To our surprise, Dayton Moore has had an active autumn, making two out of the blue trades that have exclusively involved Major League players. Moreover, Dayton's immortal "pitching is the currency of baseball" line has rung true, with both Mike Jacobs and now Coco Crisp paid for with bullpen arms. There's even a similar element regarding taking on salary. While the Jacobs trade was a non-solution to a non-problem, on balance the Crisp pickup looks more like a half-solution to, perhaps, a half problem. The currency paid for these two players was not high, but it wasn't insignificant either, and when its mid-June and the Royals send, say, Jeff Fulchino out to keep a 4-2 game close, we should remember these trades.
Reading the hundreds of comments yesterday, like many of you, my initial reaction was a painful realization of the loss of Ramon Ramirez: probably the best relief pitcher the Royals have had this decade, in the non-Soria division. As the hours passed, and completely rational arguments about the fungibility of relievers poured in, as well as some less than super-optimistic projections for Ram-Ram we're thrown around however, it didn't look so bad. For the past year I've argued that if Dayton truly has an ability to find arms anywhere, then he needs to leverage that talent. With the Nunez and Ramirez swaps, he looks like he's trying to do just that. Ramirez wasn't likely an easy player for Moore to let go of either, and I applaud his willingness to move one of his shinest acquisitions. I'll miss Ramirez -- who always reminded me of the Wallace Stevens poem "The Idea of Order at Key West" -- but hopefully, there will always be more Ramirezes to fall for.
So, with this trade in mind, we can really see a clear modus operandi developing from the Moore camp. And as Kahrl pointed out on BP yesterday, Ramon Ramirez was, essentially, originally Tony Graffanino, so in effect, the Royals acquired a starting centerfielder for a utility player, which is certainly yummy. Its trades like this that have got the Royals to where they are and give us hope for the future. While the method was strong, however, I can't help but think that the motivation, nevertheless, remains questionable. As with the Jacobs trade, I don't think that you can view this trade in a wholly positive light, given Dayton's idiosyncratic approach to team-building.
One of the biggest takeaways of this trade is that Dayton Moore does not view David DeJesus as the team's proper centerfielder, a direction the team has been moving in since the earliest days of the Moore regime. As you will recall, Moore's first trade was the Gathright-Howell exchange. This is a half-problem, at worst. Although DeJesus's glove might be slightly below average, there's no evidence that it's really a major problem. Instead, DeJesus just doesn't fit Moore's retrograde template: he wants a true speed-demon with a sterling reputation in center. Defense matters to Moore, at three or four positions, just like OBP matters to him at three or four lineup spots. Nevermind that DDJ's offense goes from asset to problematic by shifting him to a corner. The Royals have now made two major trades (Howell and Ramirez are legitimate big league arms with talent) to address a fairly cosmetic issue.
Where are we going to have that parade again, Dayton?
As for Crisp, it must be said that he's a nice player and probably the third or fourth best position player on the Royals now. He's an upgrade over DeJesus in center and a better player than Gathright or Maier. As a group, Royal CFs hit unbelievably horrible last season. Like, TPJ (well, good TPJ) bad: .268/.316/.322. We'll have to wait and see, but there might even be something to be gained by letting DDJ bat at a lower-pressure defensive spot as well, as he hit terribly as a CF last season, posting a .279/.326/.386 line. And that kind of performance just isn't acceptable, even in center-field...
Only, .279/.326/.386 isn't far removed from what Coco Crisp has managed the last three seasons. At the end of the 2005 season, his last in Cleveland, Coco was a career .287/.329/.424 hitter. Maybe it was injuries, maybe it was a loss of playing time, maybe it was the Boston cold, but he has preceded to spend his peak-age seasons failing to match that production. For all the emotional ups and downs, he was a remarkably consistent carmine (to use a Hawkism for the Red Sox):
Clearly, David DeJesus and his career .287/.360/.422 line wasn't good enough.
You can see a very gradual comeback, but the heights of his Cleveland days are gone forever. The power, especially against right-handed pitchers (unfortunately the majority these days) is gone. To be fair, Crisp hit well against lefties last season, even slugging .474. The Hillman regime however, has a pretty weak record regarding platoon splits however, so its doubtful this edge will be maximized, and I suspect in full-time duty, his numbers will drop from 2008.
So absent other trades, it looks like the Royals are planning on a DeJesus-Crisp-Guillen outfield. Ah, Jose Guillen, the gift that keeps on giving. The outfield defense should be slightly above average, but only just so with perhaps the worst regular in the game patrolling the Guillen-Zone. Then there's the offense, which will need a) another mini-peak season from DDJ b) a bounceback from Crisp and c) a bounceback from Josey to be a positive factor for the Royals.
That seems like a lot to ask for simply because David DeJesus doesn't look like Dayton's idea of a centerfielder.