Tiny Pebbles and Ripples

If my “General Baseball” folder in Google Reader is an accurate representation, and I’d like to think that it is, the majority of the baseball world seems to be immersed in 2 stories.  The Roy Halladay trade market and the swiftly approaching Tim Lincecum arbitration saga.  

My IRF (Inner Royals Fan) doesn’t pay much attention to those stories however.  I don’t know if a team could be further from the epicenter of the Halladay topic than the Royals.  Tim Lincecum in Royals related discussion?  Only if we are debating which 2009 CYA winner you would take to start up a franchise* from scratch.

*If you are wondering, and you probably aren’t but I will tell you anyway, I’m taking Greinke and it has nothing to do with my IRF or that I think Zack is that much better than Timmy.  I’d take Greinke if I had to choose between the two of them because I’m still convinced that Lincecum has a one way ticket to multiple DL stints.  Of course I’ve been thinking that for two years and he’s got two NL Cy Young Awards.

It isn’t like the Royals aren’t making news, they are, but their impact has the effect of throwing pebbles into a pond shortly after someone has tossed in a huge boulder.  If you are looking closely enough, you will see the ripples of the Royals roster moves, but otherwise they are lost in the waves of Lincecum and Halladay.  Heck, even Johnny Damon is trying to get the attention of the Yankees these days.

So here you are with me and here I am with you.  Oh what a bunch of moves dear Dayton*.

If  you know what books I pulled those lines from, chances are that you have a young child who loves books and/or is learning to read.  That or you can remember your childhood far more vividly than can I.  For the record, the Dear Dragon books are actually really good, and enjoyable to read to your kids.

Pebble #1:

Today the Royals traded 26 year old utility player Tug Hulett to the Boston Red Sox for either cash or a player to be named later.  Yes, the infamous PTBNL.  The Royals gave him only 19 plate appearances in 15 games during the 2009 season.  His 0.111/.158/.111 slash line in very limited and sporadic playing time was not surprising considering the circumstances, but it is also not representative of his ability.  Tug had some nice minor league numbers including a nifty line of 0.291/.384/.473 in 374 AB for the Omaha Royals in 2009.  In 1,227 Triple-A at bats, he has hit 0.286/.372/.457 with 171 BB and 266 SO from 2007-2009.  It’s curious to me that the team loves up Willie Bloomquist and has signed Wilson Betemit to a minor league deal this offseason, but couldn’t see fit to give Tug more than 19 PA last season.  Clearly the team wanted no part of his services in 2010, which is odd because he has a good eye at the plate, a little bit of pop, a little bit of speed, and can get on base.

Pebble #2:

The team signed 27 year old RHP-Josh Rupe to a minor league contract.  He spent most of the 2009 season pitching in the Rangers organization at the AAA level.  Clearly the Royals’ scouts see something that isn’t apparent in the stats.  In 89.0 innings for the Oklahoma Red Hawks, he compiled a 6.67 ERA, 1.753 WHIP, 115 H, 41 BB, 62 SO.  Oddly enough the Rangers allowed him to pitch 4.2 innings at the ML level.  Needless to say he fared far better in Triple-A.  With Texas his line was; 4.2 IP, 15.43 ERA, 3.643 WHIP, 12 H, 5 BB, 2 SO.  Of all their minor league signings thus far, I don’t see a silver lining or potential contribution coming from Rupe.

Pebble #3:

Also joining the organization on this fine day is 27 year old OF-Buck Coats.  He was signed to the very popular minor league contract.  Coats has earned 57 ML at bats spread out from 2006-2008 and has hit 0.193/.242/.333 in his limited time.  Unlike Rupe, Buck played well in Triple-A.  He hit 0.302/.361/.416 in 500 AB while playing in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system last season.  Coats has a career minor league line of 0.285/.345/.393 in 4,359 PA.  Over the course of his 10 year minor league career, he has played every spot in the OF and IF.  Recently his primary position has been CF.  Spring training swiftly approaches, and barring a more significant acquisition, Coats could very well be in the mix for the CF job.  Mitch Maier has a better track record in the minors and a better career slash line, but between the two it would certainly be an open competition.  Hopefully, through other moves, Coats will end up in Omaha for the 2010 season.  This signing could provide decent return whether he gets on the field in Kansas City or in Omaha.  His presence alone might prevent Dayton from reaching for a different CF on the market this offseason, and that would certainly be a positive.  If Coats can earn some playing time for the Royals during 2010, even better.

Pebble #4:

Yesterday the team signed 29 year old, and former 1st overall pick in the 2002 draft, RHP-Bryan Bullington.  He was well on his way to making an impact for the Pirates when the injury bug derailed his career.  I need to stop myself here since Craig Brown over at Royals Authority did such an excellent write up on Bullington.  I agree with Clark that the “other BB” is low cost and thus low risk.  He does provide depth, but I think there is a reasonable chance that he makes the opening day roster as a member of the Royals bullpen.  It isn’t like they have a ton of more viable options.

Pebble #5:

28 year old RHP-Doug Waechter elected to become a free agent this weekend instead of accepting a demotion to Triple-A Omaha.  This doesn’t surprise me in the least.  Waechter should be able to land a ML bullpen gig on the strength of his 2008 season.  If he can stay healthy, and that is a big if, he stands to provide a nice return for the team that takes a chance on him.

Pebble #6:

26 year old RHP-Devon Lowery also elected to become a free agent this weekend instead of accepting a demotion to Triple-A Omaha.  The Royals drafted Devon in the 14th round of the 2001 draft.  His decision marks the end of 8 years in the organization.  He has had some nice years in the minors and despite the routinely sub-par bullpens in Kansas City has never been given a real chance.  Unless you count 4.1 ML innings in 2008 as a chance.  His decision to leave the Royals is not a shock, but when he lands with another organization it will be by way of a minor league contract.  The key for Devon getting a legit ML shot, is to find an organization like the Royals, but one more willing to give guys who perform well in the minors an extended look in the majors.

Pebble #7:

Saturday, the team re-signed 36 year old C-Vance Wilson to a minor league contract.  In the past, he’s been a reasonably decent backup catcher in the majors, but the last time he faced big league pitching, it was 2006.  Wilson missed all of 2008 and most of 2007 before landing with the NW Arkansas Naturals in Double-A last season.  If he is catching in Omaha, I’ll be glad they brought him back.  If he is catching in Kansas City then Dayton failed to adequately address the position.

We are all still waiting for Dayton to pick up an good sized rock, the Teahen trade doesn’t qualify, and throw it in.  Perhaps it will come in the form of a Jose Guillen trade?  One can hope, but more on that later.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Bryan Bullington Buck Coats Devon Lowery Doug Waechter Josh Rupe Kansas City Royals KC MLB Royals Tug Hulett Vance Wilson

  • http://royalscentricity.com Old Man Duggan

    Wilson is actually from that town in Arkansas (I forgot the name of the town and can’t be bothered to look it up), so he’ll either be in AA or Kansas City. If memory serves me correctly, I think he actually doesn’t want to play in Omaha. I, for one, am happy to have him working with our young farm hands in AA.

  • Wally Fish

    Thanks as always for dropping in with some additional information. You are correct that he currently lives minutes away from the ballpark in Springdale, Arkansas. I was not aware of that, but it doesn’t change my assessment of his signing.

    I’m sure he has some value as an instructor for younger players, but if that is what the Royals want him for, they should make him a coach. If he wants to play baseball, he should be in Triple-A playing against more advanced competition. He needs to be as prepared as possible to contribute in the event the Royals need to call him up.

  • http://royalscentricity.com Old Man Duggan

    I understand the desire to have him in Omaha, but with the pitchers that are set to be coming through Springdale (thanks) this season, it can’t hurt to have a catcher with Major League experience behind the dish. I think the catchers they have in Omaha already probably have a little more offensive upside, and Manny Pina, who is on the 40-man roster now, probably needs to be getting the reps that Wilson would be were he in Omaha.

  • Wally Fish

    I hadn’t considered it from that perspective, and you make some good points.

    You are right that Wilson could help develop the crop of arms sure to be pitching at AA in 2010. If his presence behind the plate leads to them being more prepared for the ML experience, than he will absolutely earn his keep. Working on the assumption that his experience is helpful and the AA pitchers would benefit from it, couldn’t the same be said for the AAA pitchers? In fact, you could argue that the AAA staff would be more in need of any added advantage Wilson could provide them since they, as a group, aren’t as talented but are closer to pitching for the Royals.

    Pina does need ABs and reps, but I’m not 100% sold that he will stick in Omaha this year. I’m sure the Royals want him to, but he’s never played above AA. He only has 109 games of experience at the Double-A level and he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire during that time. He probably will struggle in Omaha, and if he does, may find himself back down in AA for more development. In that scenario, Wilson’s presence in AA would wind up taking reps away from Pina and further muddy the waters.

  • http://royalscentricity.com Old Man Duggan

    Really, more so than anything else, Wilson said last season that he only wanted to play in Springdale or in KC because if he can’t be in the bigs he wants to spend more time with his family. Even if it’s a situation in which he only wants to play there because it’s close to home and he’s getting paid to play ball, I am totally behind him being there. It seems like it is a contract that is at least 90% out of convenience, but if the Royals can benefit from it, then fine.

    Also, I can’t remember what J.R. House’s contract status is, but there is also the possibility that he’ll be returning to Omaha. He has produced in the past (not so much in 2009).

  • Wally Fish

    Who would have thought the topic of Vance Wilson could generate such discourse between the two of us?

    J.R. House is a minor league free agent again this offseason, as is John Suomi. Assuming Brayan Pena remains in the majors for the 2010 season, only Cody Clark (8 AB) is left on the roster among the players who caught for the O-Royals last year.

    Pina/Clark wouldn’t be a bad AAA tandem, but that puts a lot of stock in two guys who have just 3 games of AAA experience between them. I assume Dayton will add someone else to the mix from outside the organization as an insurance policy in case one or both of them falters.

    As far as Wilson’s contract. The fact that it is a contract out of convenience (that is an excellent definition by the way) is what bothers me about it.

    In the end, it is a minor point of contention. If Wilson’s contract, whether you think it is good or bad, is the worst thing the front office does this offseason, better days for the Royals are on their way.