To me, once we celebrate the new year, I turn my attention even more to baseball than I had throughout the off-season previously. Now, I’m a Chiefs fan and I really do love football, so I’m not spending my days longing for pitchers and catchers to report, but I feel like there’s more urgency to get things done for baseball teams now that we’re into 2014. This seems like a good point to note that six weeks from today, pitchers and catchers will report and the emptiness many of us are feeling in our hearts will be filled with reports of players in the best shape of their lives and really hoping to capitalize on the opportunity to play baseball. Unfortunately, until then, things promise to be pretty quiet.
- One rumor that floated out there yesterday was that the Royals are a sleeper team interested in Kendrys Morales. I can only imagine that Morales would be signed to serve as the designated hitter since he’s not competent at any other position on the field. You might be wondering how the Royals can field two designated hitters. I thought about that and I came to the conclusion that the Royals would sign Morales if Butler was traded. Either that or Butler would play shortstop if Escobar’s bat was as weak as it was in 2013. I’m torn between those two, but for the sake of arguments, let’s look at it as if Butler would be traded. My thoughts on this idea are as follows: That’s stupid. While Butler and Morales achieved their numbers in different ways in 2013, they were remarkably similar. Morales scored two more runs than Butler, but Butler drove in two more than Morales. Morales had a .785 OPS, Butler had a .787 OPS. They both had a wRC+ of 116. Just looking at that, you might think swapping Butler for Morales would be worth it considering the package Butler could bring back. It’s not. Looking deeper, Morales is going to be 31 and he’s going to cost whatever team signs him a draft pick. He’s also a bit of a hacker and his 2013 was pretty well on par with his 2011/2012. Billy Butler, on the other hand, had his worst full season as a big leaguer. Something tells me he’ll bounce back. I’d be all over this deal if Butler could bring back a legitimate top of the rotation guy, but he can’t, so this is a deal that should never be made.
- I know I’ve said for awhile that Tanaka is having a huge impact on the free agent starters, but things are starting to get ridiculous about the big three (Garza, Jimenez and Santana). I think the big domino to fall will be Tanaka, and after that, we’ll see these guys sign somewhere. I just think it’s very odd that we’re hearing absolutely nothing about them. I don’t have any particular insight here other than that I still put the Royals chances at signing Santana at less than 1%, a number that hasn’t really changed since the day they signed Jason Vargas. I’m just puzzled by this free agent market and the pitchers on it aren’t the only reason. There was that one day when everything happened, but it’s been so quiet aside from that. I’m just hungry for some action I guess.
- Speaking of Masahiro Tanaka, the Royals need to at least post the $20 million fee for the rights to talk to him. With the new rules, there’s no downside to it. If he doesn’t sign with the Royals, they don’t lose the $20 million. There’s been reports on what he might want, and I could Tanaka getting a 7 year/$119 million contract or something along those lines. That’s really risky, especially for a team like the Royals who are operating on a budget. But hear me out. That’s $17 million added to the payroll. Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis and Emilio Bonifacio will make about $13 million or more. I’m not suggesting trading them for pennies on the dollar, but I’m not against a salary dump for any of them to make some room. That clears the space in 2014. Now for the future, let’s be real. The Royals are likely not signing James Shields to a contract extension for what he’ll command, nor should they. In Tanaka, they’d get a 25 year old pitcher who could theoretically still be waiting to peak. There are concerns about the number of pitches he’s thrown in his career, but this is the sort of move the Royals should be looking to if they’re going to hand out big money deals. It isn’t happening, but it’s fun to think about.
- While it was a minor deal, the Royals picked up Jason Donald earlier this week. As recently as 5 years ago, he was the number 69 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America. He was then traded to the Indians as part of the deal that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia. He was okay in 2010, very good in a small sample in 2011 and very bad in a small sample in 2012. He spent the 2013 season in AAA in the Reds organization and wasn’t very good there. So you might wonder why his signing is a big deal. It probably isn’t, but if the Royals decide to trade Bonifacio, I think Donald could be a guy who could step in as the utility guy in his place because he can play shortstop and the Royals really need a guy who can give Escobar a day or two off here and there. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it’s a slow news week and Donald could make an impact on the 2014 Royals roster.
- Salvador Perez has been playing a fair amount of first base in winter ball this season, and that’s been reason for some to raise eyebrows about the meaning behind that. I don’t think there is much meaning there. He wants to play winter ball, the Royals don’t want him to catch and he enjoys playing the field. I’ve said for awhile that Perez is probably the replacement for Hosmer when he either gets traded or leaves as a free agent, so I have no problem with this at all. I know Perez is very good defensively as a catcher, but he’s 6’5″ and already has had knee problems. He could be the exception, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he can’t stay behind the plate forever. My guess is first base is his future in a few years, so why not give him a shot to play there in winter ball?
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