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Lesky’s Notes: Silent nights are here

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Things are definitely calm, but the Royals are still out there making news.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In a 24/7/365 world, there’s something sort of comforting about baseball just completely quieting down for the holidays. That’s not to say there won’t be a move or two here or there, but it’s kind of crazy how quiet the moves get during this time. That doesn’t mean the Royals aren’t staying aggressive, connected to Jurickson Profar and Adam Wainwright this week. I’ll get to both of those down below. I can’t waste that kind of quality content that could easily be a full bullet point in some opening remarks. And the news that we’ve talked about here in Notes for months is finally being realized by the world that Mike Moustakas can be had is making me wonder who I’d prefer personally for the Royals. One thing I think we can safely conclude, even with so much off-season left to go (and really who knows how much more given that they might not start on April 1 still) is that the Royals continued their stretch from the summer of being one of the organizations actually doing right by the people in it and the fans by actually being aggressive and signing players when other teams weren’t. It’s nice to see that and I’m hopeful that it can benefit the Royals in the long-term as a destination for players and front office personnel alike.

  • The Royals inclusion as a team interested in Adam Wainwright is a little surprising in that I thought they would pursue a starter on a minor league deal, sort of like their Homer Bailey signing from 2019. And maybe they still are, but liked the idea of a veteran presence in the rotation to work with the young pitchers. I’m sort of ambivalent on the idea of Wainwright in general. On one hand, he was quite good in the shortened 2020, making 10 starts and averaging about 20 outs per game with a 3.15 ERA and his lowest walk rate since 2015. On the other hand, he’s coming off a run of four seasons since 2015 where he was below average with a 4.58 ERA with lots of base runners everywhere in 534 innings. If they signed Wainwright simply to teach Jackson Kowar his curveball, I’d be all over it and I don’t really know if I’d care what the cost was, but I just have a hard time wrapping my head around signing a 39-year old who struggles to crack 90 miles per hour. But also, that curve. You can see why I could really go either way with this and I doubt it would be for more than a year, so I can’t get too upset about the idea. There’s just a high likelihood of falling off a cliff for a guy his age with his lack of velocity every single year he pitches. Given that the Royals rotation actually looks like it at least has a chance to be pretty good, I might look more to the upside play with a guy like Mike Foltynewicz or even Chris Archer just to see if there’s something more there. With Wainwright, you’re likely getting a mid-rotation guy who could be something far worse but isn’t likely to be much better in a full season. With one of the upside plays (and maybe Archer really isn’t an upside play anymore, but I don’t know), you at least have the possibility of finding a number two. Like I said, I guess I’m fine with it if they did sign Wainwright, but I’m also definitely fine if they don’t.
  • We’ve discussed the lefty bats in this space for months now. I first mentioned Mike Moustakas as a possibility probably back in October or early November when the Reds were sort of coming out of the woodwork as a team looking to cut costs. I will say that the fit is pretty good if the Royals would move Hunter Dozier back to the outfield or maybe move him in a trade, I guess. His versatility allows them to get their lefty bat at either third base or the outfield, so there’s a fit. And with Moose, you get another guy with pop who doesn’t strike out a ton to add to a new middle of the order with Carlos Santana and there’s a nice fit. But I also really like the idea of Jurickson Profar, as I’ve mentioned far too many times before as well. And I honestly think I’d prefer Profar in this scenario when looking at the big picture of what the team looks like moving forward. I don’t entirely understand why, but Profar’s market seems to be for just a year or two and relatively light money. I’ve seen estimates as high as $7 million a year and as low as $4.5 million. He had a rough 2019, that’s for sure, but that was sandwiched between .254/.335/.458 and .278/.343/.428. He has some pop, he runs the bases well and he actually played an excellent left field in 2020. There are some throwing issues at second base, so I don’t know if he’s really an option there as a super utility guy, but he might be over those. I don’t know really. The difference between Moose and Profar over the last three years is 50 points of slugging percentage, which is not nothing, but they have roughly the same average and the exact same OBP. I kind of think I’d lean to the guy who will be 28 and was a former top prospect who will also make a considerable amount less. It’s not that I wouldn’t be excited for adding Moose’s lefty bat to the middle of the lineup, but like the rotation, I think I’m more into the upside there.
  • It’s kind of funny that we’ve spent a lot of time this offseason thinking about the lineup with the addition of Santana and what it means, but the reality is that the Royals engine will really rev if two players who were already in Kansas City can find their way to some semblance of quality consistency and those players are Adalberto Mondesi and Franchy Cordero. We know the crazy 2020 for Mondesi that started with him being one of the worst hitters in baseball (maybe the worst) and ended with him being one of the best over the final month or so (had the 4th best wRC+ from September 4th on). Which one shows up? Is it the guy who ended up in the middle, which was basically identical to his 2019? Or is is the guy who ends up more toward the good Mondesi as we saw in his excellent 2018 finish? We just don’t know. I think it’s worth remembering that he was recovering from that shoulder injury and didn’t really have an offseason, so maybe the weird year impacted him more than some others. Or maybe it didn’t. We truly do not know. With Cordero, we saw the potential on a couple of bombs he hit late in the year and while it was a very small sample, his swing and miss sort of disappeared, striking out less than 10 percent of the time. His winter league numbers aren’t great, but I feel like I’m seeing highlights of him launch the ball on Twitter multiple days a week. It’s smart for the Royals to keep stocking up on lineup reinforcements to make the volatile performances from these two less damaging, but if the Royals are going to be actually good, it’s likely because these two stepped up and both stayed healthy and showed their best selves. In my opinion, these two are the biggest stories of spring with the young pitchers a close second.
  • I want to wrap up with a big congratulations to Jeffrey Flanagan on the end of a fantastic career in sports journalism with his retirement announced this week. There are tons of things I don’t know about Flanny’s whole career, but I do remember reading Top Of The Morning every day at the kitchen table in The Kansas City Star when I was younger. As someone who wanted to be the next great sports reporter when I was in school, Flanny was someone I read as often as I possibly could because that was the style with which I wanted to write. I remember in high school, I had the opportunity to shadow Ivan Carter, who at the time was the Chiefs beat reporter, but I spent about 15 minutes at Flanny’s desk asking a bunch of questions about who the hell knows what and that was my second favorite part of the day (as part of the shadowing I got to go to Dick Vermeil’s press conference after a game the Chiefs won but lost the turnover battle and while waiting in the press box, some random person asked me how it was possible that the Chiefs won losing the turnover battle; I turned and it was Vermeil, so sorry Flanny, but that was super cool for 17-year-old me). I ended up pivoting after college because, well, I wanted to make more money, but I’ve still always loved reading what Flanny had to write, especially about the Royals. He may not even realize that, but we’ll chat occasionally via Twitter and it’s always an enlightening conversation and I appreciate him being a board to ask questions to. I remember back in 2017 when the Royals sent Jorge Soler down and I realized that he may actually fall under the service time threshold to become a free agent after 2020. The first thing I did was shoot Flanny a direct message to see if he had any insight. Now, he may have rolled his eyes, but he immediately asked around and came back with an answer for me within like two hours. So I appreciate everything like that over the years and with the best for him in retirement. I just hope the next person will say #dongtown too.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!