Making a Pitch: Part 1


In my previous post I pointed out the need for the Royals to acquire a front-line starting pitcher in order to have a realistic shot at winning the AL Central. I’m going to break this post into two parts: One analyzing what the potential free agent acquisitions and the other discussing possible trades to pursue and prospects that might be included.

First off, I think we can establish that Luke Hochevar, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy will all be around in next year’s rotation. I’m less sold on Duffy beginning the year in the majors, because to be fair, he wasn’t a raving success in his 105 innings pitched. Duffy definitely has the ability to be one of the top lefties in the league in a couple years, but for right now he struggles mightily with command (51 BB) and nibbles a bit too much for my liking. He’ll learn quickly that he doesn’t have to try and strike out everyone at the big-league level, because a) it’s very hard to do that and b) it’s much more efficient to trust your stuff and throw it over—the strikeouts will come.

So, you have those three as staples in the rotation for next season and down on the farm you have the potential of Mike Montgomery joining the rotation at some point during the season—for the sake of my sanity, lets hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Bruce Chen, Everett Teaford and Luis Mendoza (the speed skater from Miami) have all been talked about as possible fillers in the rotation. To be honest, none of them really do it for me, but I suppose I wouldn’t mind one of then sticking around to try their luck.

Bruce Chen is the most established of the three and is somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to starting pitchers. He has an ERA under 4 in 295 innings with the Royals, yet his BABIP of .280 is nearly 20 points under the league average. This is consistent with his career, so there is something to the way he is able to get guys out. Chen would qualify as a Type B free agent this winter, so to me he is a win-win in terms of what the Royals decide to with him. If you keep him around for another year, you have a good idea of what you’re going to get for him. If not, best of luck to him and the Royals will gladly take a supplemental first-round draft pick.

I don’t want to spend much time delving into Teaford and Mendoza. Someone else can send me their argument on why both of these guys deserve a shot in the rotation. And I’m sure it will be convincing based on their numbers put up this past season. However, I prefer Teaford as a lefty in the bullpen and you’re just not going to convince me that Mendoza is anything other than a Mighty Ducks legend. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve a crack at the rotation—he did post the best ERA in the Pacific Coast League and it wasn’t close, and he pitched well in his two big-league starts—but I see him as nothing more than a short-term option, not a solution.

Beyond that, there are several prospects in the system that could figure into the team’s long term plans in the rotation—namely Jake Odorizzi and Kelvin Herrera—however none that will be a factor to begin the 2012 season.

Now to the good part, available free agents the Royals should look to pursue.

The free agency market is unfortunately not as attractive as it appears when it comes to the Royals ability to acquire. It is OK in this situation to assume that the attractive free agent pitchers with club options will likely resign with their team. Those would be C.C. Sabathia, Roy Oswalt, Adam Wainright, Ryan Dempster and Aaron Harang.

I’m going to steal a term from the best Royals blogger in the biz, Rany Jayzerli, and make it known that the Royals will likely look to acquire a pitcher that lies above the “Francis Line.” Jeff Francis to be specific. The Royals aren’t going to bring back Francis, thus whoever they would look to acquire in his place would have to be better, right? Let’s assume the team’s management is that capable.

First lets start with Kyle Davies. OK, that was fun. Now let’s move on.

Joel Pineiro: Pineiro saw his career revitalized in St. Louis under the instruction of pitching coach Dave Duncan, but as it appears to be with every average pitcher that performs well with the Cardinals, he became average after he left. He can’t be the Royals best option and if he is, then the free agency market is not the route to go when acquiring a pitcher.

C.J. Wilson: Wilson is my favorite option as a free agent pitcher. Unfortunately, he is probably most team’s favorite option as well. The Rangers will most likely be in hot pursuit to keep him around and the bidding war for him will be high. He’s kind of a “different dude” (just follow his Twitter account for proof) and if I saw him going anywhere other than Texas it would probably be the West coast, so he could get gnarly on some waves in his free time.

Wilson, in my opinion, is not an ace. He never will be. But he is a very solid No. 2 starter that the Royals could desperately use. He keeps the ball down and doesn’t give up very many homers and strikes out nearly nine batters a game. The Royals should do whatever is necessary in order to acquire him. I don’t know how plausible it is that they actually succeed in doing so, but he is the best pitcher on the market and isn’t the caliber of a Cliff Lee, so paying him would be in the realm of possibility for the Royals. He’s likely to garner a long-term deal that pays around the $100 million range, as the market determines as much.

Chances the Royals acquire Wilson: 20%. But make no mistake, this is THE guy that you would like to be able to acquire in free agency. Hell, have Mike Moustakas lend him a surf board and promise him free reign in the Kauffman fountains to sweeten the deal. Like I said, don’t think it’s likely that the Royals get him, but they should sure as hell try.

The only other two starting pitchers that I would remotely consider are Javier Vazquez and Edwin Jackson. I could give you my take on both, but I would be doing you a disservice, because quite frankly after looking at the starting arms available in free agency, I’m more so convinced than I was previously that the trade market is the way to go.

To put it bluntly, if the Royals get C.J. Wilson, the offseason has been an overwhelming success. Anything other than him in regards to the free agency market, then my excitement will be toned down a bit for the 2012 season.

My next post will look at prospects that are expendable and should be considered as trading chips.