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Happy to Be Stuck With You?

Finally, not that you asked, but here's my Official Royals Review Trade Deadline Prediction Proclamation: Mahay, Grudzielanek and one stunner/out-of-nowhere guy (i.e. not Olivo) get shipped.

-Trading Deadline Extravaganza Open Thread

So much for that.

For weeks I'd been warming to the idea that Dayton might pull of a massive, franchise-altering (or so it would seem) move, in size and scope, something along the lines of Teahen, Olivo, DeJesus and a B prospect to San Diego for Cla Meredith, Paul McAnulty, a C prospect, and Brian Giles's expiring contract. As someone who devotes a large portion of their time writing about the same things, a trade like that would have been a boon for Royals Review, both in terms of my own enjoyment and in site traffic and activity, the sort of mega-deal that goes from looking brilliant to idiotic and back three or four times a year. Obviously, that didn't happen, and may never. We still know very little about Moore as a General Manager, and while he made a flurry of moves during his first year in charge, that culling was to be expected for a variety of reasons.

What wasn't expected, by this uninformed outsider -- does anything like the trade deadline expose our desperate ignorance and related desire to know more? -- or anyone else was that not a single trade would be made. Not one. Considering for a moment Dayton's memorable, though potential apocryphal dictum that pitching is the currency of baseball, it was stunning and bizarre to watch essentially an entire industry end up in the same position as the Royals: standing still. Pitching currency, perhaps, like the real thing, rests on a paradox: its only valuable if you're willing to part with it. Baseball is in a weird place right now: teams continue to spend millions each off-season on free agents while simultaneously  valuing, perhaps over-valuing, their prospects and the dream of cheap labor. None of the moves this weekend, aside from most notably and most tellingly Ned Colletti's involvement in the Manny trade, was a pure veteran-for-prospects deal. If this dynamic holds, we may be in for a string of very boring deadlines. Unless a team is stupid or stacked (like the B

Returning to the boys in blue, it's impossible to know what offers Dayton pushed and what offers he eventually turned down when discussing, most obviously but not limited to, the man of the hour Ron Mahay. In something like the inverse of finding out about an unexpected pregnancy, all we know for certain in this case is that nothing happened. The significant caveats of ignorance aside, Dayton deserves at least mild criticism for failing to move some combination of Mahay, Nunez or even Ramon Ramirez. Reliever performance is extremely variable, potentially even inherently so, and in not selling high on the trio mentioned above, Dayton made an implicit bet that, for his guys at least, that won't be the case. Sadly, just looking around our own division, from the ever-changing fortunes of Juan Rincon, Rafael Betancourt, Jimmy Gobble, Joel Peralta, LaTroy Hawkins, Andy Sisco, Shingo Takautsu and on and on, we can see that it is.

Crucially, if Dayton is truly adept at putting together a bullpen, then he needs to fully leverage that skill rather than doing it once and standing still. Trade Ramon Ramirez now, then find the next version, along with another asset in your pocket. It would be an ironic, although not uncommon, bit of professional failure if Dayton merely turned his initial finds into fixed, high-priced known commodities. A case can be made that Nunez and Ramirez are too cheap to part with lightly and that they will be so for years to come. As for Mahay, unless the Royals think they desperately need him for 2009, it remains very difficult to see the point.

The hesitance to flip any of his relievers relates to another concern going forward: the roster isn't near good enough to see so little movement. Joey Gathright should have either been traded or offered an assignment to Omaha a year ago, for example. Not only that, but Moore has also voluntarily extended the Royal legacies of, most infamously, Ross Gload and Mark Grudzielanek. We've talked enough about Gload in the past few days, but we've long been resigned to his inexorable presence. Grudzielanek, on the other hand, has now been trade bait/trade rumor bair for three straight seasons, a staggering number. As a player, in the present tense, Grudzielanek isn't really a problem: he's hit .300/.340/.413 as a Royal with good defense and a mediocre health record. That line doesn't kill you at second base, but it also isn't pushing the Royals closer to contention. Essentially, its one spot in lineup where they aren't losing ground, which is an unsatisfying form of victory. Weirdly, he's "developed" into the team's #3 hitter, which, much as if I was named the best looking guy at a party, says more about his manager and his teammates than it does about him. Grudz is a hard-player to really get excited about as a fan: there is no positive arch here, either for him or the franchise. The ultimate stopgap. Watching Mark Grudzielanek is like wasting two hours watching Daylight on USA on a Saturday afternoon. Well, at least you weren't asleep.

Grudz is a batting average and doubles guy with no speed at this point in his very well-compensated life, and maybe that just isn't good enough anymore. Still, it's difficult to see him as much different than Ray Durham, who fetched cash and two minor leaguers from the Brewers. When Grudz signed with the Royals in December of 2005, did anyone, anyone think that he'd still be a Royal on August 1, 2008? 2008! After skipping from LA to Chicago to St. Louis (talk about a steady decline) it looked like Grudz had fully entered the Reggie Sanders/Greg Maddux postion of his career, only that never happened. By the time this season ends, he'll likely be north of 350 games played as a Royal, a significant number in his career history and the history of the franchise.

Mark Grudzielanek's Career

Team Games Played
1995-98 Expos 492
1998-02 Dodgers 585
2003-04 Cubs 202
2005 Cardinals 137
2006-08 Royals 335

And so, here we are. Mahay now, Nunez now, Grudzielanek now, Teahen now, Olivo now. Bannister now, Davies now.

If Joakim Soria, the eternal waiting for the Gordon/Butler breakout, and the days when Greinke starts aren't enough for you after 109 games, we do have one fascinating new thing to enjoy.

The final two months of the MItch Maier Era.