In an unexpected move last Sunday, the Royals designated infielder Yuniesky Betancourt for assignment. I’m sure there’s some Royals fans who think this is an elaborate joke being played on them and the Yunibomber will be back. But it’s true. Yuni is no longer a Royal. Really! (I think.)
Remember when the Royals signed Betancourt to a one-year, two million dollar contract, telling shocked and disappointed Royals fans Yuni was going to be a part-time utility infielder? So what happened? Yuni got more playing time than fans wanted and he even had a decent June. But then Yuni became Yuni and went back to his worst everyday player in baseball self.
No team wanted to trade for him or claim him on waivers, so the Royals let Yuni go. Was it for his lack of defensive range? No. Was it for his .228 batting average? No. Was it for his -1.2 WAR? No. Yuni wanted more playing time, so the Royals cut him loose. According to Manager Ned Yost, one of the reasons Yuni was let go was to change the Royals losing culture. Are they serious? Did the Royals think signing Yuni would bring in a winning culture?
It’s things like this which frustrate Royals fans to no end. Never mind the team could have used infielder Tony Abreu, who they signed as a non-roster invitee, as a low-cost utility infielder. Or longtime Royals farmhand Irving Falu, who’s toiled ten seasons in the team’s minor league system. Instead, the Royals signed Yuni for two million and he performed like Yuni.
And the kicker? Abreu, the player who replaced Yuni, has some offensive pop but his defense is suspect. That sounds like a player the Royals just designated for assignment. Oh well, better late than never.
In another move, Doug Sisson was fired last Saturday. Doug who? You know, Doug Sisson, the former first base, base-running, outfield and bunting coach. Taking his place is Rusty Kuntz, who spent the last year and a half as a special assistant to the general manager while Sisson was first base coach. Now Kuntz is back, taking over Sisson’s duties. Why was Sisson fired? It’s hard to say. Maybe the players didn’t like him or his coaching, or perhaps Sisson and Yost weren’t on the same page.
Will this make a difference? Doubtful. It’s true Kuntz helped Alex Gordon convert to left field and he’s worked with outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain. But the Royals changing their first base coach in the middle of the season is just a symbolic blip in a long, disappointing season.
Then last Monday afternoon the Royals allowed the San Francisco Giants to claim situational lefty Jose Mijares off waivers. In return, the Royals got a $20,000 waiver claim fee. In other words, the Royals let Mijares go for next to nothing. The Royals did try to trade Mijares, but there wasn’t any takers.
Mijares wasn’t a bad pitcher. He had a 2-2 record with a 2.56 ERA, pitching 38.2 innings in 51 games. But the Royals didn’t see Mijares in their long-term plans. Even though he wasn’t eligible for free agency until 2014, it’s possible Mijares would make $2.5 million in arbitration. The Royals felt that was too much money for a situational lefty.
Taking his place is lefty Francisley Bueno, who the Royals signed as a non-roster invitee. For AAA Omaha, Bueno had a 1-4 record with a 2.75 ERA, pitching 55.2 innings over 35 games. He also appeared in three games for the Royals.
The Royals believe Bueno is more of a long-term fit and could be more effective against right-handers than Mijares. Ok, fair enough. But if that’s the case, why did the Royals sign Mijares in the first place? I’m sure Bueno would be more affordable and if he was good, the Royals would have better luck signing him than Mijares. And if Bueno wasn’t bueno, the Royals could cut him loose with minimum fuss.
The Royals 2012 season is sinking into oblivion and these moves aren’t going to turn the team around or reverse what Yost calls a “losing culture.” But it’s doing something, and for the Royals, doing something is better than doing nothing.