The Bad Penny – Yuniesky Betancourt

 

Manos de Peidra

Yuniesky Betancourt, the Bad Penny (AP Photo)

I must have had a premonition.  In last Sunday night’s post Patience is Better than Sacrifice, I stated my belief that one of the positive aspects of the Zach Greinke trade was Dayton Moore’s nifty inclusion of Yuniesky Betancourt in the package.  What a pleasant and unexpected surprise for all of us.  We all feared that Dayton’s unnatural attraction to Yuni (read about Dayton’s early attempts to acquire Yuni in Mike Engel’s post here) would hinder our efforts to build a championship caliber team.

It was no surprise when Greinke was traded and we were very happy and relieved to learn of the group of young and talented players the Royals received in return for him.  What we didn’t expect was for Yuniesky to be included in the deal.  We were stunned.  We were thrilled.  We had renewed hope for the future.  Yuni was gone and the black hole at Shortstop was filled by a young wunderkind named Alcides Escobar.

And then just like a bad penny, Yuni turned up again. 

Premonitions are sometimes accompanied by a sinister and ominous feeling of foreboding and dred.  I mistakenly thought it was just my allergies.  You know how some people with gout can predict the weather?  As a Royals fan, I have the ability to predict bad news.

Every time I make a comment like that, I jinx myself or my team.  Just a couple months ago I said, “the Chiefs have a great chance to go far this season as long as Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki don’t all get injured and placed on IR for the entire season, and what are the chances of that happening?”  Then I said, “I plan to vote for Herman Cain unless we discover he paid off scores of women following sexual harassment allegations.”  It’s been a bad few months for my premonitions.

Our General Manager is compensated handsomely to make sound, thoughtful business decisions.  So, we have to assume there is a good reason he would re-sign the player we gleefully parted with one year ago.

Yuni must be the best available option, right?  It’s been widely rumored that the Royals have been interested in Edgar Renteria (0.9 fWAR), Carlos Guillen (too many recent injuries to accurately measure WAR), and Orlando Cabrera (1.3 fWAR), compared with Betancourt’s (0.5 fWAR.)  Unfortunately, none of these players presents a hugely appealing option.

If we aren’t going to pursue one of these guys, why not consider someone inside the organization?  Why not Christian Colon?   Various reports have Christian projected to be a future Derek Jeter, or alternately a future, well, Yuniesky Betancourt.  But realistically, could he possibly be any worse than Yuni?  Christian is on the upside of his career, and at some point we’ll want to know if he has any mojo.  Why not find out now?

Yuni’s defensive UZR score of -9.5 places him in the bottom 10% of the league in fielding skills.  He committed 21 errors in 2011 – only three Shortstops in the majors had more.  This is just what you want in the middle of your defense – a sieve.

Yuni is quite literally one of the worst middle infielders at the major league level.  The Royals would be better off with Roberto “Manos de Piedra” (Hands of Stone) Duran as a utility infielder.

To add another layer of skepticism, I’m not convinced Betancourt is mentally ready to make the transition to being a utility player.  In spite of his performance, somehow he has inexplicably managed to play in an average of 150 games per year over the past six seasons.  He’ll turn 30 years old right before Spring Training begins and although I haven’t spoken with him, my guess is he probably still believes he’s worthy of an everyday position.  Why wouldn’t he?  Poor performance has never affected his playing time before, why should he sit on the bench now?

Would you believe the Milwaukee Brewers paid Betancourt $2 million to buyout his contract?  Can you imagine being so bad at your job that your boss would pay you $2 million to quit?  It’s mindboggling.

In their projections for next season at Shortstop, Fangraphs has Bentancourt rated last.  Dead last!  To me, this means that any and every available option is better than the one we selected.  Or at the very least, you’d be hard pressed to find a worse option.  I assume Dayton must not review sabermetrics when making decisions such as signing Utility Infielders.  Maybe he signed Yuni for his clubhouse presence or his leadership skills.  (Long pause.)  Obviously, I’m kidding.

Maybe I have unrealistic expectations for these Royals.  But correct me if I’m wrong, haven’t we been led to believe that we are planning to field a competitive team for the first time in years this Summer and anticipating, no expecting, a playoff caliber club no later than 2013?  Would anyone care to argue with me that the foundation of a championship caliber team is strong pitching and rock solid middle defense?  Think Mark Belanger, Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel, Dave Concepcion, etc.  I truly think Alcides Escobar could be mentioned in this same group some day and I’m proud that he anchors the left side of our infield.  I realize one major league season does not a Hall of Fame defensive Shortstop make, but still, I liked what I saw from him in 2011.  I just don’t see how Yuniesky Betancourt fits into this picture, even on a part-time basis.

One thing I have learned from this experience is that next time I’ll be more careful about what I say.  I wouldn’t want to jinx the Royals and cause another bad penny like Yuniesky “Manos de Piedra” Betancourt to show up.

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Topics: 2012 Kansas City Royals, Alcides Escobar, Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals, KC Royals, MLB, Royals, Utility Infielder, Yuniesky Betancourt

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  • jim fetterolf

    The blogosphere is hyperventilating over the signing of Yuni as a UIF. I would have preferred that Irving Falu get a shot, but we’re talking about a UIF who will get, maybe, 25 games next season unless Gio continues his under performance, in which case the team has a new default 2B besides Chris Getz. As for Colon, he produced about the same at Springdale as Yuni did in Milwaukee, so rather than being an alternative he may just be a bust. If Gio can produce, Yuni doesn’t play much and Getz goes to Omaha or gets released.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf I’d have rather seen Falu get a look, mostly because I think he’d be exposed at the big league level as a full time player, but as a true utility player, he can fill in.

    My biggest fear is that if Giavotella or Escobar have any kind of slow start, that the brass will look at that $2 million anchor and feel they have to play him. Bloomquist wasn’t supposed to play everyday either, but he still got 400 plate appearances.

    Colon hasn’t done well, but he’s still working his way up – he’s never been a phenom anyway. I’ll be shocked, barring some kind of .330 season in the minors, if Colon sees Kansas City this year, and even if he did, it’d be in September only. He’s not shown he’s ready for Triple A yet, much less the majors. Maybe the light turns on quickly, but 2012 isn’t his year yet.

    I still just don’t get the signing.

  • jim fetterolf

    The blogosphere is hyperventilating over the signing of Yuni as a UIF. I would have preferred that Irving Falu get a shot, but we’re talking about a UIF who will get, maybe, 25 games next season unless Gio continues his under performance, in which case the team has a new default 2B besides Chris Getz. As for Colon, he produced about the same at Springdale as Yuni did in Milwaukee, so rather than being an alternative he may just be a bust. If Gio can produce, Yuni doesn’t play much and Getz goes to Omaha or gets released.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf I’d have rather seen Falu get a look, mostly because I think he’d be exposed at the big league level as a full time player, but as a true utility player, he can fill in.

    My biggest fear is that if Giavotella or Escobar have any kind of slow start, that the brass will look at that $2 million anchor and feel they have to play him. Bloomquist wasn’t supposed to play everyday either, but he still got 400 plate appearances.

    Colon hasn’t done well, but he’s still working his way up – he’s never been a phenom anyway. I’ll be shocked, barring some kind of .330 season in the minors, if Colon sees Kansas City this year, and even if he did, it’d be in September only. He’s not shown he’s ready for Triple A yet, much less the majors. Maybe the light turns on quickly, but 2012 isn’t his year yet.

    I still just don’t get the signing.

  • Kevin Scobee

    @michael.allen.engel@jim fetterolf So then, if we’re only talking about a utility infielder that may play 25 games, then why are the Royals paying him $2MM guaranteed?

    This is where that argument swings and misses. It’s either “Yost doesn’t use his bench at all anyway” in which case, you’re paying some guy $2MM that will never play. That’s insane and a terrible use of the resources available at the Major League level, when it’s this GM that continues to lament his lack of resources at the Major League level.

    The other argument being that he’s a “starter now backing up” when every objective argument shows that he’s barely capable of being a starter. Which brings us full circle to eh “only 25 games” argument: if it truly is for only 25 games, shouldn’t that roster spot be taken up by someone not making $2MM?

  • Kevin Scobee

    @michael.allen.engel@jim fetterolf So then, if we’re only talking about a utility infielder that may play 25 games, then why are the Royals paying him $2MM guaranteed?

    This is where that argument swings and misses. It’s either “Yost doesn’t use his bench at all anyway” in which case, you’re paying some guy $2MM that will never play. That’s insane and a terrible use of the resources available at the Major League level, when it’s this GM that continues to lament his lack of resources at the Major League level.

    The other argument being that he’s a “starter now backing up” when every objective argument shows that he’s barely capable of being a starter. Which brings us full circle to eh “only 25 games” argument: if it truly is for only 25 games, shouldn’t that roster spot be taken up by someone not making $2MM?

  • jim fetterolf

    @Kevin Scobee @michael.allen.engel Kevin, the only reason for signing Yuni at that money is as a possibility of 2B full time. If Gio solidifies his trend to being Kila v2.0 or Aviles v2.0, Royals want someone other than Getz, someone with some pop and with a glove not made of stone. Only possible thinking that makes any sense.

  • jim fetterolf

    @Kevin Scobee @michael.allen.engel Kevin, the only reason for signing Yuni at that money is as a possibility of 2B full time. If Gio solidifies his trend to being Kila v2.0 or Aviles v2.0, Royals want someone other than Getz, someone with some pop and with a glove not made of stone. Only possible thinking that makes any sense.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf whoah, since when does a two month stretch of rookie production make Gio a Kila or Aviles clone?
    Neither of Aviles nor Kila were seen as prospects until the Royals had to acknowledge their minor league performance and after that they were given opportunity. Ultimately they proved themselves to be at best rosterablr but iffy and inconsistent. Aviles was a $1000 bonus baby and Kila was a mid-teens draftee who did everything he could in the minors before the royals dragged their feet and gave him a look. Totally different situations. If Gio struggles, though, Yuni is gonna play more than he should. In my worst nightmare he takes over full time.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf whoah, since when does a two month stretch of rookie production make Gio a Kila or Aviles clone?
    Neither of Aviles nor Kila were seen as prospects until the Royals had to acknowledge their minor league performance and after that they were given opportunity. Ultimately they proved themselves to be at best rosterablr but iffy and inconsistent. Aviles was a $1000 bonus baby and Kila was a mid-teens draftee who did everything he could in the minors before the royals dragged their feet and gave him a look. Totally different situations. If Gio struggles, though, Yuni is gonna play more than he should. In my worst nightmare he takes over full time.

  • davidwlowe

    This signing absolutely sucks. Why do you pay $2M for a player on the bench? Guys are playing for minimum wage and starting everyday (Hosmer, Moose, Escobar, Giavotella, Cain, Perez, etc.) and this sorry schlep is getting $2M?

    This is a sick joke. First Fanfest, then Frank White, and now this. What in the world is going on? A sick joke.

  • davidwlowe

    This signing absolutely sucks. Why do you pay $2M for a player on the bench? Guys are playing for minimum wage and starting everyday (Hosmer, Moose, Escobar, Giavotella, Cain, Perez, etc.) and this sorry schlep is getting $2M?

    This is a sick joke. First Fanfest, then Frank White, and now this. What in the world is going on? A sick joke.

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel@Jim Agree that Gio gets more time, but I have gotten the feeling that the Royals don’t have much faith in him; the late call-up last year while Getz got the everyday 2nd for months, substituting late for Gio instead of treating him like Esky and Moose and letting him work through the poor glove and being overmatched by set-up men and closers, the signing of Yuni. Not saying I agree with the team on this, not having seen much of Gio, but that is the only reason I see for signing Yuni to that contract rather than bringing up Irving, the possibility that Gio is a AAAA player and the known fact of Getzie’s production as full-time 2B. Yuni seems to be insurance on Gio for lack of a better option at the moment. I’m sure the team hopes that Gio’s operation extends his range and that off-season work with Seitzser helps him at the plate and that spring training reps helps his pivot. Hope springs eternal, but it’s nice to have a Plan B:) It’s all up to Gio.

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel@Jim Agree that Gio gets more time, but I have gotten the feeling that the Royals don’t have much faith in him; the late call-up last year while Getz got the everyday 2nd for months, substituting late for Gio instead of treating him like Esky and Moose and letting him work through the poor glove and being overmatched by set-up men and closers, the signing of Yuni. Not saying I agree with the team on this, not having seen much of Gio, but that is the only reason I see for signing Yuni to that contract rather than bringing up Irving, the possibility that Gio is a AAAA player and the known fact of Getzie’s production as full-time 2B. Yuni seems to be insurance on Gio for lack of a better option at the moment. I’m sure the team hopes that Gio’s operation extends his range and that off-season work with Seitzser helps him at the plate and that spring training reps helps his pivot. Hope springs eternal, but it’s nice to have a Plan B:) It’s all up to Gio.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf@Jim I dunno – Gio was hitting .285 after April/May, which is good, but nothing to change the Royals from the year-to-year path they had him on. It wasn’t until he torched Triple A in June and July that they had to consider bringing him up.

    Previously, they’d played him at Low A to finish up 2008, then a full season in Wilmington, full season in NWA and the aim, I believe, for a full season in Omaha. He forced their hand.

    He was a second round pick and has shown zero signs of being a bust to this point, meager 2011 debut aside. To say that they lack faith in his ability doesn’t really fit to me.

    As for taking him out of games early – 1) yeah his defense isn’t great, but they also didn’t have a real option to spell Escobar or Moose – and Escobar is better defensively than anyone they could replace him with anyway. 2) Gio left 10 of his 46 games in the late innings. that’s not great, but it’s not like they were pulling him with a lead in the sixth. I wonder if his hip may have had something to do with it, too, as his own comments suggest that he was playing with the labrum tear late.

    Yeah, it’s nice to have a Plan B, but Yuni is a flimsy, expensive one.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf@Jim I dunno – Gio was hitting .285 after April/May, which is good, but nothing to change the Royals from the year-to-year path they had him on. It wasn’t until he torched Triple A in June and July that they had to consider bringing him up.

    Previously, they’d played him at Low A to finish up 2008, then a full season in Wilmington, full season in NWA and the aim, I believe, for a full season in Omaha. He forced their hand.

    He was a second round pick and has shown zero signs of being a bust to this point, meager 2011 debut aside. To say that they lack faith in his ability doesn’t really fit to me.

    As for taking him out of games early – 1) yeah his defense isn’t great, but they also didn’t have a real option to spell Escobar or Moose – and Escobar is better defensively than anyone they could replace him with anyway. 2) Gio left 10 of his 46 games in the late innings. that’s not great, but it’s not like they were pulling him with a lead in the sixth. I wonder if his hip may have had something to do with it, too, as his own comments suggest that he was playing with the labrum tear late.

    Yeah, it’s nice to have a Plan B, but Yuni is a flimsy, expensive one.

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