Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes that Trey Hillman is basically a dead manager walking, with the only question being whether the Royals will fire him during the season or simply let his contract run out.
I’m of the opinion that general manager Dayton Moore deserves a bigger share of the blame than Hillman, because he’s actually responsible for building a roster full of veteran mediocrity. With that said, the list of Hillman’s flawed decisions is a mile long and seemingly growing with each game, and as Mellinger points out regardless of the quality of the roster he simply hasn’t done what he was brought in to do:
He’s in charge of a roster that fits his tendencies and style better than either of the previous two. He likes speed and athletic ability, and the Royals finally have some. Judging a manager’s worth is endlessly tricky. Most times, it’s probably overrated. But here, where has Hillman improved the Royals?
He arrived as a hope to improve fundamentals. Before he ever managed a game, he talked about playing good defense and finding ways to manufacture runs. People would mention that he puts a lot of focus on the little things, and he’d quickly correct them. There are no little things, he’d say.
Well, in his third season and managing his kind of roster, the Royals rank last in defense and base running. Their run production doesn’t match up to their level of hitting, let alone exceed it. These are the areas Hillman was supposed to help. At best, he’s been ineffective.
Ultimately firing Hillman isn’t going to fix the Royals, because Joe McCarthy, John McGraw, and Earl Weaver together couldn’t manage this collection of scrubs to 75 wins. However, there’s little to indicate Hillman is pushing them in the right direction and plenty of evidence that he’s hindering the already shaky rebuilding process. His overall record as manager is 151-205 (.424), including 58-107 since last year’s 18-11 start.
Plus, as always the first step to an organizational overhaul is for the general manager to fire the manager. Once the Royals push Hillman out the door, whether by firing him now or opting not to renew his contract, then the pressure will be placed solely on Moore’s shoulders and the franchise might be ready for a more meaningful change.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.