Springtime Storylines: Is suicide the only hope for Royals fans?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: Kansas City, Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!


The
big question: Is suicide the only hope for Royals fans?

Baseball is supposed to be something that takes our minds off of real life. A pursuit and a pastime in which we can forget our troubles and, for a while anyway, lose ourselves. Say you’re a mid-level functionary at Sprint Nextel. Your boss is a jerk, your ex-wife is dating a personal trainer named Brad and your mechanic just called to tell you that your 1993 Hyundai Excel has a fried cylinder head and needs a full valve job.  You need an escape. You need baseball.

Only problem is that the general manager of your team has brought in guys like  Jason Kendall, Scott Podsednik, Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, and Jose Guillen. Paid ’em good money too, while actually trying to pass them off as good moves. And this is, like, the fifth or sixth go-around with this kind of thing in the past 15 years.  You can’t spend six months watching that product, can you? It’s enough to make a guy pull a Thich Quang Duc or something. OK, maybe that’s too dramatic. Perhaps a simple Emily Wilding Davison would be more appropriate.

But wait! Don’t do it!  There’s hope! No, not now; now is hopeless! But soon!  There are many, many solid looking pitching prospects — including a major international signing — in A and AA ball this year (one less than there was last week, but still). Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas had down years, but they are still promising. And of course, Zack Greinke is under contract for three more seasons, so you need only endure four days of unbearable sadness between respites.

It’s a nice ballpark. There’s great food in that town. Close your eyes, dream of your youth, when giants roamed the green turf of Royals Stadium, and trust me when I say that it will get better. Just not yet. You’ve waited so long, you can wait just a bit longer, can’t you?

So what else is going on?

  • Alex Gordon is going to start the season on the DL. This means that Alberto Callaspo — who was only the team’s second best hitter last year — won’t start out on the bench as had been anticipated.  Callaspo starts at third, Chris Getz at second and whichever of the two of them hits worse in the meantime will find themselves benched when Gordon comes back.
  • Gil Meche is hurt. He left a start on Monday complaining of a sore shoulder. There have been concerns about his workload these past two years. If he can’t answer the bell to start the season the Royals are going to have to look at guys like Brian Bullington, Edgar Osuna, Brad Thompson, Bruce Chen,
    Robinson Tejeda and (shudder) Kyle Farnsworth, who yes, the Royals seem to be serious about converting into a starter.  The other starters are set: Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Brian Bannister and probably Kyle Davies. Roughly speaking, those names can be translated into “stud,” “enigma,” “eccentric,” and whatever German word encapsulates the concept of “that which amounts to drastically less than the sum of its parts.”
  • The Royals should really consider trading Joakim Soria this year. A stud closer is a luxury a team like this can’t afford to keep around. There are only two reasons not to trade Soria: (1) the fans
    will get depressed; and (2) Dayton Moore is the guy doing the trading.  The first of those can be discounted because, as noted above, the fans are already
    depressed. The second one is far more problematic because, for as good as Moore has been at identifying and acquiring amateur talent recently, he’s gotta be the worst wheeler-dealer in the game, and can in no way be trusted to realize a decent return for Soria.
  • Josh Fields is the other guy that came over with Chris Getz from Chicago in the Mark Teahen trade.  He’s allegedly a third baseman, but he can’t really handle the position defensively. He’s allegedly a hitter, but he’s he’s hit only .229/.302/.416 in 664 major league at-bats. Still, if you’re Kansas City, you should probably give him as many of Jose Guillen’s and Scott Posednik’s at bats and see how he does.

 
So how
are they gonna do?

Let’s see, they lost 97 games last year despite a lucky hot start, their second best starter has shoulder trouble and they brought in a handful of some of the worst veteran free agents imaginable. You tell me.

Prediction: Fourth
place, AL Central.  Yes, that means that Cleveland is going to be even worse.

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is seen along the Potomac River February 26, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The baseball world will descend on Washington D.C. — well, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor — this weekend for the 2016 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Twenty free agents from a class of 191 have signed thus far. Among the notable: Yoenis Cespedes, Edinson Volquez, Neil Walker, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey. That, of course, leaves a ton of notables left, including Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Jose Bautista, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Mark Melancon, Rich Hill and a host of others. Here is our rundown of this offseason’s top free agents if you’re curious. As you have come to expect from us, we’ll have a writeup of everyone who signs, faster than almost anyone else will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is an historically thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. We’ve seen a couple already, most notably the deals which sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks, Jaime Garcia to the Braves and Brian McCann to the Astros. Most experts believe there will be plenty more this winter, and the ball could really get rolling on that in the next week with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Phillips on the block.

Another major activity of the Winter Meetings is the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Except, this year, there is no Veterans Committee, at least in name. It’s now the “Today’s Game” committee. Here are links to breakdowns of the candidacies of all ten men on the ballot the new committee will consider:

Harold Baines
Albert Belle
Will Clark
Orel Hershiser
Mark McGwire
George Steinbrenner
Davey Johnson
Lou Piniella
John Shuerholz
Bud Selig

Trade deals, free agent negotiations and Hall of Fame votes take place behind closed doors at the Gaylord Resort. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year’s new faces are Torey Lovullo with the Diamondbacks, Rick Renteria with the White Sox and Bud Black with the Rockies. Brian Snitker, now the permanent manager of the Braves, will get his first go-around at the managerial cattle call. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. And a lot of it. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings, though this year’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement should overshadow that. We’ve already discussed the major points of that and, yesterday, I speculated that, as time goes on, the way this agreement was reached could lead to some serious strife going forward, particularly on the union side. Expect to hear some anonymous rumblings about all of that in the next few days, from players, agents and other interested parties who may not be all that pleased with how it goes.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at National Harbor, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event. As they used to say in radio, tune in to us and rip off the dial. Or, at the very least, keep a tab open to us and refresh a lot.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.