After predictably not playing him for two weeks, the Royals sent Kila Ka’aihue back to Triple-A yesterday. His final tally? One start and four at-bats in 11 games. Here’s what new manager Ned Yost said about the demotion:
It just kills me to see Kila sitting on the bench and not playing. I think he’s a huge part of our future, and for me I’d much rather have him down there right now, getting his at-bats, playing first base and if something happened he could come back here.
Ka’aihue is already 26 years old and has spent nine seasons in the minors, including the past three at Triple-A, so if he’s truly “a huge part of our future” the Royals should be playing him right now. Instead they’re a 14-24 team giving everyday playing time to 34-year-old Jose Guillen, which makes Yost’s whole “it just kills me to see him sitting on the bench” statement seem fairly absurd.
If it really kills Yost to see Ka’aihue sitting on the bench, then play him. Simple as that. I realize the Royals probably have some fantasy about cashing in Guillen for big value at the trading deadline, but that’s just not going to happen. He’s a 34-year-old designated hitter with a mediocre .255/.310/.479 line, including .220/.277/.349 in 29 games since his early homer binge, and hasn’t topped an .800 OPS since 2007.
If they can dump him for a mid-level prospect or some salary relief, do it. If not, cut him and give Ka’aihue five starts per week to find out whether he might actually be part of the next competitive Royals team. Sending him back to Triple-A for a third tour of duty at age 26 while a 34-year-old DH with a rapidly declining .786 OPS plays every day is just not something that makes sense for a team that has no shot of even finishing .500.
Stuff like this is why firing Trey Hillman and promoting Yost likely won’t even make a dent in the Royals’ problems. They’re rotten to the core.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.