Mike Moustakas is gunning for KC. (Gage Matthews)

If You Give a Moose a Call-up

He’s going to want some playing time.

That’s the dilemma the Royals are swiftly approaching. Mike Moustakas started the year off fairly cold, offsetting the hot starts of Clint Robinson and Eric Hosmer. Moustakas hit .229/.304/.410 in April (21 games), which is okay if you’re a slick-fielding major league shortstop, but when you’re supposed to be a premier hitting prospect it becomes a problem. That problem has recently seen some correction, as Moustakas hit .321/.382/.560 in May and went 3-5 in his first game of June. He’s had six multi-hit games in his last 10. It’s often said that as the weather warms, so does Moustakas. And that appears to be true.

Even with the good feeling of this return to form by Moustakas, what do the Royals do when he is inevitably called up? What moves must be made (barring injuries) and what does the team look like afterwards?

Realistically, such a move would likely put three players under the gun: Mike Aviles, Wilson Betemit, and Chris Getz. All of these guys could end up being men without a position, so what do we do?

There have been rumors about Betemit since he started performing surprisingly well last season. This season has only provided more rumors, with the latest being that the Marlins could be interested in a swap for the third baseman. As the only Royal who’s batting over .300 and as a switch hitter, Betemit definitely has some value. He’s been a solid offensive addition to a team that can use a spark at times and has been one of the best values across the majors over the last couple seasons.

That being said, Betemit has hit substantially better against right-handed pitchers (.063 better) this season. His glove isn’t exceptional and could be described as barely average. His best attribute right now is that he can fill in without playing terribly. He gives you solid production off the bench, though that has been transformed into regular starting spots recently. Nonetheless, those first two points sound very familiar. This is because they also describe Moustakas, who has been hitting .037 better against righties this year and whose glove has been called into question numerous times.

So, if you call up Moustakas, why keep a similar, if initially better-producing, player at the same position?

Aviles has had a tough season so far. He started off extremely cold and took a few days off right away to try to get his stroke back. I’m not sure if it really helped as he didn’t improve his production by much from April to May. Aviles is a notably streaky player who has had a few streaks over several games during which he hits well above .300 and seems to only get extra-base hits. These are often balanced out with cold streaks with an average below .200. It’s hard to build any success when your numbers are fluctuating so much, and Aviles has had that problem so far in 2011.

However, Aviles gives the Royals something that Betemit doesn’t. He hits better against lefties (.333/.375/.667) than righties (.198/.225/.330), which offsets Moustakas fairly well. His glove isn’t usually a complete butcher job and is arguably much better than Betemit’s. He can play second, shortstop, and third, which creates a much better utility player than Betemit might provide. However, his streaky nature might not play off the bench, so we don’t know how he would play in such a role over the long-term.

As for Getz, he’s in a slightly different position from the other two guys. He doesn’t directly compete with Moustakas, but could indirectly lose his position if the Royals decided they preferred the offensive potential of Betemit and Aviles to Getz’ (usually) good glove at second base. Now, you can make the argument that Getz isn’t really that terrible offensively. He’s batted better than Aviles overall, albeit with less power. In his last 10 games, he’s batting .400/.475/.457, which, though obviously unsustainable, suggests that he could raise his production slightly to a level more befitting of a good starting second baseman. And if he does that, what does that mean for everyone else?

The last thing to consider is trade value. Who has the most trade value and who makes the most sense as a trade candidate? On the flip side, whose offense are you willing to lose? Dayton and Yost have repeatedly said that they want the best team on the field, so it’s possible that they don’t want to entertain the idea of losing their best bat (Betemit) or a solid defender (Getz).

Nonetheless, to me, Betemit is the odd man out here. He has the most value right now and the utility of Aviles makes him more valuable to fill in for any injured players. I have really enjoyed seeing Betemit overachieve and prove people wrong, but when his value is high and teams are interested, it’s almost too easy to say he should be traded as Moustakas is promoted. And I’m fairly confident that this is what would happen, as Yost seems to love Getz and Aviles isn’t going to be traded. A demotion is possible…but unlikely.

So, what do you think? Does that sound about right? I suspect we’ll see Moustakas within the next couple weeks, especially if he keeps his production going. So, keep an eye out for any moves or rumors.

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  • jim fetterolf

    Good analysis. Have been discussing this on RR and one idea has been to trade Betamit and platoon Aviles against LHP and Getz’ .257 BA and .330 OBP against RHP. Another suggestion, mine, was to platoon Aviles and Betamit at DH and trade Butler, who might command a #3 SP in return rather than an Ankiel or even DeJesus haul. Another possibility is Mooooose stays down til September, Betamit becomes a free agent, and Royals get a comp draft pick next year, probably what they should have done with DeJesus.

    Moooose hasn’t forced a call-up, so we still have a month or so to think about it and he has a month to polish the glove a little, but Betamit is most likely trade, followed by Aviles, who would have some value to teams looking at his career rather than just this season and willing to bet that this year is an aberration rather than the onset of ’30 year old ballplayer syndrome’. If this was easy, clubs could find a GM who worked for free:)

    • http://www.kingsofkauffman.com Gage Matthews

      We’ve got time to think about it, but I suspect that the Royals move quicker than we might normally expect after the Kila demotion for Hosmer. I think you’re right about Aviles’ long-term value versus his low year right now. And if he picks it up at all, more teams will show some interest. We’ll see what happens.

  • Tom Barkwell

    I would hope the Royals are smart enough to jettison Aviles as soon as feasible. I can’t take much more of his defense. He does almost everything wrong at second, repeatedly. He made at least four mistakes last night, and makes bad pitchers terrible.

    It’s time for Giavotella. And Moose. Betemit can spell Moose, spell Hosmer on occasion, and Butler. And he can pinch-hit in crucial situations. His temperment and preparation is ideal for that kind of role – if we can’t get a suitable return on a trade.

    • http://www.kingsofkauffman.com Gage Matthews

      I actually hadn’t considered the Aviles move as well to bring in Giavotella, but that’s a good point. If Gio keeps hitting (which he has been doing better at lately) he could quickly earn a spot. Good thinking, Tom.

  • http://puckettspond.com Wally Fish

    Excellent work with the title Gage. I love reading the “If you give a” books with my kids.

    • http://www.kingsofkauffman.com Gage Matthews

      I always loved those books. Glad someone gets the reference! Thanks, Wally.

    • jim fetterolf

      Last I looked, Gio was starting to hit righties, a problem that Aviles and Getzie both have. If Gio can produce a .290 v LHP and .275 v RHP, he should probably come up, then Getzie become that solid sub off the bench, probably his destiny. Aviles is hitting about .180 against RHP and Getzie only .257, part of the reason we’ve been losing so many against a seemingly endless succession of righties, including tonight.