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Friday Notes - January 3, 2020

We’re closer to the start of 2050 than to the start of 1990 and that fact is upsetting enough.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins
Aug 4, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Richard Lovelady (55) delivers a pitch during the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Ben Ludeman
Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

New Year’s resolutions are a funny thing because they’ve become such a cliche that I think they’re made fun of more than anything, but it really is a good time to take stock and try to figure out what can make you better as a person. A few years ago, I realized I was living and dying way too much from what the Royals were doing every day and made a resolution to not let something I have zero control over impact my life. Of course, that was a resolution I made on baseball new year’s day, but still, it was made. I’m not sure I’ve actually accomplished that goal, but it’s a worthwhile one. I think it also helps a great deal when the expectations are as low as they have been. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in things when the team is supposed to be good and it’s much easier to detach when they’re not. Which, I guess is good news because, friends, they’re not expected to be good in 2020.

  • The White Sox just gave out a six-year deal to outfield prospect Luis Robert that can become an eight-year deal worth as much as $88 million. These deals are always fascinating to me just because it’s such an interesting maneuver to give that kind of money to a player who has never seen a single big league pitch and now the White Sox have done it two years in a row. That deal in particular means that Robert isn’t going to be subject to any service time manipulation after hitting .328/.376/.624 across three levels. There’s reason to be concerned due to his walk rate, sitting at just 5.1 percent, but this is a pretty tame risk for a player who many believe has MVP talent. So it makes me wonder who the Royals might consider doing this with or a player you maybe wish they would have in the past. The best candidate of the last decade is probably Eric Hosmer, who made a bit under $31 million in his time with the Royals. Giving out a long-term deal to him would have been a mistake. You probably wouldn’t do it with any pitcher, pretty much no matter what. So the other candidates would be Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers and going back farther, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. I’m not sure if this shows the small but not insignificant risk in these types of deals or highlights the Royals inability to get the most out of their prospects, but it’s definitely possibly one of those two. And, for what it’s worth, the two prospects currently in the system who you could argue would be in line for this are Bobby Witt, Jr. and Erick Pena. But we don’t need to even think about that conversation for awhile.
  • When I started typing this, I had planned to write about how I’m a little surprised the Royals haven’t signed a single free agent starting pitcher, but as I was thinking about it, I don’t think it’s that surprising at all. Part of it is that so many players are off the board that, relative to the last couple years, it seems like we’re much further along in the offseason. In reality, it’s just January 3rd. They didn’t bring Alex Gordon back into the fold until January 6th in 2016. Ian Kennedy wasn’t signed until 23 days after that. Last year, the two biggest deals didn’t get signed until February. I still believe that, even with the Chance Adams acquisition, they will bring in a free agent to compete for a starting spot. If you’re looking for veterans, there’s still plenty out there. Jhoulys Chacin is coming off a bad year, but he was solid the two years before that. Edwin Jackson hasn’t pitched for the Royals yet, so it’s only a matter of time for that in his quest to play for everyone. Ivan Nova seems like a prime target if he’s still sitting out there in a few weeks given how good his control is. Maybe they’ll even take back an old friend in Jason Vargas. And I’ve been saying for over a year that Alex Wood is a potential target, sort of in the way Mike Minor was signed, though not entirely since Wood has actually pitched recently. Still, my guess is a free agent starter gets signed sometime before spring training or not too deep into the spring and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be lucky enough for that to be the end of the Eric Skoglund era.
  • I know that Richard Lovelady is a hot button topic around these parts, but when perusing the Statcast leaderboards, which is something I do for fun (I’m a nerd, what did you expect?), I noticed that he actually was pretty impressive in a lot of ways that the raw stats didn’t show in his brief time in the big leagues. He allowed just one barrel out of 70 batted ball events. Opponents hit the ball on the sweet spot against him just 34.3 percent of the time, whcih ranked 277th and was in line with Ken Giles and Charlie Morton. The hard hit rate he allowed was just 32.9 percent, which ranked 461st in baseball. So Lovelady featured some excellent results on batted balls while allowing a .412 BABIP. It’s a big part of why his ERA was 7.65 but his FIP was 4.16 and his xFIP was 4.75. Yes, he needs to throw more strikes and he needs to get more swings and misses. His fastball, which has an above average spin rate, just wasn’t enough to get swings and misses, so that needs to change, but there are some promising numbers if you look beyond the surface stats. I’m not sure what the issue is that the Royals have with Lovelady, but they need to get over it because I believe the 2020 bullpen is at its best with him in it. And if I’m wrong, it’s not like they have so much talent that they can afford to not find out.
  • I don’t have a Hall of Fame ballot. Odds are pretty decent that I never will, though I guess you never know. If I did, though, I’d vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Scott Rolen and Larry Walker for sure. I wasn’t honestly sold on Rolen at first, but the more I look at the candidacy, the more I like from it. Now, that leaves me with five empty spots on the ballot. I’d actually consider Bobby Abreu with some of these empty spots, but only because I’d like to make sure he stays above the 5 percent threshold just because I think he deserves that. The players I definitely wouldn’t vote for are Josh Beckett, Heath Bell, Adam Dunn, Chone Figgins, Rafael Furcal, Jason Giambi, Raul Ibanez, Paul Konerko, Cliff Lee, Carlos Pena, Brad Penny, JJ Putz, Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano and Jose Valverde. We seem to have gotten past the logjam that was there in previous years, which allows for more conversation on guys who have an argument, but maybe not a great one. For me, I don’t care so much if there was steroid speculation, but if you were popped, I’m probably not voting for you, which is why Manny Ramirez isn’t on my definitely list even though the numbers are there. The one thing I struggle with understanding is how you vote for Barry Bonds but not Roger Clemens or vice versa. I’m sure there’s a strong argument out there for it, but I’m just not sure what it is, so I’d be interested to hear it. I also can’t fathom voting for Omar Vizquel but not Rolen. It’ll be interesting to see who goes in alongside Jeter. I’m betting Walker gets in, but I think that’s probably it.