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How the Royals screwed up the Mike Moustakas demotion

The Royals hemmed and hawed for two weeks, and it possibly cost them wins and a player.

Ed Zurga

Mike Moustakas has finally been demoted to the minors, much to the relief of most Royals fans, but it was a move many saw as long overdue. The Star's Andy McCullough (who has done a terrific job this year geting inside information) reported yesterday that the Royals "had contemplated this move for at least two weeks." Let's take a look at what has happened the last two weeks:

  • The Royals went 7-5. Three of those losses were by one run.
  • Mike Moustakas started just seven of those games.
  • Mike Moustakas hit .174/.240./348 in 25 plate appearances over that time.
  • The Royals made the following transactions:

May 9 - Johnny Giavotella recalled, Michael Mariot sent down

Omar Infante had suffered a back injury that kept him out day-to-day. Rather than play Danny Valencia at second base, the club opted to bring up Giavotella to start there. The Royals felt they could go with a six-man pen for the time being. Makes sense.

May 13 - Omar Infante placed on the 15 day disabled list, Pedro Ciriaco recalled

Infante was hurt worse than expected, so he landed on the disabled list and Ciriaco gave the Royals a legitimate reserve middle infielder. Makes sense.

May 16 - Justin Maxwell designated for assignment, Casey Coleman promoted

Okay, this is the puzzler. The Royals felt they needed to go back to a seven-man bullpen. And while I don't think Coleman was the best choice, its splitting hairs. The real puzzler is, why was Mike Moustakas kept around at this point? He was already in a platoon situation, with Valencia having started three of the four games prior to this day, all against lefties. The team was carrying two third basemen (Valencia and Moustakas) AND two second basemen (Giavotella and Ciriaco). So rather than keep Justin Maxwell, a nice fourth outfielder with some pop, they decided to keep Moustakas in the big leagues another week? I realize Maxwell was struggling, but he only gets 29 plate appearances while Moustakas gets 139?

May 20 - Francisco Pena promoted, Johnny Giavotella sent down

Pena was brought up to serve as a third catcher while Salvador Perez was day-to-day with injury. Demoting Giavotella left the Royals with no true reserve middle infielder, making it more puzzling they designated Maxwell for assignment on the 16th. If they could survive with no true reserve middle infielder on the 20th, why didn't they demote Giavotella to make room for Coleman on the 16th rather than lose Maxwell?

May 22 - Mike Moustakas demoted, Jimmy Paredes recalled

And here it is, Moustakas is finally demoted. Paredes can serve as the reserve infielder (and outfield as well), but he's nowhere near the offensive player Justin Maxwell is. And this is a team starving for offense. If the club felt it needed a reserve infielder at this point, and it still had Maxwell on the roster, going back to a six-man bullpen should have been a viable option after Guthrie's performance on Wednesday and an off day Thursday, with the club going back to a seven-man pen when Salvador Perez returns and Pena can be demoted.

The roster management at play here is truly mind-boggling. Unless they saw something in Maxwell they found unfixable, or we later find out that Maxwell is responsible for half the unsolved crimes in Kansas City, designating him for assignment to give Moustakas another week seems incredibly short-sighted and foolish.

The truth is likely that the Royals knew they had a problem but couldn't pull the trigger. Rather than demote Moustakas, or give him a full-time chance to sink or swim, they half-heartedly put him in a platoon situation, giving him an extra 25 plate appearances (which we learned...what from exactly?) to prove he is completely lost this season.

This indecisiveness led to two weeks of Moustakas on the defensive, answering questions from the media about a potential demotion after rumors of a discussed demotion were leaked to the press. It could not have helped Moustakas' confidence to hear the fanbase irate he was not playing for Omaha. And to top it off, we lost a useful player like Justin Maxwell. This part of the process is awfully hard to trust.