If you’re experiencing a bit of deja vu this July as we near the MLB trade deadline, it’s understandable.
In a busy month, Dayton Moore traded off Alberto Callaspo, Kyle Farnsworth, Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik (he later shipped off Jose Guillen in August). Turning over 20% of a team’s active roster over the span of a couple of weeks isn’t common, but it happens with rebuilding teams. I don’t imagine it’s something a GM sets out to do before the season starts.
Until, at least, 2011.
Last year, Ankiel and Podsednik were signed to one-year deals with options. Both signings were akin to scratching off a lottery ticket. Relatively affordable, and with a chance to turn into something very valuable.
Podsednik turned in a fine season in Kansas City, stealing 30 bases while putting up a .310/.353/.400 line in 95 games. Ankiel, however, wasn’t as lucky. Fighting a quad injury most of the year, Ankiel spent weeks on the DL and when he was in the lineup, he was at least passable with a .784 OPS in 101 plate appearances.
By the end of July, both were shipped off.
Their signings seemed odd, since the Royals were a young team looking towards a future and the outfielders weren’t the best veterans out there. But Dayton Moore took a chance on veterans being hungry to show they can still play. He was rewarded with modest, but promising, returns at the deadline.
Tossing in Callaspo (expendable with Wilson Betemit hitting well in 2010 and Mike Moustakas clearly on the way) and Kyle Farnsworth (relievers are always in demand at the deadline) and Moore had a successful deadline.
O’Sullivan has been pretty bad with the exception of a start here or there. Callaspo struggled last year but hasn’t been bad in 2011. I still like the long-term prospects of 22-year-old Will Smith, who’s sporting a 3.93 ERA in 107.2 innings at Northwest Arkansas.
Smith hasn’t missed many bats, but he’s always had good control, so the 6’5″ lefty could still be a swingman/fifth starter down the line.
May never really did much of anything other than show flashes of power late last year in Omaha. He was traded to Arizona early into the 2011 season.
Pimentel was named to the Royals top 30 prospect list by Baseball America before the year, and has been solid in Wilmington with a 3.73 ERA in 99 innings. In that stretch, he’s struck out 75 and walked just 22. He’s getting old for the level, as he just turned 23, but he’s pitching well and should see some time against tougher competition soon.
Blanco was traded to the Nationals in May. He hasn’t seen the big leagues since last September with Kansas City. There was talk he might start the season as the Royals opening day center fielder, but with Mitch Maier and Jarrod Dyson in-house and the acquisition of both Melky Cabrera and Lorenzo Cain, he was expendable. Chavez has been up and down and unimpressive.
Collins broke camp with the big league of course and has appeared in more games than any other pitcher this year. He’s shown good stuff, but his control is rough at times. He looks like a part of the future though, as well as a fan favorite.
This year, the Royals seem to have a similar blueprint. Their offseason saw them signing players to small one-year contracts in the hopes that the players would rebound from down seasons and put the Royals in a position like they are right now, with players drawing interest from contenders.
Now, they have outfielders Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur looking like players who could help a team in a playoff chase. Cabrera’s having a career year and Francoeur is showing some pop and has even stolen a career-high 16 bases. The Red Sox are rumored to have shown some interest in Frenchie, and Melky’s drawn the attention of the Phillies, Angels and Giants. Both could be traded, neither could be, or, most likely, one will stick around and the other will bring in some sort of minor league package (Dayton is supposedly looking for pitchers who are close to major league ready for both players…which…could be a tough sell).
That would open up a spot for either Lorenzo Cain or David Lough to move up from Omaha. Cain is hitting well in Triple A and his .317/.385/.524 line has earned him his shot at Kansas City. Lough has a .316/.345/.486 line and a career .819 OPS in the minors. Let the #FreeLough and #FreeLo campaigns on Twitter begin.
Jeff Francis has had a rough outing here and there, but he’s also shown excellent control and hasn’t had a hint of injury problems in 2011. The former Rockies first-rounder has a 4.62 ERA in 122.2 innings, but has walked only 1.7 per nine innings. Pitching – especially left-handed pitching – always has value in July. Any team taking Francis would owe him less than a million dollars this year, as well, so he’s easily moveable. The Royals have a six man starting rotation as it is and his departure could get Mike Montgomery a trip to Kansas City for August and September (especially if they keep the six man rotation in an attempt to keep Danny Duffy‘s workload down).
The Royals also may have a chance to move Bruce Chen or Mike Aviles if they are approached. Chen, as another lefty, has been solid in a Royals uniform and the veteran could fetch something. Aviles is probably done after this season as a Royal as it is, with Alcides Escobar, Johnny Giavotella and Moustakas in his positions. He’d be a fine utility backup playing three days a week as well if he stays with the team into 2012.
If the Royals can get some kind of MLB-ready prospect in a deal, great. I have to temper my expectations because while Frenchie and Co. have value, they aren’t knockout options like Carlos Beltran would be for the Mets.
What’s more likely to happen is similar to last season. The Royals will probably get one player who’s fairly bland and may be replacement level in the big leagues (if pressed into action) and one player to gamble on. Last year, O’Sullivan, Blanco, Chavez and May were the iffy players at the front of the deal, while Smith (who tossed 7 no-hit innings last Tuesday night for NWA), Collins and Pimentel were the speculative acquisitions. I think that was by design.
There’s barely more than a week to go, and the Royals may turnover a large chunk of their team once again. Will there be some potential big leaguers in the return?