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.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
Associated Press
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Cuba won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.