Remember high school dances? Times of teenage angst, puppy love, hormones and awkwardness? Imagine the 30 Major League teams as girls and a Major League baseball season as a high school dance. Every girl there wants to be the Belle of the 2012 Major League Ball, the winner of the World Series.
See the girl in the corner, wearing a powder blue dress and her hair done up just so? That’s Miss Kansas City Royals. She isn’t the richest, prettiest or most popular girl, and for many years the poor thing was the wallflower of the Major League Ball, not living up to her potential.
But if you look closer, there’s something different about Miss Royals this year. She’s become younger, more confident, attractive and now she’s getting more attention. She’s feeling more optimistic about her chances at the 2012 Major League Ball.
And while Miss Royals is optimistic, she wouldn’t mind a top of the rotation starting pitcher to improve her chances. Yes, she could trade for a starting pitcher, but a free agent pitcher means she doesn’t have to surrender any prospects. And this year Miss Royals has some money to spend.
For the sake of comparison, I’m going to mash the 2011 Royals starting rotation into one pitcher. This “pitcher” would have a rounded average of 6 wins and 10 losses with a .375 winning percentage, 138 average innings pitched a season and a 4.96 ERA. He would give up one home run, throw 6.5 strikeouts and give up 3.2 walks per nine innings.
Let’s take a look at four free agent pitchers who could take Miss Royals by the hand and escort her to the dance floor.
For now, this is the guy most Royals fans wants Miss Royals to dance with. The 28-year-old right-hander has a 60-60 career win-loss record which makes him a .500 pitcher. Since establishing himself in 2007, he’s pitched an average of 193 innings a season and posted a 4.41 average ERA. Jackson has a 1.0 home run, 6.7 strikeout and 3.7 walk ratio per nine innings. Compared to the 2011 Royals starting rotation, Jackson gives up the same amount of home runs, has slightly more strikeouts and walks slightly more batters per nine innings.
Some compare Jackson to John Danks, who just signed a five-year, $65 million extension with the Chicago White Sox. Jackson would like a five-year, $60 million deal. At 28, Jackson could get better, or he could get worse. If the Royals get creative with a contract and the money and years are right, Edwin Jackson could be a good dance partner for Miss Royals.
When Oswalt was looking for a three-year deal earlier in the off-season, Miss Royals figured she had little chance getting the 34-year-old right-hander from Mississippi. But since Oswalt is willing to sign a one-year deal, there could be a chance, despite interest from a lot of other girls (teams). Over 11 seasons, Oswalt complied a 159-93 win-loss record, giving him a .631 winning percentage. An average of 196 innings pitched per season and a career 3.21 ERA over 11 seasons is also attractive. Oswalt has a 0.8 home run, 7.3 strikeout and 2.1 walk ratio per nine innings. Compared to the 2011 Royals starting rotation, Oswalt gives up less home runs, throws more strikes and gives up less walks per nine innings.
But Oswalt had back trouble last year and the Philadelphia Phillies decided to decline his $16 million option. There is risk getting a guy on the rebound (Jeff Francis, anyone?) and Miss Royals would have to pay Oswalt a lot of money to dance with her. But Oswalt might provide enough wins to allow the Royals to contend in 2012. If Oswalt is a bust, the Royals are only out for a year of salary and they can go for another free agent pitcher in 2013. Roy Oswalt provides a high risk/high reward.
The Los Angeles Dodgers jilted Kuorda after 2011 and there are rumblings the 36-year-old right-hander will go back to Japan if he can’t find an East or West Coast dancing partner. Unless there’s a cataclysmic earthquake and Kansas City becomes the new Los Angeles, Kuroda is a long shot for the Royals. His 41-46 career win-loss record and .471 winning percentage over four seasons isn’t anything spectacular. Over four seasons, Kuroda averaged 139 innings pitched per season with a 3.45 career ERA. Kuroda has a 0.8 home run, 6.7 strikeout and 2.1 walk ratio per nine innings. Compared to the 2011 Royals starting rotation, Kuroda gives up slightly less home runs, throws the same amount of strikes and gives up one less walk per nine innings.
Unless Hiroki Kuroda gets off his East or West Coast high horse and is willing to take a one-year deal, Miss Royals is better off finding another suitor.
The 29-year-old soft tossing left-hander has spent his career with the Pirates, which gives him a 53-73 win-loss record and .421 winning percentage. Maholm averaged 163 innings pitched per season and a 4.36 ERA. Maholm has a 0.8 home run, 5.5 strikeout and 3.0 walk ratio per nine innings. Compared to the 2011 Royals starting rotation, Maholm gives up slightly less home runs, throws less strikes and gives up slightly less walks per nine innings.
Maholm missed the last six weeks of the 2011 season with a strained left shoulder, which made the Pirates decline his $9.75 million option. Maholm is healthy, but he doesn’t have the value of a Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt, or even Hiroki Kuroda. Most baseball pundits have Paul Maholm as a back of the rotation pitcher, which the Royals have plenty of.
So will Miss Kansas City Royals be able to snag one of these suitors and perhaps be the Cinderella story of the 2012 Major League Ball? Or will she dance with who she brought, hoping she doesn’t fall flat on her face? At least she has a pretty powder blue dress.