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Royals have least "stimulating off-season" in baseball

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The Royals will miss out on a chance to raise the "most stimulating off-season flag" this winter. Guess we'll have to settle for an American League Championship flag instead.

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off going to the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the World Series, it's time to get  a Royals evaluation, from ESPN's David Schoenfield:

"The final word: No team had a less stimulating offseason than the Royals"

Oh.

Stimulating offseasons usually go to teams fresh off of another 77-85 season as opposed to teams that are coming off of a playoff run. I guess Baltimore had a stimulating offseason of signing Nolan Reimold and J.P. Arencibia while stimulating their injured players back to health, but...go on.

"They lost Shields and replaced him with Volquez, who was worth 2.5 WAR for the Pirates last year but minus-2.5 WAR from 2010 through 2013"

That's Baseball-Reference WAR, BTW. At least David isn't using Fangraphs-WAR. Schoenfield could have said that Volquez was worth -2.5 WAR in just 2013 alone. But adding the three middling seasons pre-2013 make it seem like a  larger sample size of suck for Volquez. Sorta like padding a college paper or a Royals Review post. But yes, Volquez essentially being replaced by Shields is a minus. The people arguing that it's a wash either love Volquez, love the organization, or hate Shields for the postseason. Go on.

"They lost fan favorite Butler because they didn't want to pick up his $12.5 million option but then signed Morales -- who was even worse than Butler in 2014 -- for $17 million over two years."

So wait a minute... Kendrys Morales was worth minus-1.0 WAR last year, but Morales' netted 4.9 WAR in 2012/2013, compared to 5.3 for Butler in 2012/2013. Volquez has a hard-to-repeat good year after bad years, Morales has a hard-to-repeat bad year after good years in 2012/2013. The same standard may not have been applied here. Also, Billy Butler is a fan favorite, but not a "$30M over 3 years fan favorite." It's not like he got a discounted deal on a flier. So...go on.

"They lost Aoki but signed Rios -- who was awful in 2014"

Pretty drastic drop off from Aoki's 1.0 WAR to Alex Rios' 0.6 WAR. The "one year sample size" inconsistencies have already been covered. I'm pretty sure if Nori Aoki had never played for the Royals and was signed to Kansas City this past off-season, the response would be "Nori Aoki was awful in 2014, c'monnnnnn". If Kansas City re-signed Aoki, the final word would involve "bringing back Nori Aoki? that's not stimulating". Just. Can't. Win. Sometimes.

"Is this any way to follow up your first playoff trip in 29 years? Shame on you, David Glass."

Guess Glass shoulda sent in ninjas to force the big moves. Maybe shoulda went Goldfinger to force Max Scherzer to sign. Maybe Jon Lester could have been turned into a Manchurian Candidate. Maybe Hanley Ramirez could be indoctrinated into playing right field Clockwork Orange style. In a column segment concluded by blasting the team ownership for not posting a stimulating offseason, the team's general manager was mentioned zero times. Maybe Dayton is just a pawn in the game of life.

From what I can tell from the rankings of other teams in the Royals neighborhood, doing lots of stimulating things is good enough to get projected to win a lot more games and get a ranking and high expectations for the next season, even if the nucleus of the team just finished with 70-75 wins.

The Padres get to be #16 after stimulating their team with 50 shades of moves during the offseason. AJ Prellar's desires are unconventional, they involve making trades constantly.

The Astros are #15, in line to improve by 13 games thru a combination of various hyped prospects playing a full year and the additions of Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus replacing Dexter Fowler, and various "name" bullpen guys.

The Cubs are #13. After finishing 73-89 in 2014. So Dexter Fowler went from the AL's emerging team to the NL's emerging team. Also, various moves, and intriguing prospects. And Back to the Future 2 said. So, that's good for 11 more wins.

In comparison to the trinity of the Padres having to acquire all the outfielders, the Astros acquiring some pieces to accompany various young players, or the Cubs having various prospects together with Jon Lester and the zany leader of men Joe Maddon... a team that really only has to make 3 moves seems pretty boring by comparison to a team led by a Preller or a Ludnow or a Theo's GM Jed Hoyer.

It's just a lot more exciting to talk about the new stuff, than the development or regression of the pieces in place right now. I'm sure there's more exciting free agent signings to write about than Alex Rios. But lets apply reason and logic to at least a portion of this topic.

When it comes to stimulating offseason moves in Kansas City for 2015. How strong was a market for stimulating moves when you have just 4 holes out of 14 possibilities (holes at DH/RF/3B/1 starter, out of 9 batters/5 starters)? The foundation of a "make stimulating moves" argument towards Kansas City essentially is a "say you didn't really deserve to make the playoffs or World Series" kind of approach.

The management of this team has confidence in their guys, some of which has paid off, and some of which hasn't. There's a lot of stability at various positions in Kansas City or in the case of some positions, there's constancy. It's less stimulating to reelect the incumbents.

But i've seen teams that had to make moves constantly because they had obvious flaws (such as constantly employing really bad baseball players). There's something to be said for having enough guys that a Yuniesky Betancourt isn't a starting player or that a Jeff Francis isn't starting every 5th day. Having Mike Moustakas and Omar Infante battling it out to not be the least valuable starting player? Could be worse!

As for areas of value for 2015: Holland's bWAR dropped from 2013 to 2014 while part of HDH. Herrera's 2014 value was similar to his 2012 value. Davis/Herrera dropping a tad could be softened if Hochevar is a plus contributor in 2015 similar to his 2013 value. Not to mention that the 2014 KC bullpen, as a total unit, was worse in 2014 than 2013 (thanks middle relievers!).

And position players. Five position players (Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon) are probably gonna be worth around the same in 2015 as 2014. I'm not penciling any of them in for a drastic surge or drop in value but it could happen randomly. Lorenzo Cain & Alcides Escobar have some reasonable question marks entirely from the offensive side of their value soaring from 2013 to 2014. Escobar's value as a hitter bounces around randomly. Cain as a hitter could go either way. As for Morales/Rios v. Butler/Aoki? probably not gonna see a dramatic difference either way.

In regards to the 2015 Royals, Here's a likely truth to remember.

The most questionable part of the 2015 Royals formula is going to be the starting pitching. Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas have their flaws (you noticed?), Volquez is probably going to return to his pre-2014 form, and as young pitchers, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura could retain their form, or get worse, or get hurt, or all of that, because they're young. The difference between 2014 and 2015 is gonna involve the starting pitching as a unit more than the differences at 3 spots. Duffy/Ventura/Vargas/Guthrie combined for 10.2 bWAR in 2014. Might be a bit different in 2015.

The fate of the 2015 Royals is going to be tied to the performance of starting pitching. That'll be the big factor here. Good starting pitching means games won. Mediocre starting pitching means bad times. Morales/Rios/Volquez compared to Butler/Aoki/Shields isn't sinking the team by itself. It's gonna be on the starting pitching. The defense can only catch so many balls in 2015.

The way some write about Dayton Moore is more like how opinion columnists write about figures in a political party. Moore has his flaws and i'm not a fanatic for him, but he didn't just blind-luck his way into having a team that won games. He did make moves that made a team more likely to win games than other teams of his through the years. He eventually sealed up obvious holes in starting pitching, sometimes for cheap and sometimes high profile.

Maybe it's just harder to hit a talking point on management if the starting pitching is emphasized over the free agent moves. Everything is up to date in Kansas City, and the talking points of national columnists should attempt to become up to date by finding new preconceived notions to emphasize in regards to this team in 2015. Hahaha, nah, that's not happening.

Imagine how much the Royals would be spending if David Glass weren't so cheap and villainy.