Royals add to collection of terrible shortstops by acquiring Betancourt

Leave a comment

Two and a half years later, the Royals finally got their man. It’s
believed that they offered Billy Butler to the Mariners for Yuniesky
Betancourt after a 2006 season in which Betancourt, then 25, hit
.289/.310/.403 in his first full year as a big leaguer. The Mariners
saw Betancourt as a future Gold Glover who would likely improve
offensively with more experience and turned them down.

Betancourt, of course, never improved. He hit at roughly the same
level in 2007 and 2008, but his defense declined enormously as he added
weight and lost range. Things got even worse this year, as he
completely stopped hitting after the first month of the season, coming
in at .214/.277/.274 in May and .234/.258/.297 in 64 at-bats before
landing on the DL in June. According to Ultimate Zone Rating, he was
also baseball’s worst regular shortstop
defensively. And this is no longer a case where the numbers and the
scouts disagree: no one would argue that Betancourt has looked anything
other than atrocious on defense this year.

Betancourt was known to be on the block, and it came as no surprise
to see him land with the Royals. What is shocking is that Kansas City
gave up Daniel Cortes to make it happen. Cortes, a 6-foot-6
right-hander, appeared to be shaping up as one of the game’s top 25
pitching prospects in 2007 and early 2008. His stock dropped as his
command regressed, but he was still arguably the most interesting arm
in the Royals’ farm system. He was 6-6 with a 3.92 ERA, 77 H and 57/50
K/BB in 80 1/3 IP for Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season. It may
be that he’ll end up in the pen, but he could be a force in the late
innings.

Also traded was 21-year-old lefty Derrick Saito. A pure reliever, he
had a 4.15 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB in 52 innings for low Single-A
Burlington. The possibility exists that he’ll make it to the majors as
a specialist, though his size — he’s just 5-foot-9 — could work
against him.

Philosophically, the Royals may have their hearts in the right place
here. With their 2009 season having fallen apart, looking for
high-upside talents to gamble on is a good idea and shortstop is the
biggest hole in the organization. Betancourt, though, seems like a long
shot to ever again resemble an above average regular. He’d have to show
a much greater commitment than he has so far. It’s a must that he get
into better shape, and he also needs to find someone to help him with
his footwork at shortstop. He’s probably never going to change as a
hitter, but if he were a quality defensive shortstop, it’d be easy to
live with him at the bottom of the lineup. As is, he’s on a path that
will see him out of the majors once his current four-year, $13.75
million deal expires after 2011.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
3 Comments

Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.