Royals misjudge their talent, Wil pay the price

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Royals GM Dayton Moore has told us for years to “trust the process.” For better or worse, he put forth his endgame on Sunday night, sacrificing top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, not to mention third baseman Patrick Leonard and left-hander Mike Montgomery, in order to bring in James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays.

In so doing, it looks like he jumped the gun. The process just wasn’t working out as hoped. The Royals had increased their win totals three straight years, but not hardly enough to matter. They won 65 games in 2009, 67 in 2010, 71 in 2011 and 72 in 2012.

And that’s the problem. These Royals weren’t two players away. At least not these two players. Maybe the 2014 Royals would have been. But the odds were against Moore being in charge of the 2014 Royals unless the team took a big step forward next season.

What we have here is a general manager who put his own best interests ahead of those of his team. And probably bought himself an extra year of employment as a reward.

That’s not to say it couldn’t work out. Shields is heckuva a pitcher, albeit not as good of one as Tropicana Field has made it seem (Shields has a 3.33 ERA at home and a 4.54 ERA on the road in his career). Davis seemed to find his niche as a reliever last season, though odds are that the Royals will take another look at him as a starter. Myers has very rare power for a right-handed hitter, but if last year’s strikeout rate is a sign of things to come, he might not post strong OBPs in the majors.

In the end, this trade will likely be judged on two factors: the Royals making the postseason and whether Myers turns into a star. I doubt he’ll be any sort of bust, but he might be more of a .250-.260 hitter than a perennial All-Star. My guess is that he ends up more in the Nick Swisher class of quality regular than something truly extraordinary.

Of course, Orodizzi should be overlooked, either. The best of the minor leaguers the Royals got from the Brewers in the Zack Greinke trade, he’s a potential No. 3 starter for the Rays.

As things stand now, these are your 2013 Royals:

Rotation: Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar
Bullpen: Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman, Francisley Bueno

Lineup: CF Lorenzo Cain, SS Alcides Escobar, LF Alex Gordon, DH Billy Butler, 1B Eric Hosmer, C Salvador Perez, 3B Mike Moustakas, RF Jeff Francoeur, 2B Chris Getz

Bench: C Brett Hayes, INF Tony Abreu, OF Jarrod Dyson, INF Irving Falu

Could that be a wild card team? It’s conceivable. The lineup certainly looks solid, especially 3-7. Shields is good enough to front a contending rotation, and Guthrie is a fair enough three or four. The bullpen should also be very strong, even if it’s filled with a bunch of relative no-names.

Still, the Royals will need some breaks. It will help a great deal if Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino can make strong returns from Tommy John surgery and contribute in the rotation, because those two could be considerable upgrades over Chen and Hochevar.

In the meantime, it’s a shallow team, something that will become painfully obvious once injuries strike. Myers and Odorizzi were definite candidates to contribute this season, and their absence leaves the Royals with little in the way of intriguing alternatives for DL fill-ins. Davis and Luis Mendoza are the primary rotation fallbacks. The Royals are going to have to add a couple of veteran bench players before the winter is out.

I’d say the Royals are an 82-85 win team at the moment. It’s a team with upside; Hosmer and Moustakas could break through and a healthy Perez will help a lot. But it’s still a real underdog for a wild card spot, and now the future for 2014 and beyond looks bleaker than it did yesterday.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”