MLB Trade Rumors provided the following list of 2011 MLB Free Agents a while back. This is a list of potential free agents after the 2010 season. Since the 2010 Royals will be fortunate just to be competitive on a daily basis, it is safe to say that they will not be a legitimate contender until 2011 at the earliest. With that in mind, this is the class of free agents the Royals should be keeping tabs on. It also helps that Guillen’s albatross contract will be officially off the books at that time, unless our esteemed GM can pull off a small miracle and get another team to take on his contract.
On Wednesday I threw out my first offseason proposal to acquire Mat Gamel from the Brewers, but in doing so I kind of put the cart before the horse and suggested the move without defining my plan for this offseason. Now it is time to set things right and properly frame my theoretical acquisition of Gamel and other players moving forward.
It is a pretty simple concept. This offseason, Dayton should take advantage of the lack of expectations and focus on acquiring low risk, high reward players who could figure into the team’s long term plans. He needs to work with, or force, Trey to allow 2010 to be a proving ground for internal options like Kila Ka’aihue and Carlos Rosa as well as Jeff Bianchi, David Lough, and Jordan Parraz. This should also depend on their offseason and spring training performance. There is no need to rush the latter three players, but they may push the decision with solid winter and spring performances. In that case, the organization should be prepared to give them a legitimate shot and provide playing time at the ML level. The Royals are at a place in their organizational development where they can afford to take chances on players who have a lot of potential, but have been short on performance in their young careers. This concept is especially important considering the limited payroll flexibility Dayton has to work with right now thanks to terrible contracts given to mediocre (or less than mediocre) talent.
They have a few players already on the roster that fit my plan. These include former top prospects Alex Gordon and Kyle Davies. However, they need to use their position in 2010 more to their advantage. Mat Gamel was just the first of the players I would target. He happens to be trapped in a numbers game in Milwaukee, and the Brewers seem interested in moving him to acquire starting pitching. The plan starts with Gamel, but it certainly doesn’t end there and his acquisition comes with the stipulation that organizational scouts and coaches think he can be developed into a ML outfielder.
There is no doubt OF is a huge need, and the CF solution needs to come from outside the organization and not be named Coco Crisp. Everyone seems to be in agreement that Coco isn’t worth his $8 million option for 2010, but from my perspective he isn’t worth $3 or $4 million to this team. He needs to be paid his $500,000 buyout and sent on his way. He’d old, he’s injury prone, he’s proven over his entire career that he is not a legitimate leadoff hitter, and even in his prime he wasn’t that good. His best OPS+ seasons were 110 and 117 and those were back in 2004 and 2005. The conclusion I draw from those facts? Dayton has no business even entertaining the thought of bringing Coco back for next season.
With Coco out of the picture, and with no serious options in house to man CF in 2010, I’m forced to head outside the organization again to find the everyday solution for the position. Mitch Maier fits into the current plan nicely as a 4th or 5th OF, but the starter has to be both better now with the potential to be significantly better.
One player flies to the top of my list to meet my needs and if you paid attention to the title of this post, you know that player is Felix Pie. If you’re not familiar with Felix, he was signed by the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic back in 2001. He is now 24 years old and started to show returns on his considerable talents and potential this year for the Orioles by hitting 0.266/.326/.437 in 252 AB and defensively finished with a 10.6 UZR/150.
The only problem for Pie and for Baltimore is that they already have their franchise CF in place. I’m of course talking about 23 year old Adam Jones who hit 0.277/.335/.457 in 473 AB this season and was also solid on defense with a -1.1 UZR/150 this season and an 11.5 UZR/150 in 2008. The Orioles are also not in a position to move Pie to LF or RF, since they have the talented duo of 25 year old Nick Markakis and 25 year old Nolan Reimold flanking Jones. That leaves the super-talented Pie without a full time role that he likely deserves.
Felix still possesses the excellent speed, strong arm, defensive ability, and power potential that marked him as the Cubs top prospect by Baseball America in 2006 and 2007. BA went as far as to say that “Pie has tools reminiscent of Carlos Beltran’s.” Counting his 2009 stats, Pie has just 512 AB and 231 ML games under his belt, but encouraging signs have already started to emerge. His SLG jumped from around 0.330 in 2007 and 2008 up to 0.437 in 2009. He also improved his BB/SO ratio. In 2007 he walked 1 time for every 3.07 SO. Then 2008 saw Pie draw 1 walk for every 4.14 SO. In 2009 he drew 1 walk for every 2.42 SO.
There is no doubt in my mind that Felix is an emerging player who fits the Royals perfectly, but Baltimore is certainly aware of this and is not going to just give him away. The Orioles system is loaded with quality young starting pitching, but they do need ML help at 1B and 3B since their prospects at those positions are still a ways away. 1B/OF/DH Luke Scott is arbitration eligible for several more years, but he is already 31 and is best suited for the DH role. Ty Wigginton will make $3.5 million in 2010 and can play all four IF positions and the corners in the OF, but he is also 31 and is not really suited to play 1B or 3B on a daily basis. 1B prospect Brandon Snyder made it to Triple-A Norfolk, but struggled. 3B prospect Josh Bell, who the Orioles acquired from the Dodgers for George Sherill, impressed in Double-A but he still figures to be a year away, if not more. The Orioles are sending both Snyder and Bell to the Arizona Fall League to get more work, but it is safe to assume that they will need someone in 2010 and probably 2011 as well to flex between the two positions. The Royals can help the Orioles in that department by offering up Mark Teahen who can play 1B and OF in addition to the fact that 3B is is best position. If Teahen doesn’t fit their needs, the team could also elect to try and move Kila Ka’aihue this offseason to upgrade the team elsewhere. Trading Kila isn’t ideal, but Billy Butler looks like he will be adequate defensively at 1B and there is no doubt that his bat can more than carry his defense at the position. Trading Kila would also open up the option of moving Gordon to 1B down the road if Moustakas is ready to take over 3B by 2011. I have not been a big believer in Moose’s ability to stick at 3B, but there are indications out of Wilmington that his work at the position has vastly improved and he has the potential to be at least average there defensively with a plus arm.
My preference would be to move Teahen for Pie, and perhaps the Royals could sweeten the deal with some talent from the lower levels of their minor league system. Baltimore realistically has to move Pie They didn’t exactly give up a ton (RHP-Hank Williamson and LHP-Garrett Olson) to the Cubs to get him in the first place. If letting go of Kila would get the deal done, I would do it but only because the Royals need a long term solution in CF far more than they do at 1B. Enough questions surround Ka’aihue’s future as a ML player, largely because of the Royals’ management, that he may have more value as a trade chip than as a contributor going forward.
Topics: Adam Jones, AL Central, Alex Gordon, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Brandon Snyder, Carlos Rosa, Coco Crisp, David Lough, Felix Pie, Jeff Bianchi, Jordan Parraz, Josh Bell, Kansas City Royals, KC, Kila Kaaihue, Kyle Davies, Luke Scott, Mark Teahen, Mat Gamel, MLB, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Royals, Ty Wigginton