In honor of Dayton Moore taking an excessively long time to finally part ways with his sweetheart, Jeff Francoeur, I've taken my sweet time posting about it.
What is there to say, really? Being the first blogger to point out Francoeur left much to be desired in right field during his Royals career was not going to earn me a Pulitzer. There's nothing to state but the obvious: Francoeur seemed to be a good guy. Francoeur was also a bad baseball player. He was an overpaid baseball player. He was given an incredible amount of undeserved job security, which led to Moore undermining the franchise. Perhaps only one executive in all of baseball believed in Francoeur enough to sign him not only once, but also re-sign him, and that exec just happened to be Moore.
There, I said it. Moving on to what's actually important.
As a result of Francoeur's departure, Johnny Giavotella seems to be getting a long look at second base. David Lough and Jarrod Dyson should receive more consistent playing time. Are these signs that the Royals are still "going for it," are they going to take a conservative, "stand pat" approach and see what happens, or are they prepared to sell off some pieces?
From what I hear*, the Royals are still posturing as a contender. Seeing how they're only 4.5 games behind the now first-place Indians, who are in town, it's hard to justify hitting the eject button on this season just yet.
*I don't listen to local radio, but I've heard Buster Olney mention the Royals as ideal fits for Nate Schierholtz and Chase Utley.
Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt the Royals — without significant additions to the lineup and rotation — will hit the wall and fall out of the playoff picture.
But it's all about timing.
The Cubs fired the first trade shots today. The trade that's getting the most attention is Carlos Marmol going to the Dodgers. That deal is inconsequential. The trade that's getting overlooked is Scott Feldman — an underrated pitcher I would have targeted last offseason — being sent to the Orioles.
I had already planned on continuing my trade scenario series with the Orioles as another club in need of starting pitching the Royals could provide, so I might as well discuss it now.
With Feldman, the Orioles have Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen coming off the DL soon to round out the rotation. That's a decent rotation. But I'm sure the Orioles would like a big arm atop the rotation, seeing how Hammel missed most of last season due to injury and Gonzalez and Chen have already visited the DL this year.
Unlike the Nationals, which didn't seem to have an ideal prospect for the Royals to receive in return for a James Shields or Ervin Santana, the Orioles do. And I'm not even talking about Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman, who the Royals wouldn't be able to get anyway.
I'm talking about Henry Urrutia, a 26-year-old right fielder out of Cuba. Maybe I'm just drunk on Cubans because of Yasiel Puig, but Urrutia has looked good in his first season in affiliated baseball, hitting seven home runs in his first 52 games with a .365/.433/.550 slash line in Double-A. He's scuffling a bit his first five games in Triple-A, but by season's end, he could easily be ready for a call-up. His strikeouts aren't nearly as out of control as fellow Cuban, Yoenis Cespedes, at 39 to 27 walks. In short, I'd say he's one of the better right field prospects who is within a season of making his MLB debut.
The Orioles also have Xavier Avery, who is 23, plays center and left, and has also gone from Double-A to Triple-A this season. He's more speed than power, but at 6'0", 190-pounds, he shouldn't get the bat knocked out of his hands by big league fastballs.
Jonathan Schoop, at 21 years old, is already in Triple-A and can play in the middle infield, ideally second. His stats haven't matched the hype in my opinion, but he did hit 14 home runs in Double-A last year and, given his age, still has time to improve. In short, I would feel better about him as the Royals second baseman of the future than I do about Giavotella or Colon or anyone else near the top of the system.
Depending on who the Orioles might be willing to part with — of those three in particular — I would feel very good about letting go of Shields or Santana. With Shields, especially, it would feel good to stick it back at the Rays seeing how they swindled the Royals over the winter. I'd even throw in Greg Holland, considering Jim Johnson's struggles as the O's closer this year.
But, like I said, it's all about timing.
The Cubs are already selling. Matt Garza could go soon. Ricky Nolasco will leave Miami eventually. Yovani Gallardo could be dealt. What if all these arms are traded while the Royals continue to chase a playoff spot they won't ultimately claim?
I think given the pitching market, even if all those arms do go in the next couple weeks, the Royals will still be in OK position to make a deal. In a perfect world, all those pitchers will be dealt, thus raising the price for any pitcher the Royals might try to trade. As long as the Royals' inevitable collapse comes before July 31, Moore might actually be able to capitalize on their inflated value.
So for now, I'd be fine with the Royals standing pat and seeing what happens with Giavotella and without Francoeur. But I'd be deeply concerned if they splurge for Schierholtz or Utley. If they came cheap, sure, but I doubt Utley would. And if Moore was going to add more pieces, he should have done it long before now.
Doesn't my call for the club to add Michael Bourn seem spot on now? He could have taken over in center, allowing Cain to move to right, and removed all the drama that's surrounded the leadoff spot this season. And it wouldn't have cost the Royals a draft pick, as it did the Indians — who are now in first place.
Maybe Moore was too caught up ensuring Francoeur had as little competition for playing time as possible to realize the rest of the lineup needed some work, too.
Fire Dayton Moore