michaeljong left a comment on my Fixing the Royals post from yesterday that warranted a more lengthy response and clarification of my position regarding my 6 untouchable players. I have included his comment here in case you missed it.
Given the difficulty of fixing the Royals, your suggestions are not bad. I do think you’re overvaluing a couple players in the “untouchable” range, such as Teahen and Hochevar. It might also be smart to move Soria if you can get a couple B-level prospects out of the deal, as relievers are relievers and are much easier to find. Other than that, it seems like you found the guys that aren’t worth keeping.
It isn’t so much that I overvalue Teahen, Hochevar, or Soria, rather I am aware of their value to the 2011 Royals which I am building into a playoff team. I am also aware of what the reasonable return would be for each of them.
I’m sure most fans think I am overvaluing Teahen, but I submit that he is the most undervalued player on the roster. The Hinkse and DeRosa trades in the last week have already shown us that trading Teahen away will not bring the Royals adequate value in return. The Pittsburgh Pirates traded away Hinske to get RHP-Casey Erickson and C/OF-Eric Fryer from the Yankees. The Pirates assigned both players they received to A ball. The Indians traded Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals in exchange for RHP-Chris Perez and a PTBNL. I wouldn’t trade Teahen for similar terms of either of those deals, and with the market established in that range I don’t see an offer coming the Royals way that would overwhelm me enough to deal him. I also can’t state this enough times; Teahen is so versatile he can fill one of the holes I am unable to address via a trade or a FA signing. If the offseason goes perfectly and I can adequately address all the holes on the team, Teahen becomes option one off the bench. In that role, he will still come close to a full season of at bats during the 2010 season. Teahen, at his worst, is a better and younger version of Willie Bloomquist and Ross Gload with more power.
Along those lines, I’m not sure I get the logic of trading Hochevar. Luke looks to be establishing himself as a ML starter and the return for him would probably be one or two A ball prospects that may never sniff the majors. As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Luke himself is still a prospect but is in the ML, he is cheap, and under team control through 2013. Trading him also opens up another hole at the ML level that I’d have to fill. If I were to try and trade a player away to get a ML ready pitching prospect, Hochevar is exactly the type of guy I would target so why on earth would I deal him? In another year or two I am confident he is solidly entrenched as the number 3 starter in the rotation behind Greinke and Meche. You could make the case that he is already the Royals #3 guy, but you couldn’t attach the phrase “solidly entrenched” to him at this point.
Soria is worth way more than a couple B-level prospects. In fact even if offered 2 A-level prospects, I’m not dealing him. Guys who can effectively close at the ML level are extremely rare. Young guys that can effectively close are rarer still. Soria is already one of the 5 best closers in baseball, and when you factor in age, Papelbon is the only other one in his class. He is ML tested, he is young, he is under contract long term, and he is inexpensive into his option years. Soria also wanted to stay here and sought out the Royals to do a contract extension, which in my book, counts for something. Relievers may be easy to find, but legit closers are not.
This team has too many holes to be shipping off future contributors like Hochevar and Soria who are under contract through 2013. Teahen will need a multiyear contract to see 2013 with the Royals, but I believe that contract would be warranted if he signed it today. He is the type of “glue” guy that competitive teams need on their roster, and I’m not going to give that up for a couple fringe prospects or a relief pitcher. If we trade him now, we will be looking to acquire a player just like him in a few years similar to what the team did with Joe Randa. The guys I listed as untouchable are listed as such because I am not willing to move them for just a couple of prospects. I would trade all of them if the return was significant enough, but at some point the team needs to stick with a core and move toward a targeted date. This core of 6 is the equivalent of drawing the line in the sand. It is the equivalent of hanging a “2011 or bust” sign on the back of my car. This core group, in my mind, can get the job done and ease our pain as Royals fans. Unlike in previous years when the core was a couple of guys, this core group is at least 6 players strong and doesn’t count the potential 2011 additions of guys like Moustakas, Hosmer, Lough, Montgomery, etc.