On Tuesday I came across an article by the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger, who discussed the struggles of Mike Moustakas in the early stages of his big league career. Mellinger suggests that the Royals should be worried, as Moustakas is suppose to be the face of the current youth movement—although I believe Eric Hosmer has taken over that illustrious title.
It’s not terribly uncommon for a high-level prospect such as Moustakas to come up to the major leagues and immediately struggle. In fact, it is quite normal. There are far more Matt Wieters out there than Evan Longorias, or to relate it to the Royals, there are far more Alex Gordons than Eric Hosmers. Highly touted prospects don’t always catch on right away for a variety of reasons. Managers and general managers know there is a learning curve that young players have to go through and most reasonable fans understand this—if you’re a Royals fan, you’ve come to expect it.
However, it’s not Moustakas hitting .198/.262/.252 entering Wednesday night’s contest that bothers me. It’s the fact that he has been able to accumulate those abysmal stats in yet another lost season, while the Royals best trade-bait, Wilson Betemit, had his rear end firmly planted on the bench.
**The Royals traded Betemit before Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox to the Detroit Tigers for two guys who, by early expert accounts, have slim chances of making it to the big leagues—otherwise known as left-handed pitcher Antonio Cruz and catcher, Julio Rodriguez. ESPN’s scouting expert, Keith Law, referred to their value as “Two warm bodies.” That tells you all you need to know.**
Before Moustakas was called up, Betemit was hitting a more than respectable .289/.348/.411 despite playing below-average defense at third base, but to be fair, Moose isn’t exactly Scott Rolen either. And the move to bring Moustakas up in early June wasn’t a Hosmer/Kila Ka’aihue situation, as Moose was hitting a good, but not eye-popping .287/.347/.498 in AAA Omaha. Thus, there was not a pressing need to call him up.
Dayton Moore has assured fans to “trust the process” and most of us started buying into that channel of thinking ever since we were told the Royals have the best farm system in the history of farm systems. My only question is, why did Moore rush the process in this particular instance? Moustakas obviously doesn’t make the team better this season, so why insert him into the everyday lineup while Betemit was still on the roster?
Now, I’ll preface this comment by warning you that I have no general manager experience, but I imagine that a player’s stock goes down when he doesn’t play for over a month prior to the trade deadline. If only, for the simple reason that another team’s front office can see that you have no need for him on your team and need to trade him, thus they can low-ball you despite the player’s intrinsic value. To be fair, Betemit was not going to net you an A-level prospect even if he continued on his pace before Moustakas arrived. However, he most certainly has less value now than he did on June 9.
**Based on the haul the Royals received from the trade, I’d say this is a fair assessment.**
It would have made much more sense had the Royals continued to let Betemit get at-bats for another month, or until Moore found a reasonable suitor for his services, then called up Moustakas. The effects from this line of decision-making would have been roughly 100 less at bats for Moustakas—which might not have been a bad thing considering his first 100—and possibly a higher-level prospect in return for Betemit. These potential results were obviously disastrous enough that Moore felt obligated to step in before such a catastrophic event could take place.
Had this revolutionary concept taken place, Moustakas still would have been able to get 200 at-bats this season, which is more than enough for a 22 year old in his first major league season, and a useful switch-hitting Betemit wouldn’t have splinters in ass weeks before he was dealt.
To go back to Mellinger’s column—which took place before the Betemit trade—he insinuated the Royals are/were handling the situation the proper way…..
“The easy thing would be to send Moustakas back to Omaha. Not as punishment or a sign that he’s no good, but as a chance to remember what it’s like to succeed. As a bonus, the Royals could then play Wilson Betemit every day and better present him for trade possibilities. The Royals aren’t doing that and internally say they aren’t even considering it, an obvious symbol about what their bigger purpose is.”
I can’t disagree with that sentiment. But the fact the Royals and Moore were even faced with that decision lends credence to the notion that it was a rushed and unwise move to begin with.