Although the Royals season on the field has been anything but fun to watch (I scored 27 games for MLB.com and attended 5 or 6 others so I speak from first-hand experience) GM Allard Baird can be commended for making some pretty good deals during the season. Here are the highlights:
- 8/13 Claimed RHP Matt Kinney off waivers from Milwaukee. Kinney is a guy who appears to still have a good arm at 27 and can still throw in the mid 90s. He's struggled a bit with the Royals in 16.3 innings but has struck out 21. I think the Royals are trying to work with him on his mechanics. If he can control the number of homeruns he gives up (58 in 377.67 career innings) he could become a valuable guy out of the bullpen.
- 7/31 Acquired OF Abraham Nunez from the Florida Marlins for RHP Rudy Seanez. Nunez, while perhaps not the 5-tool player he claimed to be, was worth taking a risk on, especially for the 35+ year-old Seanez. Nunez is 27 years-old, has some power, pretty good plate discipline, and is a switch-hitter. For the Royals he's gone .236/.306/.349 after a good start which I grant is not inspiring. He has a chance to be a decent 4th outfielder if the Royals can address their corner-outfield problems by picking up at least one outfielder in the off-season.
- 7/30 Traded INF Jose Bautista to the New York Mets for C Justin Huber. Huber, at just 22 years-old is a definite prospect while Bautista is only 23 but not needed after the Royals acquired Mark Teahan (below). Huber had a .414 OBP for the Mets AA team before being traded. He was a catcher but after undergoing surgery on his left knee in August to repair torn cartiledge it looks more like he'll drift leftward on the defensive spectrum and end up at first base. The question will be if he has enough power to hold down first base and if he develops it what the Royals will do with their glut of firstbasemen (Calvin Pickering, Ken Harvey, Mike Sweeney, Matt Stairs).
- 7/2 Acquired outfielder Ruben Mateo from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations. Like Nunez, Mateo was worth taking a risk on. As a formerly highly regarded prospect it was just possible that he would blossom. Of course he didn't but still a decent risk for minimal investment along the lines of Nunez.
- 6/24 Acquired pitcher Octavio Dotel and catcher John Buck from the Houston Astros for outfielder Carlos Beltran; traded Dotel and cash considerations to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Mike Wood and third baseman Mark Teahan. This was the biggest deal of the summer. Since the Royals were going to lose Beltran anyway at the end of the season they addressed three needs, a starting catcher, a third baseman, and an interim starting pitcher. After struggling early, Buck seems to have found his stroke with .274/.299/.562 in September and 11 homeruns in his last 153 at bats. Teahan hit .280/.344//.447 for Omaha in 267 plate appearances. He struck out an awful lot but he is projected to be in Kansas City at some point next season. And of course the deal frees up $11M for next season assuming the same payroll. I don't really see Mike Wood having much of a shot of winning a spot in the rotation next season (see below).
- 6/21 Acquired RHP Denny Bautista from the Orioles for RHP Jason Grimsley. The 24-year old Bautista has the best pure stuff of any pitcher the Royals have (with the possible exception of Jeremy Affeldt). Mid 90s fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. His stats don't look great but his last two outings have been much better (12IP, 4ER, 9Ks, 0HR). He hadn't been throwing his slider until the other night against the White Sox and he has a very good one. He's also reportedly put on almost 20 pounds since joining the Royals. This may be the sleeper of the summer as he vies for a position in the rotation next season. Right now I'm projecting Zack Grienke, Bautista, Runelvys Hernandez, a pitcher they pick up in the off-season (their second biggest priority behind a corner outfielder), and then one of the combination of Jimmy Gobble, Mike Wood, Kyle Snyder, and the other cast of characters. Of course, I'd rather see them use a four-man rotation but that's an argument for another day...
- 4/8 Acquired RHP Justin Huisman from the Rockies for RHP Zach McClellan and INF Chris Fallon and cash. Husiman was up with the Royals for a short time and then sent back to Omaha. He had nice numbers in 2001-2003 as a closer. Allowed only 1 homerun in 61.67 innings in 2003. He pitched adequately for Omaha although Ryan Bukvich, although with less control, was more impressive in that role.
Overall, Baird has succeeded in filling three positions, shoring up the outfield some, and acquiring some pitching depth at almost no cost. Personally, I'd like the see the Royals commit to a youth movement to see if the core of DeJesus, Buck, Teahan, Grienke, Bautista, Angel Berroa, Gotay, and Hernandez along with a power-hitting corner outfielder and of course Calvin Pickering can make some headway in the next 2 or 3 years.