Tag Archive | "Betancourt"

Here’s your chance, Johnny Giavotella

The Royals were likely to call up infielder Johnny Giavotella after the Omaha Storm Chasers season came to an end, but Chris Getz‘s season-ending thumb injury last week gives Giavotella the chance to see if he has what it takes to be a Major League second baseman.

During spring training, a lot of fans expected (and hoped) Giavotella would make the opening day roster. But on March 25 Giavotella was optioned to AAA Omaha and Getz became the Royals second baseman. A lot of Royals fans and pundits were disappointed. But the Royals believed Getz’s defense was superior, his offense had improved and Giavotella needed more defensive seasoning in Omaha.

Giavotella did well in Omaha with a .331/.408/.504 line with five homers, 25 RBI and 152 plate appearances, playing second base. When starter Jonathan Sanchez went on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, Giavotella joined the Royals May 9.

During his first stint with the Royals, Giavotella played 21 games and split playing time with Getz and Yuni Betancourt. He had an unimpressive .217/.260/.261 line with no homers and six RBI over 73 plate appearances, committing three errors at second base. Giavotella got more playing time at second when Getz went down with a rib injury May 16, but he still split playing time with Betancourt. The Royals sent Giavotella back down to Omaha June 12 when Chris Getz returned from the disabled list.

Giavotella returned to Omaha, ending up with a .323/.404/.472 line with 10 home runs, 71 RBI over 418 plate appearances. He played the majority of the games at second, committing six errors with a .983 fielding average. It appeared Giavotella would be a September call-up, if he was called up at all. Then last Friday, Getz broke his thumb during a bunt attempt and Giavotella was called up for last Saturday’s game against the White Sox.

Plans are for Giavotella to play five to six games a week at second base. So far, Giavotella’s five games since his return haven’t been impressive. His average over the last five games is .167/.211/.167 with three base hits, no RBI with six strikeouts and no walks. In other words, he’s in the lineup, but not really contributing. Of course this is a small sample size and there’s hope his offensive numbers will improve as he gets more playing time.

But what about Giavotella’s defense at second base? To be honest, his defensive numbers this season haven’t been impressive either, with a .949 fielding percentage and a 3.65 RF/9. Compare that to Getz’s .983 fielding percentage and 4.43 RF/9. Even Betancourt had a .975 fielding percentage and a 4.61 RF/9, and we all know how bad an infielder he was. The league average fielding percentage at second base is .983 and the league RF/9 is 4.62. In other words, all three players are just near or below league average. One is no longer with the team (Betancourt), another is out for the year (Getz), and the one who’s left (Giavotella) is below league average in both categories.

Some Royals fans would like Giavotella to be the second baseman of the future and take Getz’s place. But to be fair, Getz played well with a .275/.312/.360 average and only committed four errors at second, despite having an injury filled season. And since Getz is not going to be a free agent until 2015, he’s probably going to be competing for a second base job in 2013, along with Giavotella.

Unless Giavotella has an injury, he’s going to be the Royals second baseman for the rest of the season. And even if his offense improves, his defense will decide if the Royals think he’s their second baseman of the future. Giavotella is being given a chance. It’s up to him to make the most of it.

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The offense strikes back

After just a horrendous month of July, the Kansas City Royals start off the month of August on a good note.  A sweep, after a bad road trip and an even worse 30 days, is exactly what the Royals needed to get them back on the winning side of the game of baseball.  With timely hitting and some pretty good pitching the Royals started the month of August with two momentum shifting wins.

The month of July ended with the Royals trading their closer Jonathan Broxton to the Cincinnati Reds for two pitching prospects. The prospects look to be a good return for a guy that would, it seems, only be a Royal for two months.  Turning a two month closer into two guys who may or may not make it to the majors seems to be very welcoming by fans in Kansas City.  In the trade the Royals received Class AA right-handed starter J.C. Sulbaran and Class AAA lefty reliever Donnie Joseph. Joseph seemed to be the straw that broke to camels back in the trade.  A guy who by all accounts is a strike out king who may pair well with fellow lefty Tim Collins in the bullpen of the future.  Sulbaran projects to be a back of the rotation guy who won a state championship with first basemen Eric Hosmer in 2008 at American Heritage High School in Florida. So the Royals continue to put guys on a team that have won together before and could win together in years to come.

With Broxton gone and Joakim Soria recovering from season ending Tommy John surgery, right handed reliever Greg Holland assumes the role of closer which he stepped into Wednesday night as he got his first save of the season against the Cleveland Indians in a 5-2 Royals victory.

The stand out development of the Royals beginning to the month of August is the benching of both second basemen Yunieksy Betancourt and right fielder Jeff Franceour.  The problem with them being on the bench is that they may not see much more playing time since both Chris Getz, who took Betancourt’s spot in the order, and Jarrod Dyson, Franceour’s spot, have taken their opportunity by the reigns and excelled with it.  Getz went 3-9 with 4 runs scored and 3 RBI in the three game sweep of the Indians while Dyson went 7-12 with 2 runs scored and two RBI both contributing to run production with stolen bases in the series as well.  So the spots that seem to have been lost by the lack of productivity by Betancourt and Franceour have been given away and so far earned with Getz and Dyson.

After a road trip that saw barely any offense outside of designated hitter Billy Butler, the start of the home stand saw a resurgence in the Royal’s offense, scoring 20 runs in the last three games, with the absence of Billy Butler’s bat.  Butler having only two hits in the series and only driving in one run. The brightest spot, outside of the fact that the Royals came back from the dumps and have now won three games in a row, of the sweep of the Indians has to be the walk off win the Royals secured on Thursday.  After jumping out of the gates with 6 runs in the first, highlighted by a lead off home run by Alex Gordon and a three run shot off of the bat of Eric Hosmer, the Royals and struggling starter Bruce Chen let the Indians all the way back and it took extra innings to seal the win.  But it is how they won it in the 11th inning that stands out the most.

After late game at bats in crucial situations that did not see any success, manager Ned Yost had to keep reiterating that the need for shortstop Alcides Escobar to get the experience of late game at bats that could win or lose a ballgame for the Royals club.  Well that all came to fruition on Thursday.  Escobar has come up with clutch hits late in games all season long but none bigger than his walk off single in the 11th inning. It has been a season of firsts for Escobar after his first multi-homerun game of his life, as he stated, and now his first walk off win in the major leagues. To top all of that off he is having a season at the plate that no one saw coming but it needs to continue.

The Royals have done it once again.  They have hooked everyone right back on to what they are doing.  Now that does no mean that they have a chance at the division, which would take a Herculean effort from all 25 men on the roster, but they can give us that little tease that gets us all hyped and ready for the 2013 season.  Maybe then it will be “Our Time.”

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Backup plan?

If the Royals were a football team, they would be in a pretty good spot right now. They have a solid “two-deep” that features depth and competition at nearly every position.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

Too bad the Royals don’t play football.

Considering they are gearing up for baseball season, the Royals have a mess on their hands when it comes to infield depth.

They made the inexplicable decision to bring back Yuniesky Betancourt as their “utility infielder” completing a spiral of confusing moves in which they discarded first Mike Aviles, then Yamaico Navarro         .

Much as everyone seems to hate Betancourt, you could make an argument that he’s not a terrible shortstop. But the Royals tried to convince us that he could play second and third too.

If that’s so, then the Royals should be planning to send either Johnny Giavotella or Chris Getz back to the minors, right? But you certainly don’t hear that about the position battle at second. At least to this point, it looks like the Royals plan to carry both second basemen.

If that happens, it eats a roster spot. And that shifts the spotlight to third base, where one would assume the Royals would like a safety valve for Mike Moustakas. Will that be Betancourt, who’s never played a game at third in the big leagues? Or will the Royals try to figure out a way to keep Kevin Kouzmanoff, a veteran third baseman who was once highly thought of.

Keeping a second-stringer at either second or third will most likely deny the Royals a fifth outfielder. They will have to break camp with Mitch Maier because of his versatility, instead of Jarrod Dyson. Dyson was a silver bullet in manager Ned Yost’s holster early last season, and certainly Yost would like the luxury of having a run-scoring machine on the bench.

The Royals’ two-deep quandary seems to lack any effective solution. If one of the participants in the mix should falter during the spring, or if one should get injured, then the Royals will look smart for having given themselves options. But if the problem doesn’t solve itself, then they will be stuck making a decision that didn’t need to be made.

A legitimate option at the utility player position would have made the mess avoidable.

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Who’s On First? Better Yet: Who Plays Second?

With the recent signing of Chris Getz the Kansas City Royals have opened up options for what will be done with the second base position, that is still up in the air, in 2012.

Photo Courtesy Of Minda Haas

Starting out Spring Training as expected, Johnny Giavotella should be the front runner for the second base job. But with his struggles, both hitting and defensively, last season he may be on a short leash. He must improve his batting average because the Royals will be a team that is able to drive in runs but if there is no one on base that cannot be accomplished.

Option number two would be Chris Getz. While this is not the best solution in the world it will have to do for the time being if Giavotella is not in the big leagues for long. Getz does look like a better option defensively, but with the outs that he makes at the plae and most recently on the bases he just does not seem to fit on this ball club.  Although the Royals did sign and then assign Yuniesky Betancourt to the utility player role, he cannot be expected to step in at a new position right away. Also, we have not seen what he will do without hitting everyday.  It could help his hitting because he is not always pressing but also hurt him because he loves to swing the bat and if he does not get as many chances than he may just swing at anything which defeats the purpose of making less outs at the second base position.  Getz just is not a good enough hitter to be in this lineup.  He is a good player yes, but this team cannot afford to be just giving outs away like candy.

Option number three contains Chris Getz again. He could be used as a filler if the Royals are just waiting for first round draft pick Christian Colon to mature enough to be part of this season’s youth invasion. Though, not having much time in the minor leagues, Colon did play college ball and should be able to mature his game quicker than most of the prospects in the Royals system. If so then the Royals would be relying on yet another rookie to fill a hole if the hole is even dug.

Hopefully, Gio comes out of the gate in Spring Training and plays like he has in past seasons in the minors. If he does than this is all superfluous. But if not then the Royals have options although not the solutions to the problem but fillers for the time being.


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Yuni? That’s Your Answer? You Must Be Joking!

I never thought I would be one of those writers with a cause célèbre, a single issue that I address frequently and passionately. But it would appear I have finally found my hot button issue.

I’ve bemoaned in two different articles recently the Royals’ handling of their need for a backup infielder – a “utility infielder,” if you will.

The collective scream of “No!” that you heard around Kansas City yesterday was fans reacting to the announcement that the Royals had signed Yuniesky Betancourt as a backup infielder. And I am back at the computer, this time not to address what the Royals should do. This time I have to address what it is they have done, which is more baffling than any decision to date.

If on no other basis that PR, this signing stinks. Betancourt’s inclusion in the Zack Greinke trade was seen by Royals fans as a case of addition by subtraction. Betancourt is probably the most reviled player in recent KC history. Fans celebrated every move Alcides Escobar made if for no other reason than that he is not Yuniesky Betancourt.

I have been railing about the Royals’ mishandling of Mike Aviles and Yamaico Navarro and their need for someone who can capably back up Escobar at shortstop as well as Mike Moustakas at third and whoever the Royals deem their starting second baseman.

Conventional wisdom says you need someone who isn’t necessarily sent out to win games, but who won’t lose games. Utility infielders usually are steady, not flashy, dependable, not streaky.

If that is the case, then Yuni is not your guy. Sure he has some pop, and can occasionally make an impressive play. But this is a guy who catches (or doesn’t catch) pop flies one-handed off to the side of his body. He fails with runners in scoring position. He covers very little ground.

That is, he covers very little ground at short. The Royals admit that Betancourt has only played nine games in his career at second base. As far as I know, he’s NEVER played third.

So the Royals problem really still isn’t fixed. You can’t blame the Royals for not having made a decision between Johnny Giavotella and Chris Getz. So they’ll probably carry both on the roster. So second is backed up already.

But who fills in for Moustakas? A guy who sucks at his natural position of shortstop and has never played third? Who shows lack of discipline and poor work habits? Whose physical skills are rapidly deteriorating?

I just don’t get it. And I don’t think I’m alone among Royals fans. Bringing back a guy who was unpopular is one thing. But bringing back an unpopular guy to play a role for which he’s poorly suited seems much worse.

I usually have on my powder-blue colored glasses for roster moves, but I don’t for this one. To me it’s just plain stupid.

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Esky For Yuni: Even Up?

The Zack Greinke trade of last December was aptly dubbed a “blockbuster,” meaning that several players changed hands in the transition. So to evaluate the trade requires more than just a one-to-one comparison.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

One of the centerpieces of the trade for the Royals was Alcides Escobar. Their arsenal of top prospects lacked a hot shortstop, and fans lusted for a change from whipping boy Yuniesky Betancourt.

Betancourt was not a centerpiece of the trade. He was a throw-in. Or more accurately, he was a throw-out. The Royals wanted rid of Betancourt, and the Brewers were willing to swap shortstops to get Greinke.

But what if the Royals had had the opportunity to trade Betancourt for Escobar even up during last off-season?

Certainly they would have jumped at the chance. Escobar’s struggles in his debut season in Milwaukee hadn’t completely tarnished his top-10 prospect ranking. Betancourt, on the other hand, couldn’t even get credit for hitting three of the Royals’ four grand slams in 2010. No one liked him, and his chances of emerging from the doghouse in KC were nil.

Looking back now, however, would a trade of Betancourt for Escobar, even up, be such a good idea?

It didn’t always look like a good idea. Like when Betancourt hit .333 with a homer and 5 RBI’s in the National League Championships Series. It didn’t when he scored five runs against the D-Backs in the previous playoff series.

But it did when he muffed an easy ground ball that opened the floodgates against the Cardinals in game 5. And it did when balls that would seem playable by average shortstops eluded his reach repeatedly throughout the playoffs.

Such is life with Betancourt. But under close analysis, is Escobar any better?

Comparison of a few of their numbers would show there wasn’t much difference between the two during the 2011 campaign.

Escobar’s batting average during the first two months of the season would have embarrassed Mario Mendoza. But he heated up to finish with a .254 mark. Yuni, meanwhile, posted a .252 average. No difference there.

Escobar’s .290 OBP was just 10th among AL shortstops – well below average. But Betancourt, who has a career .292 OBP, managed just .271 this year. Advantage Escobar.

Slugging is where Yuni has a decided advantage. Like him or not, you can’t debate that Yuni has developed some pop. His slugging percentage in 2011 was an acceptable .381. Not great but just .007 behind someone named Derek Jeter. And last year, he slugged .405. Escobar on the other hand? An anemic .343 last year. Advantage Betancourt.

After knocking 16 homers in 2010, Betancourt popped 13 more this season. After Ned Yost bragged about Escobar’s power in the spring, his shortstop managed just 4. Big advantage Betancourt.

But while Betancourt begins to look like the better player, we can’t forget to look at the total package. Escobar far outshines Betancourt in the eye test. Who can forget the lazy showing on fly balls? Or the strikeouts with runners on base? Or the lack of speed or range?

Those headache-inducing defensive statistics seemed to back up the perception that Escobar is the far superior fielder. He scored higher in fielding percentage and in putouts + assists per 9 innings. Yost boasted that Escobar’s “runs are in his glove,” meaning that he is taking away an inordinate number of runs from the opponent. His arm is certainly one of the best, and he seems to move much better than Betancourt.

And speaking of moving, Escobar can move on the base paths as well. He was third among AL shortstops with 26 stolen bases. Betancourt has just 30 steals in his 7-year career. Escobar also led AL shortstops with 8 triples. Betancourt has a decent number of triples in his career, but just five in the last two years combined.

So in addition to fielding, Escobar has a definite advantage in two areas – 1) speed and overall athleticism, and 2) age.

Escobar is just 24 and looks lithe and agile. Betancourt is 29 but looks like he’s 39.

Escobar’s stock appears to be trending up, while Betancourt’s is decidedly headed down. Escobar took off after his horrid start and improved drastically over the course of his second season in the bigs. Betancourt, on the other hand, seemed on the decline. I have little doubt that Betancourt will be replaced within the next couple of years and probably won’t even be in the big leagues when Escobar peaks.

Before the season, I wrote the following:

With the proper expectations, Escobar has a great chance of being one of the best in team history. If Escobar could hit .250 with 10 homers and 30-plus stolen bases in a season, he’d fall right in with the best offensive shortstops the Royals have ever had. If he plays excellent defense, it would be first time in a decade the team had that at short.

If he performs any better than that, he could go down as the greatest shortstop in Royals history.

(See the whole article about KC’s history of shortstops)

While he didn’t exactly blow anyone’s mind with his play last year, I’ll stand by that statement. I saw enough potential from June to September to believe Escobar is a significant upgrade over Betancourt. I believe he is Kansas City’s answer at short, and I believe he will be a fixture on great Royals teams for the next decade.

The same could never have been said about Yuni.

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Hey, Watch This!

When this phrase is uttered you can bet someone is about to do something that might not end well. Watching the Royals can be like that. In fact I bet some of you didn’t know the Royals played baseball games after the All-Star Break. I personally have not seen one since 2006, but I hear that they happen. Usually by this time I have moved on to following teams that are playing or play-off spots. I hear about September Call Ups and other late season happenings with the Royals through regular media outlets. This year might be different for me. I have come up with a few reasons to watch.

photo by Minda Haas

The Trade Deadline: These few weeks leading up to July 31st are some of my favorite of the year. You never know what’s going to happen. Not just with the Royals, but with all teams in baseball. Dayton Moore has said in more than one interview that the Royals won’t be all that active. I personally do not believe anything a baseball executive tells the media, especially when it involves trades or negotiations. I could write an article about what I think might happen. But I find such articles as lame as NFL Mock Drafts. As in, I don’t read them, so I won’t write them. What I do know is the trade deadline can be like Christmas. It could also be like a kick in the jewels. Like learning Yuneski Betancourt is on your favorite team, and that your team gave up some pitching to get him. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s why it’s fun. This will be my first Trade Deadline with Twitter. That should add to the entertainment.

Moore Prospects: When are Mike Montgomery, Lorenzo Cain and Johnny Giavotella getting called up? Moves at the trade deadline will have an impact on this. I’ll be upset if they just get a September cup of coffee.

Rookies: Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, who as I was editing this article hit a game winning 2 run homer against the Twins, Alcides Escobar, and the young arms in the bullpen. How will they improve? Danny Duffy certainly has some things to work on. How will they adjust to playing more games than they’ve played their entire lives? How will they handle the losing? Will they make adjustments? Do you notice questions are constantly surrounding this team?

Kyle Davies: Just kidding. In fact, I plan to not watch, listen, or attend any Kyle Davies start. As long as he in this rotation you cannot tell me the front office is actually serious about contending.

The Schedule: No interleague play from here on out. That means the Royals will be playing the majority of their AL Central schedule in the second half. The Royals still have nine games left with the Indians. I single out the Indians because they are relatively the same age and development of the Royals. They destroyed the Royals earlier in the spring. The Royals really need to battle back against them, and at least give me hope that the division title doesn’t go through Cleveland in the next few years. The schedule also includes back to back series against the Yankees and Red Sox August 15th-21st. And just to make things more fun, 41 of the Royals final 71 games are on the road.

Finally, you should watch the Royals because it’s baseball. But be careful, you might hurt yourself.

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Dog Days Give Way To Moose & Hos Days

This past week has seemed like the dog days of summer, even though that phrase is usually reserved for August. It’s usually stupid hot, and the Royals are usually losing at a good clip. Come August we’re tired of both, and ready write off the Royals until March while waiting for that first strong cold front in September.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

This week in a lot of Royals Nation the temps have been near 100. Along with the heat was the humidity, and if you didn’t have humidity you had wind. Likewise, the Royals have dropped 16 of their last 26. Including being swept at home by the worst team in the league; the injury plagued Twins. For me it was my Annual “Ok I’m done with this.” Series

But then I remember: Like the 100 degree days I pine for while driving through snow, I remember that regardless of how bad the Royals are I spent the entire off-season looking forward to the season, not just the month of April. There will be a dark 4 month stretch in the winter where I’ll be looking for this stuff again. There is no sense in wishing either of them away

However, the end of this week brought some relief from the heat. It also brought some news we’ve been expecting since Spring Training. Mike Moustakas has been called up. This brings renewed energy into watching and paying attention to the Royals. “Moose & Hos” will now be in the same Major League line-up.

Mike Moustakas will make is MLB debut 50 miles from his home

The major dynamic Moustakas should add to the line-up is power. In the minors last year Moose had 36 HR in 118 games. I know it’s the minors, but even if there is a drop in production Moose should be a huge addition to the line-up. Especially when looking at previous decades power numbers. You know, what will go down as The Steroid Era? You have to go all the way back to Carlos Beltran in 2003 to find a Royals hitter with more than 25 home runs in a season. Miguel Olivo came close in 2009 with 23. Want to read something that will make you avert your eyes? Yuneski Betancourt lead the Royals in home runs last year with….16. This year the numbers are a little better, but still not good. Moustakas should help with that, and Hosmer has 5 HR in 32 games.

So the youth movement continues. The monotony of the season has been broken up. Hosmer, Moustakas, and the Law Firm of Coleman, Collins & Crow will provide enough bright spots to ignore the historically horrendous starting pitching. That’s a good thing, there are still 99 games left and no NFL waiting at the end.

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A Look Back At Zack

The aftershocks of the Zack Greinke trade are still reverberating in Royals-land, and KC fans are trying to wrap their heads around life without Zack and the outlook for the four new names added to the franchise. A lot of unknowns. But here I will take a look back at the known: Greinke and fellow trade piece Yuniesky Betancourt’s time with the Royals. Zack and Yuni both stirred the emotions of Royals fans. The similarities end there though.

Betancourt was another stopgap in the seemingly endless merry-go-round of subpar shortstops in Kansas City, and became a whipping boy for many fans. To the sabermetrically inclined, GM Dayton Moore’s acquisition of Betancourt mid-season 2009 was another glaring example of the organization’s head-in-the-sand attitude towards advances in baseball analysis. He was dreadful in his 71 games with the club in ’09 and marginally better in 2010. His 16 home runs—four of the grand variety—in 2010 came out of nowhere and did provide a boost. Still, that Moore included him in this trade takes the sting out of losing Greinke ever so slightly.

Zack has been a part of the Royals organization since the 2002 draft, so Royals fans have had a long time to get attached to him. He whizzed through the minors and made his Royals debut in a start in Oakland in 2004 when he was just 20 years old. He pitched well enough in his five innings that day to be in line for a win. The game served as an ominous foreshadow of things to come for Greinke: with the Royals up 4-2 and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Royals were primed to celebrate their young prospect’s first victory. But Eric Chavez hit a two run blast to tie it up, and the Royals dropped the game in the 11th. If Zack had any idea how many times his talents would be wasted by hapless Royals teams over the ensuing years, he would have demanded a trade then and there. Instead he trudged on, and had an encouraging rookie year (3.97 ERA, 4.70 FIP). Then came a tortuous sophomore campaign in which nothing seemed to go right. Zack wasn’t as bad as his 5.80 ERA and 5-17 record suggested (his FIP actually improved to 4.49), but the year took a toll on him.

His struggle with anxiety and depression that led to him walking away from baseball in 2006 spring training has been well documented and probably overblown, so here’s the short version: Greinke headed home to Orlando thinking he might become a lawnmower, but received some help and rediscovered his drive to play. Zack has credited then Royals GM Allard Baird and manager Buddy Bell for handling his problems with grace. He headed to AA Wichita where Frank White was managing and the team was winning games. Zack was supposedly enjoying being part of a winning team so much that he was disappointed when the call came to head to the losing big league club for three late-season relief appearances.

Greinke was hit hard early in ’07 and was moved to the bullpen after seven starts. There he made 38 largely effective appearances before being put pack into the rotation in time for seven more starts at the end of the year. It was in those games Greinke began filling his potential as an ace. With the season winding down, he shut out the White Sox for eight innings, allowing two hits, zero walks and striking out 10. He has never looked back. In 2008 he put it all together over a full season, and Kansas City had the makings of a star on their hands.

Royals fans were already endeared to Greinke at this point, but it was taken to a new level when he signed an extension before the ’09 season that everyone thought would keep him in Kansas City through 2012. In a city jaded by seeing homegrown players who achieve success bolting for larger paydays, fans were jubilant that Zack actually wanted to stay. He seemed to think Moore was putting the Royals in a position to contend, and silly as it seems now, there were dreams that the ’09 Royals could do just that. A motivated Greinke flew out of the gates, reeling off one of the sickest stretches of pitching in history. It took 24 innings into the season for anyone to get a run off him—and it was unearned. Through 10 starts, his ERA stood at 0.84 and he had 73 strikeouts and 12 walks. Royals fans started wishing each other a Happy Greinke Day when he was starting. And as if they needed anymore reason to love him, he told the media in New York, “I don’t want to pitch for New York in the playoffs. I want to pitch for Kansas City in the playoffs.”

The complete domination abated slightly in the middle of the season—perhaps when it was clear the Royals weren’t contenders—but then returned in full force at the end of the season. On August 25, he struck out 15 to set a new Royals record. He followed that up with an even better game: a one-hit shutout in Seattle. Much of his success was predicated on a slider so filthy it buckled the knees of anyone in a ten mile radius. He landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated and dominated an inning of the All-Star game. When the year was over, he had 242 strikeouts, a 2.16 ERA, an impossible 205 ERA+, a 2.33 FIP and a Cy Young trophy. It was probably one of the three greatest individual seasons in Royals history (along with George Brett’s 1980 and Bret Saberhagen’s 1989).

But Zack never seemed particularly excited about or interested in the individual achievements. He found it “annoying” when KC fans chanted “Cy Young” during his last home start of ’09. Greinke just wanted to win. And in spite of his once-in-a-decade performance in ’09, the team was merely 17-16 in games he started thanks to criminally bad run and bullpen support.

No one was deluding themselves that the 2010 Royals would be contenders, and it seemed to most observers that Zack lacked motivation last season. The traditional stats (4.17 ERA) show that he was downright mediocre, but of the things Zack could control, he was still an elite pitcher (3.34 FIP). Fangraphs WAR rated him the seventh best pitcher in the AL in 2010. But in August, he revealed to the Kansas City Star just how frustrated he was with the Royals. He stated that he had no reason to get excited about another youth movement in Kansas City since even if it paid dividends, it would not be until after his contract was up. Then during this off-season, it became clear Greinke was pushing hard for a trade to a team that had a chance to win now. Dayton Moore had failed to build a competent team around his star, and that led to his hand being forced to move him.

There are real reasons to be excited about the future of the Royals starting in 2012 or so, but for now, there’s a gaping hole on the mound where one of Kansas City’s favorite athletes used to be. Dayton Moore signing Greinke to that extension in ’09 was probably his finest move as GM; his inability to keep Greinke content and in KC may be his worst. I shudder to think what a re-energized Greinke might do to the National League in 2011. And for now, Royals fans are left to wonder what could have been in Kansas City.

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Forgettable Trades in KC History

In light of the most recent Royals transaction, I have compiled a collection of some of the worst Royals trades in history. This isn’t a comment on how the Grienke trade is already a bust. We won’t know for sure until 4-5 years down the road.

Centerfielder Lorenzo Cain probably overachieved last season, but Alcides Escobar is an instant upgrade at short even if he did hit 40 points lower than Betancourt. Two young speedy defenders along with two projectable arms under team control for the next five plus years.

It should be intriguing to see how Greinke performs in Milwaukee. Greinke facing pitchers should be fun to watch, and playoff stretch could likely spike his numbers and value. Whatever happens this deal was made by two teams with completely different mentalities.

The Royals continue to mortgage off major league talent to supply what might be the greatest farm system in history. The Brewers on the other hand has traded in the franchises future for one last shot at the title with Prince Fielder at first.

Hopefully we can look back 5-10 years from now and the result of the Greinke trade won’t look like any of these.

12/20/2005

Royals receive: P Ricardo Rodriguez

Braves receive: OF Matt Diaz

Matt Diaz isn’t quite as significant as some of the outfielders to come, but none the less Diaz has put up solid numbers in his five seasons since being dealt to Atlanta. Diaz hit .305, 73 2B, 41 HR, and 180 RBI, good enough for a 5.9 WAR in his time as a Brave.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez never saw time in the big leagues.

7/25/2001

Royals receive: SS Neifi Perez

A’s receive: OF Jermaine Dye

The main piece in this three way deal was Jermaine Dye. Dye went on to play in parts of four seasons for Oakland. He only played two full seasons as an Athletic posting similar numbers in 2002 (.252, 24 HR, 86 RBI) and 2004 (.265, 23 HR, 80 RBI).

In Colorado Neifi Perez had been a capable performer, actually winning a Gold Glove the year before coming to Kansas City. As a Royal though, Perez played two pretty awful years of shortstop. When all was said and done he played well below replacement level, -1.9 WAR as a Royal.

1/8/2008

Royals receive: C A.J. Hinch, SS Angel Berroa, P Roberto Hernandez

A’s receive: 2B Mark Ellis, OF Johnny Damon

Damon was a rising star, in his sixth and final season as a Royal he hit .327, 42 2B, 10 3B, 16 HR, 88 RBI, and 46 SB. Damon played one subpar season in Oakland before signing with the Red Sox in the off-season.

Mark Ellis went on to be the everyday second baseman for the A’s for the next eight seasons. He placed eight in the 2002 Rookie of the Year Award and in his career has put up numbers like this; .268, 193 2B, 85 HR, 418 RBI.

A.J. Hinch and Roberto Hernandez were both in Kansas City for two forgettable seasons. Berroa won the 2003 Rookie of the Year Award, going for .287, 28 2B, 17 HR, 71 RBI, and 21 SB. Berroa would never come close to duplicating his rookie campaign.

4/2/1999

Royals receive: P Chris Fussell

Orioles receive: 1B Jeff Conine

Conine was originally drafted by the Royals in the 58th round of the 1987 MLB Draft. Kansas City was forced to surrender him to the Marlins in their expansion draft. After five successful seasons in Florida, along with a 1997 World Series Championship, the Royals nabbed Conine again for the 1998 campaign.

His return to Kansas City resulted in a subpar season, with only 309 at-bats, causing the Royals to deal him to Baltimore for a 22 year old pitching prospect, Chris Fussell.

With Baltimore, Conine hit .289, 136 2B, 75 HR, and 376 RBI. Conine made his way back to Florida just in time to cash in on his second World Series Championship in 2003.

Fussell started 17 for Kansas City in two seasons before exiting the league. In his 126 innings Fussell managed a 6.79 ERA.

3/27/1987

Royals receive: P Mauro Gozzo, P Rick Anderson, C Ed Hearn

Mets receive: P David Cone, OF Chris Jelic

4/6/1995

Royals receive: IF Chris Stynes, IF Tony Medrano, P David Sinnes

Blue Jays receive: David Cone

I have combined the two David Cone trades, because they were equally bad. Cone made his first All-star appearance in 1988, while finishing third in the Cy Young voting and tenth in the MVP voting. In seven years with the Mets, Cone went 81-51 with a 3.13 ERA, including 15 shutouts. Cone won the 1994 Cy Young and then was dealt to Toronto. Cone went 9-6 with a 3.38 ERA before he was traded to the Yankees.

In return, the Royals got 162 combined at-bats from Ed Hearn and Chris Stynes, 47 innings pitched from Rick Anderson, and 17 combined minor league seasons from Medrano and Sinnes.

2/5/1983

Royals receive: OF Leon Roberts

Blue Jays receive: 1B Cecil Fielder

The Royals acquired ‘Big Daddy’ Fielder in the Secondary 1982 MLB Draft. In his rookie season, at the age of 18, Fielder stroked .322, 28 2B, 20 HR, and 68 RBI in only 273 at-bats.

Kansas City felt they could leverage the young slugger for a veteran presence in the outfield, trading him to Toronto for Leon Roberts. Fielder played parts of four seasons with Toronto before spending a year in Japan. Fielder’s reintroduction to MLB in Detroit was a smash. In his ten years with Toronto and Detroit Fielder blasted 250 homers, and knocked in 762 RBIs.

Leon Roberts, an aging outfielder, came to the Royals in 1983. By ’84, he was out of the league recording 258 at-bats with Kansas City, hitting .252 with 8 HR and 27 RBIs.

12/7/1973

Royals receive: P Lindy McDaniel

Yankees receive: OF Lou Pinella, P Ken Wright

The Royals got the 38 year old relief pitcher, Lindy McDaniel, who threw 184.2 innings in two seasons with Kansas City. His WAR as a Royal was 0.9.

Ken Wright only threw 5.2 innings in New York, but Piniella went on to play 11 seasons as an outfielder for the Yankees. After being an All-star in Kansas City, Piniella hit .295, 178 2B, 57 HR, 417 RBI, and 8.5 WAR in New York. Two seasons after retiring as a Yankee, Piniella took the reins in New York as manager. Piniella enjoyed a 23 year managerial career, winning the 1990 World Series with the Reds.

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