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Could 2011 Be Yuniesky Betancourt's Last Year With the Royals?

Yuniesky Betancourt's "breakout" year in 2010 took some heat off of the embattled Royals shortstop. I mean, anytime you get a .288 OBP out of a guy over 588 PAs, with horrible defense, you take it. No questions asked. And with a monstrous .400 slugging percentage fueled by a career spike in HR/FB %, you've got a true cornerstone.

Nevertheless, might 2011 be the final year Yuni-bomb spends with the Royals?

Betancourt is set to earn $4 million in 2011, which the Royals will no doubt happily pay. However, for 2012, the Royals hold a club option. They can either let Betancourt go, and pay a $2 million buyout, or bring him back in the doomsday/mythical year of contention for $6 million. In the past few seasons the Royals have been relatively stingy when it comes to bringing back players (more money for Farnsworths, Kendalls, Ankiels, etc.) so it might not be a lock that they bring back Yuni for $6 million. On the other hand, they'll have to pay him $2 million to part ways, so it's hard to say in what direction the cheapness might cut.

The other issue is whether or not the Royals can replace Yuni by 2012. Now, in reality, no-hit/all-field shortstops aren't hard to find, as evidenced by the Tony Pena Jr./Berroa trade. So that is certainly an option. However, the big question is whether or not Christian Colon, the 4th pick in the 2010 Draft, will be ready by 2012. Colon will be 23 in '12, which places him right on the cusp of being ready, on a generally optimistic timeframe. Quite obviously, Colon's performance in '11 will say much about whether the Royals might be ready to part ways with Yuni "he's done everything we've asked of him" Betancourt.

Aside from Colon, it's difficult to see a clear Yuni-heir. Omaha (the boring, non-hyped, generally non-interesting Royal farm team) primarily featured Irving Falu at SS. Falu is already 27 and has a 0.1 on the 10 point Royals prospects drool scale. At AA NWA, the shortstop of most use, was Chris McConnell. McConnell posted a .670 OPS, in his second year at AA, at the age of 24. So, there's really not more to say about him. (Actually there is. He's not even in the org anymore.) There's also Jeff Bianchi in the discussion, I guess, maybe Johnny Giavotella too, though both those guys are seemingly already 2Bs. After that, we're generally talking about players that are probably too young to be ready for 2012.

I began this post trying to talk myself into a Yuni-free 2012, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. That being said, Dayton Moore is one of the toughest GMs to predict in the game. Just look at the way shortstop has played out. We all thought Moore was an idiot for sticking with Berroa, until he traded for TPJ prior to the 2007 season. Then, Moore seemingly rode TPJ for a season past his expiration date, with no end in sight, before the Royals finally went in an Aviles-direction. When injuries took Aviles out of the equation, after experiencing a number of awesome alternatives, we began the Betancourt era. So who knows.