like they were being run by someone even higher up the food chain than Baird and Littlefield.

Mark of Bless You Boys: I guess you could compare the moves the Royals made this offseason to what the Tigers did prior to 2004. After losing 119 the Tigers signed Fernando Vina and Rondell White. While these weren't moves that put the team over the top in any way, it did give Tigers fans the impression that A) The front office is putting some sort of effort in and B) That some free agents will actually sign in Detroit, even after the disastrous campaign. While the Royals were not as bad the 2003 Tigers last year, this still is a confidence boost and interest spark over all for the franchise.

Jesse of Twinkietown: Yes, it gives the impression the front office is trying to field a competetive team, but there's a major difference between giving the impression and actually doing it. No, they aren't zero-positive moves, but they remind me a lot of what the Twins tried to do in the mid-90's, when they brought in players like Terry Steinbach, Roberto Kelly, Dave Hollins, Paul Molitor, Bob Tewksbury and something named Butch Husky. Some of these guys still had something to give, and spending to keep yourself from getting worse is better than doing nothing, but the tried-and-failed moves of the Twins in the mid 90's are swaying me on this one.

Will of Royals Review: Those mid-90s Twins team are a nice comp, especially considering the moves and young players from that era ended up never getting to a .500 record. (Although I guess Radke and Lawton came out of that period and eventually saw success.) In fact, its those teams from the Stahoviak-Rich Becker-Pat Meares-era that haunt me as I listen to Royals fans blindly calling for a youth movement as a guaranteed panacea. And of course, regarding the `04 Tigers, I'm not sure all the new Royals players add up to the advantage a good season from Pudge provides.

Beyond the Box Score: Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are two of the most well known hitting prospects in the minor leagues, Gordon due to his high draft status and Butler due to his actual professional performance. Give your outlook on their careers with the Royals, as far as major league debut, position, and statistical lines go.

Will of Royals Review: I think Gordon debuts this season, simply because the Royals have established that they don't trust their minor league system to perform any useful function. Plus, we've gotta get his arb-clock started PRONTO. I'll defer to Sickels here, who rates Gordon a A prospect and Butler a B+. Gordon can't be mentioned without someone bringing up Rolen, so I'll throw that out there. Of course, both will spend their peak and post-peak years outside Kansas City, although Butler may go Beltran and actually decline shortly after leaving.

Jesse of Twinkietown: My question is what happens to Teahan when you bring in Gordon? I could be mistaken, but I was under the impression that Teahan was the 3B of the future for Kansas City. But things do change. With Gordon there's so much potential upside, however, that you can't block him just because an ex-prospect might show something. Regardless, from what I'd read on Gordon, I'd be surprised to see him getting much more than a September callup in 2006. I'd be on the lookout for him in 2007 for sure. I wouldn't expect him to start putting up numbers worthy of note until 2008. With Butler, who has the chance to be a great hitter and has destroyed minor league pitching thus far, he's only 20 this season. I can see Kansas City trying to rush him into the lineup, but it probably shouldn't happen until at least 2007. Even then I don't expect to see his name on the opening day roster.

Will of Royals Review: Because Teahan a product of the Beltran trading summer, the organization's been fairly wedded to him. Granted, he's horrible at the plate and doesn't appear to have a very high ceiling; but he's also personable and vaguely good with the glove, insuring his chance at 1000 at bats to prove his worth. Unlike the 100 given to Calvin Pickering. Obviously Gordon has about a 95% chance to be a better player, but I wouldn't put it past the Royals to screw this up someway, namely making Teahan and even more below-average player by sending him to the outfield or somesuch.

Beyond the Box Score: What happened to Zach Greinke in 2005? Can he break out of his funk in 2006 to put up quality numbers for the Royals?

Will of Royals Review: He's a flyball pitcher with a modest K-rate that skews toward low for long stretches. The recieved wisdom seems to be that he was overrated a tad. The scary thing is, he seems so polished and so mature that its hard to really imagine him getting better. Runelyvs Hernandez on the other hand is fat and fairly raw, so theres a fantasy scenario in which he becomes awesome. Weirdly, I don't see that for Greinke anymore. That being said, he'll likely improve on 2005's numbers. I'd bet a month's rent that he starts strong, has a slightly fluky 3.70 ERA in late May, and then breaks down and goes on the DL for the rest of the year. When was the last time a pitcher survived his early 20s injury free?

Jesse of Twinkietown: Outside of Royal Country, I'm obviously not privy to what Will says about Greinke. I was under the impression he just had a bad season. He's young, he has stuff, and I believed he could bounce back strong. I still believe he can. He's only 22, and as long as management doesn't work his arm to amputation, he should get better. Of course I believed this about Luis Rivas, who is what he is, but Zach showed too much promise for me to give up on hima already.

Will of Royals Review: Greinke's found a way to top all the negativity I've already spewed, over the weekend its been revealed that he's left Spring Training and headed home to Florida for unknown reasons. Bell and Baird will only say that it isn't drug-related and that they support him. No one knows when he'll be back. This is almost like the Rick Pitino story a few years ago... Umm, so is he gonna be gone for three days or three months?? Just totally bizarre. Theres alot of grumbling that dude a) doesn't really like baseball and b) doesn't like Buddy Bell.

The Cheat: Look like part of that will depend on why Greinke left camp.

Jesse of Twinkietown: I read yesterday from the Royals that Greinke left camp because of "ongoing emotions issues" and "personal matters". If what I read from the KC blogs is any indication, this is a load of crap. It sounds more like they're trying to cover up for Bell's incompetence as he tried to send Greinke to AAA to begin the season. Not only would sending Greinke to AAA not help him, but the Royals don't exactly have anyone else to fill his shoes.

Will of Royals Review: Its really an incomprehensible situation: No one really knows what has happened or why, and the prevailing rumor (player-management clash) reflects horribly on both parties. I know we're all supposed to (as fans) be lock-step player-haters and front office supporters post-TO, but I'll take alienating Buddisimo Bell over alienating the team's best pitching prospect in 20 years anyday. Still, this is shades of the Jimmy Johnson-Jerry Jones split after the Cowboys second Super Bowl... Well, except for the obvious lack of success the Royals have had.