Dayton Moore, David Glass

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.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince people to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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MLB/MLBPA
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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.