Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Royally Screwed?

It hasn't been a light task of transforming the Kansas City Royals into a contender. In recent times there hasn't been a more prolonged rebuilding process this side of the Tigris and 2007 seems to be more of the same. With a current $55 million earmarked in the 2007 season Royals GM Dayton Moore has approximately $18 million to play with. There would be a tendency for the Moneyball pundits to suggest bargain shopping, invest that $18 million in bolstering the pitching staff with hurlers who can locate the strike zone without the aid of a GPS device (against the Twins last season in Kauffman, the Royals issued 27 free passes in one series). Assessing the inflating rate for the cost of arms this year (see: Eaton, Adam 3 years/$24.5 million), Moore naturally agreed that the franchise would be frugal this offseason as not to get caught up the bidding excitement. Unfortunately, Moore fancies himself a bit of a day trader. The thought of Moore rummaging through sales bins was quickly extinguished when it was announced that the Royals are finalists for the Gil Meche sweepstakes. For $8 to $10 million a year for three to four years (and lets face facts, it will take a higher range for Meche to pass up offers from the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays) the Royals can have a mid-rotation starter while leaving only $8 million to address a faulty bullpen. Item #1 would be to improve the starting rotation. The Royals minor league affiliates are primed with prospects that may need another season of conditioning or at the very least, gingerly brought along in the pros (anti-Jimmy Gobble). The recent acquisition of the Mets farmhand Brian Bannister has given them yet another option of youth/prospect (see also: Gobble, Hovacher, Buckner, Rosa). One way to accomplish this affordable would be by resigning Mark Redman, an inning-eater that gives up few walks (2.9 per 9 innings in his career). This would be an inexpensive solution to keep runners off the base paths. Item #2 would be to find a legimate closer and bullpen. Last season the Royals bullpen blew 31 of 66 save opportunities. The hard part to believe is that the Royals actually had 66 save opportunities. The recent jettisoning of the hard-throwing-but-just-a-bit-outside prospect Ambiorix Burgos (dealt to the Mets for Bannister), who had 12 of the blown saves in 2006, is a step in the right direction, much like admitting you're an alcoholic is the first step to recovery. Bringing in free agents like former closer turned right handed specialist Danny Kolb ($2.0 million/season or less) and lefty set-up man Steve Kline ($3.0 million/season or less) would help solidify the ailing bullpen. Meanwhile, tapping a rehabbed closer like Dustin Hermanson ($2.0 million/season) might buy the Royals a few extra wins. Simply a low-risk stopgap, these signings would bridge the roster until yet another generation of Royals pitching prospects are field-ready.