A few notes which pass for hot-stove action when you're interested in the Royals:
- Signed former Giants pitchers Ryan Jensen and former Twins and Rockies infielder Denny Hocking to minor league contracts. Hocking is viewed as insurance in the utility infielder role if Chris Clapinski doesn't pan out or if the idea of Chris Truby is a non-starter at third base. Hocking played at AAA Iowa for the Cubs last seaon and did reaonably well. He's never had any plate discipline or power (.250/.308/.346 career) but can play seven positions reasonably well. Jensen is more preplexing as he's just 28 and threw well for the Giants in 2002 (171.7 IP, 4.51 ERA). He did not pitch well the last two seasons in Fresno for some reason, however, so he seems a bit of a long shot to make the rotation. But what the heck, it can't hurt to give him a shot.
- Jeremy Affeldt filed for arbitration yesterday. Affeldt requested $1.2M and the Royals countered with $950K. Not much to haggle over. He made $350K last year and he's the only Royal eligible. He was 13 of 17 in save opportunities but what was most disturbing about last season is that his BB/IP rose (.301 in 2003, .419 in 2004) and his K/IP dropped (.778 in 2003, .642 in 2004) as his hits H/IP increased. Some of this can be attributed to the poor coaching he received in spring training that led to him throwing way too many off-speed pitches. Hopefully, he'll be let loose this season to see what he can do as a closer. If he performs $1 will be a bargain for a good closer.
- Abraham Nunez will try swinging exclusively from the right side in spring training where the Royals think he has more power. He did hit "better" against left-handers in 2004 with a bit more power but the differences are not anything to get excited about. Career he's a .215 hitter against left-handers and a .206 hitter against right handers with homerun rates of 23.3 against lefties and 104.5 against righties. I'm skeptical that this will make him into a real option in the outfield but you never know.
- The Royals are working with Jackson county to devise a plan to make rennovations to Kauffman and/or persue a downtown stadium. Neither option seems necessary to me for each for a different reasons First, given baseball's economic structure - and if history is any indication -a new downtown stadium will provide only a short term boost in revenues for the Royals. And even with a boost, there won't be nearly enough revenue to actually compete with the big boys to sign a slew of free agents. TV revenues dominate the disparity in revenues of baseball teams with the Yankees at $187.9M and the Devil Rays at $24.4M. Tickets sales are minor by comparison. For example, consider that while Texas averaged 31,818 fans at home and Boston 35,028, the revenue difference was $79.2M to $130.M. Second, rennovating the current stadium and stocking it with upgrades is unnecessary when you're not going to sell out very much (again given the economic realities of baseball) coupled with its location (the stadium is only a place to watch a game, not a destination in and of itself that could support other businesses). I've spent a good deal of time at the ballpark the last two seasons and it is a great place to watch a ballgame, very comfortable, plenty of concessions and restrooms. Jackson county should do the minimum it needs to do to make the stadium safe.