We’re going to have a lot of Small Sample Size Theater this week. Stuff we observe during the season’s infancy that, while unsustainable and probably meaningless in the grand scheme of things, is fun to observe all the same. One of the first things that fit this bill in 2011 is the Royals’ relievers, particularly the rookies down in that pen.
Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Nate Adcock have combined for eight innings of shutout relief in Kansas City’s first four games. Collins and Crow have struck out 11 guys between them. I got a chance to watch both Crow and Collins pitch over the weekend and I was most impressed with Crow’s fantastic, moving fastball. Collins, who is 5’7″ and that may be stretching it, is really fun too thanks to that delivery of his which kind of makes him look like the love child of Gene Garber and Tim Lincecum. Add in the always-dominant Joakim Soria’s three scoreless innings thus far and the Royals have themselves a nice pen.
There’s a beauty in watching a team with no immediate expectations. If you don’t get too bogged down on the negatives, you can find yourself pleasantly surprised by parts of it in isolation. Indeed, I’d argue that you can enjoy stuff like nice relief pitching on a less-than-competitive team more than you can on a contender because it’s easier to divorce it from the whole and not worry about the implications of it all so much.
Put differently, the Royals’ bullpen — for now anyway — is art for art’s sake, and that is often the most enjoyable art there can be.
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.