Betemit Trade Ends Involuntary Sabbatical

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.

 

Topics: Detroit Tigers, Mike Moustakas, Trade, Wilson Betemit

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  • jim fetterolf

    A couple (a few?) quick points: Betemit doesn’t hit lefties very well, he’s a butcher in the field, and Moose, being at his fourth level in four years, has always struggled when first facing higher level pitching. That has been his history, his difficulties were expected, and that is why, I think, that GMDM brought him up this year, to get them out of the way. Compared to his BA in Omaha, Moose has had about a 25% drop-off, not unlike the drop by Hosmer and even similar to the increase by Aviles when going from the Royals down to Omaha, so we may be learning a useful number to evaluate the difference between AAA and the majors for hitters, handy to know when contemplating Giavotella or Cain.

    As for the Betemit trade, Royals are systemically weak at catcher, Sal Perez being the only legitimate prospect, and Rodriguez is a big throw and catch guy with similar hitting numbers to Perez and a couple of years younger. Cruz is about Tim Collins size and projects as a loogie and is young with a ‘live’ arm, haven’t seen any velocity numbers, and a good 11-5 curve. For two months of a guy who wouldn’t be used, resigned, or return a comp pick, I think it’s an excellent trade.

  • fishermanbob

    @jim fetterolf

  • fishermanbob

    I don’t understand NOT using Betemit more. Over the last few years he’s been among the most consistent Royals hitter with some good power. I understand bringing up Moose but somebody struggling at the plate doesn’t help. With the Royals pitching woes more offense is needed. Not having much power the Royals need to manufacture more runs. Players like Dyson and Lorenzo Cain need to be given more at bats and more pinch running opportunities. We can second guess the Royals management forever with these many years of losing seasons. I wouldn’t want to manage the Royals these days when there’s such a disparity of team salaries. BUT I’m not sure the Royals are taking advantage of the talent they have maximizing the ballpark dimensions. I believe team speed at Kauffman should be a huge advantage. I believe the Royals record for home runs in a season by a player is 36. That tells me that speed and defence is paramount for the Royals to win. Of course better starting pitching wouldn’t hurt either. Pitchers like CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee aren’t likely coming to the Royals any time soon.

  • jim fetterolf

    @fishermanbob

    All good points, Bob, and agree on bringing Cain up and hoping he doesn’t suffer the same 25% hitting drop-off that Moose and Hoz have, which would make him a .225 hitter, but I think that GM Moore may be working backwards on this, visualizing the 2012 line-up, then trying to figure out how to get there from here while not wasting the talent they have.

    Betemit has value and I wish him success in Detroit, but he wasn’t going to be here next year, Moose is. Moose needs his failure in the majors to prepare him for success, a pattern he has established over four years, so Wilson is gone and I’m happy with the return.

    Giavotella will probably be at 2nd next year with Getz as utility, so Aviles, with his defensive short comings and difficulties with right-handed pitching is an odd man out. Since he’s not part of the future, he comes up now instead of Gio or Falu in order to reestablish some trade value, hopefully to get as much return as Betemit.

    Cain looks like an outfielder for the team next year, either RF or CF; he can hit, play defense, has a great arm, has speed, and has shown surprising power in Omaha, a five tool talent at AAA, but Melky has had a break-out year and Frenchy is productive in power and steals and gunning down runners at the plate, so Moore has a problem; two proven outfielders having very good years, one potential star in the minors having a very good year. A good trade for Melky or Frenchy will fix the problem and may happen. Otherwise Cain may be traded over the winter as there are some good, younger OF prospects coming along; David Lough is servicable, Wil Myers is an elite bat, Fletcher is having a great year, even Dyson with his defense and blazing speed would be in the mix.

    I see next year’s lineup as Cain, CF; Giavotella, 2b; Gordon, LF; Hosmer, 1b; Frenchy, RF; Moustakas, 3b; Butler, DH, Sal Perez and Brayan Pena or Matt Treanor, C, and Escobar, SS, so that leaves the pitching staff, which I guess to be Duffy, Paulino, Chen, Montgomery, and one of Hochevar, Holland, or Crow with Odorizzi up by next July. I think Francis gets traded, Davies gets DFA’ed, a couple of relievers get traded, maybe Collins and Coleman, with Kelvin Herrera and Rex Chapman up and in the ‘pen.

    We’ll see most of this line-up on the field in September and Cain and/or Mike Montgomery and Johnny Giavotella in the next few weeks. I think we have three more trades soon; Aviles because he’s expendable, Melky because he will net a good return, and Francis, who will be a $15 million free agent in the off-season but will get a good return from a contending team.

  • fishermanbob

    @jim fetterolf

  • fishermanbob

    @jim fetterolf Whatever the Royals have done over the last 15 years HASN’T worked. Essentially the Royals are a Triple A team. Until frontline pitchers are given market value then all the jockeying of position players means nothing. Talking about trading ANY player who’s having a great year is ludicrous. I people say that all the time, “let’s trade so and so because he has trade value.” A few years ago the Royals got rid of Buck and Olivo when THAT year they combined for over 30 HR and 100 RBI. What did they replace them with? An aging catcher who can’t hit his way out of a paper bag (Kendall). The Royals also traded a relief pitcher Nunez and a vacuum fielding first baseman Gload for a player who’s not even in baseball any more. When you have good players you KEEP them. You SIGN them. You USE them. The Royals are AAA team I hate to say.

  • jim fetterolf

    @fishermanbob @Jim

    Royals are much better than AAA, our catchers being a major defensive upgrade over Olivo and Buck, both of whom suck this year while earning large salaries. Hosmer is about an average 1b at the moment, Getz is probably our weakest position player being under average, Escobar is a star, one of the four or five best SS in the game at the moment, Moose is having some issues and could be considered a AAA player, Gordon is in the top two of left fielders, Melky seventh among CF, Frenchy above average for RF.

    Among pitchers, Duffy is an emerging star, as Ozzie Guillen learned the other night, Francis’ WAR ranks as the 47th best starter in baseball in a group with Gavin Floyd and Ervin Santana, a tenth of a point behind Zack Greinke. Master Chen has done nothing but produce this year and last, Felipe Paulino is putting up good numbers not unexpected from his plus stuff. That’s four well above average starting pitchers at the moment. The next slot is weak, with Hochevar and Davies being inconsistent and pitching well below potential and I expect Davies gone and Hochevar needing to fight for a rotation spot next year with Montgomery up and Odorizzi close. The bullpen is great and both Holland and Crow may compete for starter spots next spring, Holland with plus FB and SL and a nasty splitter, Crow with a great slider and average FB to set it up with a curve developing.

    I may be too optimistic, but I see a good current team hampered by inexperience that will grow out of it, and there is lots more talent behind the current guys, Rey Navarro behind Johnny Giavotella; Cheslor Cuthbert a couple of years behind Moose; a whole pack of fleet CFs behind Cain and Dyson; Sal Perez at Springdale; Jakkkkke Odorizzi and Greg Billo and Noel Arguelles along with several young flamethrowers at P. The corner has been turned. This is not the Royals of Allard Baird. Keep a little faith, I think our patience is finally being rewarded:)

    Good thread, thanks Bob.

  • fishermanbob

    @jim fetterolf @fishermanbob @Jim

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