Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Candy Cain

Lately, I have seen a lot of fans and experts griping about the Royals offseason moves, with just about everyone complaining about the free agent signings of Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales and many others criticizing the signing of Edinson Volquez. 

When any of my favorite teams makes a move or signs a player, I usually feel excited or I don’t care. I posted some of my thoughts regarding the Rios and Morales signings here and after the Royals signed Volquez and then added Kris Medlen, my feelings turned to excitement for 2015. The Royals addressed all of their needs this offseason (except for adding a real power bat – but if the current roster plays near their career averages in 2015, power should not be as much of a problem as it was in 2014).  Think about it:

  • Morales replaces Billy Butler, and whether you were a Butler fan or not, maybe a change of scenery will help both players produce better in 2015. Nothing really changes at DH for KC.
  • Rios replaces Nori Aoki. Aoki had a decent year when you consider his on-base percentage, but his power went AWOL (only hit one home run in 2014) and his defense was sometimes questionable. Rios should provide more power, about the same defense, and the same number of steals as Aoki. Hard to think this move will hurt the Royals.
  • Volquez “replaces” James Shields. But not really. I imagine Yordano Ventura will be given every chance to become the Royals #1 starting pitcher, and Volquez or Jason Vargas compete for the #2 spot. Add in Danny Duffy (if he is healthy), and innings-eater Jeremy Guthrie and you have a pretty decent starting 5. 
  • Medlen, who is coming off his second Tommy John surgery, might be ready to pitch again in June or July, which could provide a huge boost and veteran presence if the Royals need to push for the playoffs. And he should be a great pitcher in 2016 if he is still healthy. Great pick up by Dayton Moore.

None of those moves seem bad to me. My only concern is that the rest of the Al Central will be a lot tougher. The Tigers added Yoenis Cespedes and extended Victor Martinez but lost Rick Porcello and might lose Max Scherzer. The White Sox added Melky Cabrera, Jeff Samardija, and Adam LaRoche, the Indians added Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd, and the Twins signed Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana. 2015 will be a fun year for baseball but the Royals should be competitive.

In other news, the KC Royals announced a contest on twitter: tweet a holiday photo of Lorenzo Cain making his signature outfield catches for a chance to win a glove signed by him. Below are the ones I created. Merry Christmas to all you Royals fans!
Lorenzo helping Santa pull his sleigh over KC, the same way he pulled the Royals through the playoffs
Lorenzo adding a Royals crown to the Christmas tree at Crown Center. Because no one else can reach that high
Lorenzo helping to add some lights to the Plaza. Alex Gordon would not have had any lights to turn on without Cain's help
Lorenzo putting up some Royals stockings on the Nelson Art Gallery. Shuttlecock curse? What shuttlecock curse?!
Lorenzo giving KC his best gift yet - Crown Town Ale.
 Have a great Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hannukah/Holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Important Royals update

I would like to interrupt your life to provide an important Royals update:

As of December 12, 2014, a deal was forged to send a pair of solid KC performers to Houston in exchange for Christmas presents. This is not a joke. My mother, who resides in KC, came to visit me in Htown and gave me a fantastic pair of Royals socks and in exchange, I gave her a copy of my wedding photo album. Pretty good deal, right? A pic of the socks is below:
In other Royals news, the team signed free agents Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios. Morales signed a 2 year deal and essentially fills the hole left when Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler left for the Oakland A’s. I am not hugely familiar with Morales but it appears that he is a switch-hitting version of Butler. Morales can play first base, which provides some protection if Eric Hosmer gets hurt next season. However, the Royals did not sign him for his defense but rather in hopes that his offense would rebound after slipping in 2014. Last season, he posted his fewest home runs since becoming a full time major leaguer, and his on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS were all the lowest of his career. On the plus side, since 2009, Morales has hit 98 home runs, an average of about 20 home runs per year (baseball-reference.dom projects him to average 25 home runs over a 162 game season. It would be impossible for him to play all 162 games since the Royals signed him to be the full time DH). His RBI totals have been a little less consistent over his career and he does have a tendency to ground into double plays, although not as many as Billy “Ground Into Double Plays” Butler does. Another positive includes that he comes at a slightly cheaper price than Butler, although the Royals are stuck with him for 2 years.

Alex Rios signed a one-year deal for $11 million to play right field, a move that many seem to be uber-critical against. Rios has also suffered an offensive drop-off in the past few seasons, seeing his home run totals decline from 25 in 2012 to only 4 last season.  However, Rios has been fairly consistent over his 11 years in the league, hitting double-digit home runs in all but two seasons of his career. He has also posted at least 11 stolen bases every season he has played, and is known as an excellent hitter against left-handed pitching, which means that he could be in a platoon with Jarrod Dyson in right field.

The signings of Morales and Rios are certainly not the worst thing in the world, and the Royals still earn compensation picks if/when James Shields signs with another team. I feel that the Royals decided not to change too much from a team that competed for a World Series title, partly due to payroll concerns, and partly due to the youth and rising expenses of their current core players. With several players due raises and others expecting to earn more in arbitration this summer, the Royals could not afford to pursue big name free agents, although they certainly tried to get Yasmany Tomas, Melky Cabrera, and Ervin Santana. I would have loved to see the Royals get any of those three, but sadly, Royals fans will only see them at Kauffman on opposing teams. 

I am not an optimist and certainly on this blog I exude pessimism, but this team should have a winnign record in 2015. However, the rest of the AL Central got incredibly tougher and the Royals may struggle to keep up. The Royals coaches and front staff may be banking on Salvy, Hosmer and Gordon all performing better than they did in 2014 (it should not be too tough for Hosmer and Perez to step it up a little bit). If that happens, and the Royals get a decent starting pitcher to replace James Shields, the Royals can contend (again) in 2015.