The Brewers drag their 1-4 spring record out on the road tomorrow to visit the Royals for the first of their two games against Kansas City this spring. We talked to Old Man Duggan of Royals Review to get his take on the team's winter and the season ahead.
BCB: The Royals made a big splash this winter by revamping their pitching staff, adding James Shields, Ervin Santana and re-signing Jeremy Guthrie within the span of about a month. Is that enough to make them a contender in 2013?
RR: Short answer? No. Longer answer? They added a #2 starter, a #4/#5 starter, and the only starting pitcher who might have been worse than Luke Hochevar last season. To do this, they dropped $27.25MM in 2013 alone and dealt away an instant upgrade (the reigning Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year) at a position that was a black hole on the roster and a ML-ready starting pitcher, and that's leaving out the three other prospects tied to the Shields and Santana deals. The Royals seem dead-set on entering 2013 with a rotation of Shields, Guthrie, Santana, Davis, and probably Luke Hochevar (another wasted $4.56MM if he makes the roster). That will not be enough to bridge the gap. General Manager Dayton Moore blew his wad trying to turn what he saw as a hard-luck 72-win team into a contender. Unfortunately, it's hard to envision this squad finishing with much better than 84 wins or so, which would put them about ten games out of first.
BCB: Kansas City batters finished third in the AL a year ago with 1492 hits, but 12th with 676 runs scored. Is this a problem, or just a statistical anomaly?
RR: Look no further than their team walk totals. You need to get on base to score runs. They were dead last in the AL with 404 walks drawn and second-to-last in HBP. They ended up tied for eighth with Tampa in OBP. They also ran into more than their fair share of outs, coming in sixth in caught stealing and third in times picked off. The Royals were an offensive mess last year. This can be expected to continue as long as the organization ties itself to being aggressive to a fault at the plate and on the base paths.
BCB: The Royals used six different players in their age 22 season a year ago, the most of any team in the AL. Are they going to be able to compete while many of their core players are this young?
RR: Compete and contend are two different things. Thus far, the organization under Moore has been unable to produce anything in the way of valuable starting pitching. He has also proven comically (or tragically, depending on your point-of-view) inept when it comes to assessing the market and acquiring free agent talent. Most of Moore's success on the development front has stemmed from the Royals' willingness to outspend other teams on the draft and in international free agency. With the new CBA in place, it is hard to imagine the Royals previous [arguable] successes continuing on as they had been going. As long as these issues continue, it's hard to imagine the Royals contending in the near future, at least with this regime in place. If we're just talking about being competitive, however, this squad could be at or around .500 for the next few years. That might please casual fans, but I would much prefer having a routine shot at the playoffs, and given the lay of the land in the AL, it's hard to imagine the Royals winning the division or seizing a wild card.
BCB: We're now two years removed from the Zack Greinke trade and only two of the players that came over from Milwaukee (Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar) are still with the Royals, with Jake Odorizzi going to Tampa in the James Shields trade and Jeremy Jeffress having been sold to the Blue Jays in November. If you could go back two years, would you make the trade again?
RR: Probably. Greinke understandably wanted out. He saw that the Royals weren't going anywhere anytime soon. While the trade to Washington that Greinke reportedly vetoed would have been far preferable to what the Moore got from Milwaukee, it would be hard to argue that Escobar by himself won't be worth more to the Royals than Greinke would have been over the course of two years of meaningless baseball. Cain still has promise, though his inability to stay healthy has been a bit worrisome. I'll refrain from venting further on losing Odorizzi, though it is more the loss of what Odorizzi was worth in the abstract than what he'll likely end up being that hurts. I think Escobar and Cain make the trade worth it for the Royals.
BCB: The Royals are still managed by Ned Yost, who had his first managerial job in Milwaukee in the '00s. It's a relatively widely held opinion that Yost was the right manager to guide the Brewers during their rebuilding years, but that firing him when the team was expected to compete was the right decision. As the Royals approach their window to contend, are you content with Yost at the helm?
RR: Moving right on past the idea that the Royals are ever going to see a window of contention, there has not been a point during Yost's tenure in Kansas City where it seemed like he was the right person to be at the helm.
Thanks to Old Man Duggan for taking the time, and check out Royals Review for more on the Royals!