Since we're all huge baseball fans here at the Thigh, we've decided to examine each MLB team and where they currently stand. We'll look at how the team did last year, changes that happened or could happen with the team this offseason, and how it looks like the team will do in 2009 as of now. We'll even toss in the hottest thigh associated with each team. In this edition, we look at the Kansas City Royals.
2008 Outcome: 75-87, 4th Place In The AL Central, 13.5 Games Behind The White Sox.
What They've Lost: Likely 2B Mark Grudzielanek(Free Agent), RP Ramon Ramirez(Traded To Red Sox, RP Leo Nunez(Traded To Marlins), CF Joey Gathright(Signed With Cubs), IF/OF Esteban German(Released), IF Jason Smith(Signed With Astros), P Kip Wells(Released), RP Jeff Fulchino(Claimed Off Waivers By Astros), RP Neal Musser(Signed With Astros).
What They've Added: Acquired 1B Mike Jacobs(From Marlins), CF Coco Crisp(Acquired From Red Sox), Signed RP Juan Cruz(2 Years, $6 Million), Signed RP Kyle Farnsworth(2 Years, $9.25 Million), Signed IF/OF Willie Bloomquist(2 Years, $3 Million), Signed P Horacio Ramirez( 1 Year, $1.8 Million), Signed P Doug Waechter(1 Year, $640,000), Claimed IF Tug Hulett Off Waivers(From Mariners), Signed P Jamey Wright(Minor League Deal), Signed RP Oscar Villarreal(Minor League Deal), Signed C Vance Wilson(Minor League Deal), Signed P Bruce Chen(Minor League Deal), Signed RP Franquelis Osoria(Minor League Deal), Signed C J.R. House(Minor League Deal), Claimed P Jairo Cuevas Off Waivers(From Braves).
Needs: A legitimate everyday second baseman, a left-handed starting pitcher, better production out of the back of the rotation, and more power and discipline at the plate.
The Talk: It's been a busy offseason for Royals general manager Dayton Moore. He didn't waste any time to make some noteworthy moves, acquiring first baseman Mike Jacobs from the Marlins on October 30th, and outfielder Coco Crisp from the Red Sox on November 19th. He then went out signed some arms for the bullpen in Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth, Doug Waechter, and signed relievers Jamey Wright, Oscar Villarreal, and Franquelis Osoria to minor league contracts.
Moore's moves are receiving mixed reviews. He promised major changes would be made. Adding a new starting first baseman in Jacobs, a new starting center fielder in Crisp, a utility infielder in Willie Bloomquist, and a bunch of veteran pitchers have the team looking much different for sure, but is it improved? That's debatable.
The 28-year-old Jacobs has a ton of power, something the Royals were greatly lacking. Outfielder Jose Guillen led them in homers in 2008 with 20, and they only had 120 as a team which ranked them 27th in the majors. Jacobs hit 32 in 519 plate appearances and had a .514 slugging percentage, so he'll definitely help them improve there. However, the Royals were also 26th in the majors in on-base percentage in 2008 at .320, and Jacobs had a .299 on-base percentage in 2008, .319 for his career. So he'll help them in one area of need, but hurt them in another. He's below average defensively as well.
I do really like the Coco Crisp acquisition. He's an outstanding defensive center fielder, a switch-hitter, and should be good for a .280+ batting average, around 10 homers, and 25+ stolen bases. It sounds like he'll be the leadoff hitter though, and while he has great speed, you'd like to see your leadoff hitter getting on base more than Coco has over his career at a .331 clip.
The other notable position player they brought in is utility man Willie Bloomquist who had previously been with Seattle. He can play anywhere and is a nice guy to have on the team because of that, but offers very little at the plate, particularly in the power department(6 career homers in 1255 at bats). The talk is he could be the everyday second baseman, and that's a terrible idea in my opinion. Bloomquist can be a valuable 25th man, but he's not an everyday player.
To upgrade the pitching staff, Moore made a great move in acquiring Juan Cruz from the Diamondbacks. Few pitchers in baseball have the stuff Cruz does, as he features a fastball that will reach the upper 90s with lots of movement, a great slider, and a very underrated change up. Cruz struck out 87 hitters in 61 innings with a 3.10 ERA in 2007, and struck out 71 hitters in 51.2 innings with a 2.61 ERA in 2008. He'll be a great setup man in front of a very reliable Joakim Soria at closer.
The Farnsworth deal is a head-scratcher though. Nine million dollars over two years is a lot to give a reliever on the decline, especially with all of the holes they were looking to fill. It seems Farnsworth was lucky to have an ERA of 4.48 in 2008, considering he allowed 15 homers in 60.1 innings pitched, and allowed an OPS of .903. With a fastball that reaches the upper 90s, it makes no sense that he falls in love with his average slider so much. I'd guess the majority of those homers he allowed came on hanging sliders. Anyway, Farnsworth can still be solid, having an ERA in the 4's and striking out a batter an inning, I just don't think he's worth that contract.
Furthemore, is he better than Ramon Ramirez(2.64 ERA, 70 K in 71. IP in 2008) who Moore traded to the Red Sox for Crisp, or Leo Nunez(2.98 ERA, 2 homers allowed in 48.1 IP) who was traded to the Marlins for Jacobs? I'm not so sure. The Cruz addition was great, but there's no guarantee the bullpen is better overall after investing a lot of money into it.
As for the rotation, the Royals are looking for a lefty to take the fifth spot with right-handers Zack Greinke, Gil Meche, Kyle Davies, and Brian Bannister almost surely having the other four spots. With the hope of filling this need, they signed veteran left-hander Horacio Ramirez. The 29-year-old last started in 2007 for the Mariners, putting up a 7.16 ERA in 20 starts. If he's pitching anything like that, you absolutely cannot have him in the rotation. In his career as a starter though, he's 38-29 with a 4.55 ERA.
There is one move Moore made this offseason that everybody can agree with, and that's signing Zack Greinke to a four-year extension worth $38 million. Greinke, 25, has arguably the nastiest stuff of any starting pitcher in the majors. He went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 202.1 innings pitched this past season. Just three years ago at this time, he was out of baseball battling social anxiety disorder. Now he's one of the best young pitchers in baseball that should only get better, and Royals fans are thrilled to know he'll be on their side through at least 2012. With Greinke and Gil Meche who went 14-11 with a 3.98 ERA in 2008, the Royals have a very good 1-2 punch in the rotation.
Regardless of how the moves Moore's made work out, this season will likely come down to how well their young players on offense perform. 25-year-old third baseman Alex Gordon is the one that can really make a difference if he breaks out like everybody expects him to soon. He was the second overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, won the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award in 2006, and was considered the top prospect in baseball by many around the game. In his second year in 2008, he improved across the board statistically, hitting .260, with 16 home runs, 59 RBI, and had an OPS of .783. If he can be the .300-30-100 guy that he's capable of, all of a sudden this Royals team looks quite a bit better.
22-year-old first baseman/designated hitter Billy Butler is also capable of much more than he's shown so far at the big league level. Hitting .280 with a .754 OPS in 772 bats in his two seasons is very impressive considering his age. Most players are in low-A ball at such an age.
The biggest surprise in the 2008 season for the Royals was shortstop Mike Aviles. Aviles, 28 on March 13th, hit .325, with 10 homers, 51 RBI, and an OPS of .833 in his rookie campaign. While he'll probably not hit .325 again, he appears to be a very solid offensive player that can play shortstop, second base, and third base.
Manager Troy Hillman decided to move the reliable David DeJesus from the leadoff spot to the third spot in the order following the acquisition of Coco Crisp. With DeJesus, you know you're getting a .290+ hitter, with 10+ homers, and an .800+ OPS.
They're also going to need a good season out of outfielder Jose Guillen, who is one of the most inconsistent hitters in baseball. One season he hits like an All-Star, the next season he hits .230. He has hit for over 20 homers in five of the last six seasons though.
Free Agent Signing/Trade Prediction: It really looks like there's a trade of some sort coming with this team in the next few weeks. It will likely be more of the Royals unloading some salary, rather than making a move to make the current team much better.
Let's have some fun, I'll throw out a trade that I think is possible. There's been talk of Mark Teahen being traded, as the veteran really doesn't fit in on this team as it appears now. Dayton Moore disagrees, saying how Teahen's ability to play mulitple positions will be needed on this team, but I'm not completely sold.
So here it is: Mark Teahen to the Cubs for pitcher Angel Guzman.
The Royals are currently projected to be a bit above the $70 million payroll they planned to have, and Teahen is making $3.575 million this season. That's a lot of money to pay a backup, especially for a team on a tight budget. The problem is finding somebody else to take on that contract in these difficult economic times.
The Cubs are looking for a player that can third base to backup Aramis Ramirez, and would love to have another player aside from Kosuke Fukudome that can play right field when Milton Bradley inevitably gets hurt. Teahen can do both of these things. He's also a player they've reportedly coveted for a few years, and there were rumors he could be headed to the Cubs a few months ago. They still have about $7 million available to spend if their $145 million payroll limit is accurate, so they could afford Teahen's contract. They also have a young power arm available to deal in Angel Guzman, is out of options and very much in danger of not making the roster. The Cubs would rather get something for the talented 27-year-old pitcher, and I'd have to think the Royals would be very interested in acquiring him.
Yeah so there's probably no chance of it happening, but I just wanted to get it out there to say I predicted it in case it does! If the Royals don't deal Teahen, there's talk they could deal a catcher, most likely John Buck.
Young Player To Make 2009 Impact: Kila Kaaihue.
Kaaihue is a first baseman from Hawaii that will be 25 when the season starts. He has significant power, which he demonstrated with 37 homers in 401 at bats between Double-A and Triple-A in 2008. The left-handed hitter is blocked on this roster right now, but if he keeps mashing like he has been and somebody's struggling for the Royals, he'll get called up. It looks like he'll start off in the minors, but expect him to be contributing with the big club by mid-season.
2009 Outlook: The Baseball Prospectus projections have the Royals finishing in fourth place again with a record of 77-85, eight games out of first place. I think that's a good projection. This AL Central division appears to be worse than last year, and this Royals team can be very much improved, moreso because of their young players getting better than because of the moves they made in my opinion. A breakout season from players like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler could definitely have this team contending in the AL Central.
Hottest Thigh Association: Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders.
I haven't been able to find any hot celebrity fans, wives, girlfriends, or whatever else that relate to the Kansas City Royals. I've seen Kyle Farnsworth's hot wife in person, but unfortunately I never took a picture of her and there's no good ones that I could find on Google. So I figured, why not go with some cheerleaders for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs? The Chiefs play at Arrowhead Stadium, which is in the same parking lot as Kauffman Stadium where the Royals play! Additionally, odds are at least a couple of these lovely ladies are Royals fans. Merry Christmas Blaine!
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