Superfluous Alex Gordon photo. Credit: Minda Haas (mindahaas.net)

Kings of Kauffman Mailbag – Ep. 4


Spring Training has opened for the 2012 season and as is with every other opening to a new campaign, hope has sprung eternal. Although maybe, just maybe, this year is a little different than those of years past, and the 2012 version of the Royals truly will either compete for the AL Central title, or give all fans that bright and shining beckon that the good times are finally upon us.

All the stories about expectations, exciting new contracts, and the first of what will probably be many lineup projections have been written, it’s time to answer some of the emails. As always, drop a line to [email protected]. On to the bag:

Why haven’t the Royals signed Gordon to an extension yet? Jeremy, Kansas City

I’m starting with this question because, well, for obvious reasons. A couple of days ago when the Royals released a statement saying they were calling a press conference for a “big announcement”. Almost immediately everyone thought it was to reveal their shiny new contract for left fielder Alex Gordon. Alas, it wasn’t, and so now after Gordon did agree on his one-year tender, we’re all left to wonder if the long-term deal with the club will ever happen.

I think it will happen. Most think it will happen. Though, the fact that we’re now at the beginning of Spring Training and no announcement has been made, or even rumor of an announcement, is a bit worrisome. Even though the Royals are very, very good at keeping information under wraps, you would think a contract announcement that’s being anticipated like the Gordon deal, they would be all over letting the public know that at least something is in the works. Then again, that’s not their M.O., so who knows.

Obviously there’s some hang up, and it’s probably over money, which is to be expected. Gordon was a pretty average player until last season, so the argument is clearly between paying Gordon for his career year (like the Royals did with Jeff Francoeur) or for the years prior when he was decidedly less valuable. The Royals, really, are in a tough spot here.

If Gordon reaches free agency after the 2013 season and performs at even 85% of last year’s statistic over the next two seasons, he will be a very hot commodity. Very. So much so that he may price himself out of Kansas City altogether. The Royals on the other hand, can’t necessarily take the chance of inking Gordon to a deal now, and paying him at or around what his market value will be at the end of next year, and have him revert back to the player he was before 2011. They’re not in all that enviable of a position.

Dayton Moore has been questioned a number of times for his ability to read the market and sign players accordingly. With Gordon, he will be tested greatly. He’s in a tough spot.

Would you trade Billy Butler for Ivan Nova? Grant, Kansas City

This is from a while back when the rumor was going around that the Yankees were eyeing Billy Butler, and may in fact make a play for him to fill their DH role.

For Nova specifically, there’s no way I would trade Butler. I had a conversation before with a Twitter pal who writes FanGraphs amongst other sites about whether or not he would trade Butler for James Shields of the Rays. The conclusion that we both came to, if I’m remember correctly at this point, is that there are really very few pitchers we would require in return for #CountryBreakfast. (That is, of course, the perceived “available” pitchers.)

As I’ve written before on this site, and Jeff Parker has written at Royally Speaking, Butler is in reality a damn good baseball player. Damn good. And whatever limitations he may have with a glove on his hand – which are more or less irrelevant at this point – he more than makes up for by being one of the best hitters in the game. AND, he’s not yet 26. That’s pretty good stuff, people.

So would I trade Butler for Nova? No. For one, Nova isn’t that good and is mostly a product of being able to pitch on nights when they let the Yankees bat. For two, Butler is good. We should stop trying to fabricate trades to get the guy out of town.

How excited are you to start your Royals franchise on MLB The Show 12 in a couple weeks? – Brendan, Valencia, CA

If they make Alex Gordon a freaking “B” potential again this year, I will throw a massive hissy fit.

Have you read The Art Of Fielding yet? – John, Kansas City

I have not but it is on my to-do list for this summer. I’ll have a week of semi downtime in May when I go on my Honeymoon (yikes, I’m getting married), so I’m thinking that will be a good time to get into it.

Without spoiling it for me, what are everyone’s thoughts?

Loved the Buck article. – James Bereolos

Thanks James! All credit to that one goes to Alan. Everyone, read it here.

It’s amazing how many people that grow up in-and-around Kansas City have met Buck at least once in their lives. I was fortunate enough to have him give me an award at a Ban Johnson banquet a number of years ago.

After giving me the award the banquet went onto it’s normal fare and everyone had their laughs and what not. Buck even stood up and gave a five minute speech about his mom and how she used to encourage him to chase his dreams of playing baseball. Then after everything was over, he made a point to come up to me, to congratulate me again.

Buck went on to say that he had heard a lot about me (I doubted that was true), that he really liked the way I pitched (having never seen me pitch, that I know of), and that he would like to take a picture with me. I was flabbergasted. I was beside myself. It wasn’t so much that Buck said he knew who I was or that he liked how I pitched – because I was still pretty sure that none of that was actually true – but that here was a man that was the center of attention in this room, and all he could think of doing was to make me feel good about myself. That was pretty cool.

And I still have that picture.

We could probably go on for days on this site with all of our stories about Buck. In fact, that doesn’t really sound like a bad idea at all.

If the Royals were a ruthless dictator, which dictator would they be? – @oldmanduggan, NOT Dallas

You’re very weird. Very. But you like Aaron Sorkin and hate “How I Met Your Mother”, so you’re good by me.

If the Royals were a member of Guns ‘N Roses, which one would they be? @oldmanduggan, on a boat

Seriously, man. Weird.

But Slash, definitely. Lots of attention and popularity within his base of people, and the guy that’s easily made fun of for being a train wreck outside of that base. It fits.

You don’t like Yuni talking to all the youngins around the batting cage about how to properly hack away and pop up the first pitch? – Adam, Kansas City byway of Iowa

This is old but I still get a kick out of it. And I still don’t understand the need to spend guaranteed money on Betancourt. Just don’t.

Are you more excited about our wedding or the baseball season? – Sara, Aliso Viejo, CA

Um, uh, um, uh.

That’s Yankee weekend, we’ll have the game on during the ceremony, right?

What do you think the Royals record will be this year? – Tom, Kansas City

78-84. I think. Maybe.

Starting pitching is still a concern, and I’m curious to see how long the Royals stick with the traditional “proven closer” idea with Joakim Soria if he struggles out of the gates. I know Ned Yost has been hinting at other possibilities, but that’s one of those things I’ll have to see to believe. Traditional baseball thought processes and applications die hard.

 

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  • the5allens

    nice article.  disagree about Billy Butler.  Understand, I am not a hater – I like him and his skill set, and in a perfect world he could retire a Royal.  However, I think its a stretch to call him a “damn good baseball player”.  Really, he is a “damn good hitter”.  He “plays” a position where anyone on the roster can play.
     
    If we could flip him for a front of rotation starter, the one piece that this team is still lacking (and many teams never can find), then I think you have to do that 17 times a day.  Besides, what better way to see just what Clint Robinson can do…
     
    I get how good a hitter Butler is.  But I think it would be better for the team if they had the combo of a frontline starter (Nova / Shields) plus an average DH (Clint Robinson or Francoeur or heck maybe even Yuni since we can’t seem to get rid of him) instead of Butler / Hochever.  And if Wil Myers is ready soon, we will have a logjam in the outfield, made worse when Bubba Starling comes up, leading to someone who can play DH.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @the5allens I understand your point of trading from a position of strength to solidify a spot on the roster that is less strong, but I really don’t agree with that theory at all. If there was someone to fulfill Butler’s position in the lineup, and there’s no shortage of people that say Clint Robinson is in no way that guy, then I could get on board. Maybe.
     
    But this is much the same reason why the Greinke trade – from a purely on-field perspective – was incredibly flawed. There was no way the Royals could “win” a trade in terms of talent by trading Grienke, and they didn’t. With Butler, you’d be trading a 25 y/o hitter whose accomplished things offensively that only a few other hitters have over the past three seasons. By doing so, you’d be replacing him with Robinson, who’s older, and who’s not nearly as capable a major league hitter. (By all accounts)
     
    Assuming someone would give up a starter (Nova is not “frontline”, Shields, sure) for him, the hole you’d be filling in the rotation would be offset by the even bigger hole you’d be creating in the lineup by losing Butler. Plus, he’s super inexpensive at this point.
     
    With Myers, I get that argument, but he needs to play right over Francoeur next year, and Francoeur platoons. That’s the only way to handle that situation.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @Kevin Scobee  @the5allens For what it’s worth 1. yes, Nova isn’t a frontline starter. 2. When Troy (from the Royalman Report) ran into JJ Picollo in the team store prior to our landing the interview from last weekend, he’d asked JJ about some of the trade rumors. The Rays were “only talking Hosmer and Myers” – okay that’s third party but the Rays aren’t one to ship off a pitcher they have under control still who’s developed into a workhorse for Billy Butler. They’re under no pressure to move Shields and unless  compelled by a trio of top 5 prospects, they’re right to keep him.
     
    Anytime the subject of Butler comes up somehow a common argument is “he stinks because he only hits” and often carries the “we should trade him for pitching”. Which is it? Is he a one-dimensional specialist or the guy who’s going to get us Roy Halladay? 
     
    Then if Butler were to be traded, how many teams can he go to? He’s only a DH, so that wipes out the NL teams. Teams like the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, Tigers and others don’t need him, so realistically, he can go to maybe 10 teams at best? Now they also have to have a young pitcher who would be a frontline option and under team control once we get him. Those are some tough criteria to meet.
     
    I’d be surprised if Myers jumps up this year, but it’s possible. Regardless, it’s going to take Bubba a few years to get ready. Hosmer and Myers had a great approach at the plate coming out of high school. Moose had a decent enough one. Bubba is pretty raw. Kansas 6A baseball isn’t the highest level of competition. There’s a significant number of scouts who think he could bust, as well, so you can’t make a move today for someone four years down the road. It’s the same reason you can’t trade Moose now and say “well Cuthbert’s on the way”. 

  • the5allens

     @michael.allen.engel Wil Meyers may not jump this year, but we need to keep the long view in sight.  Myers will be pushing for a place within the life of Butler’s contract.  where do we put him ?  and why not look to upgrade our rotation now, as opposed to waiting for a year or two to try to make a move ?
     
    to Kevin – if we are judging our talent “by all accounts”, then which of our starting pitchers are even just league average ?  Maybe Sanchez, maybe.  we have way to many “if you only view these 4 starts, and then look just at the odd-numbered innings in low-humidity nights, we have reason to HOPE…” 
     
    We, as Royals fans, have to move beyond the “homeristic” tilt-our-heads-and-squit approach to seeking best case reasonsor optimism and be realistic.  our rotation is not good.  I am a big fan of Duffy, and have had Sanchez in fantasy leagues for years now.  Still, we are not a serious contender in terms of pitching, and until we are, we are back seaters
     
    so, enjoy having the best DH and worst rotation in the league.  see where that gets us…

  • michael.allen.engel

     @the5allens Hochevar, Duffy, Chen and Paulino combined for a 4.49 ERA as starters last year.
     
    AL average is 4.43. 
     
    Hardly the worst. 
     
    Bad news is nobody’s touching Detroit. Good bullpen, good offense, great starting pitching. Unless Verlander and Fister get hurt and one more break goes the Royals way, it’s going to be tough to catch them. The fan in me doesn’t want to know that, but that’s how it fits in my head. 

  • the5allens

     @michael.allen.engel i am not a card-carrying ivan nova fan (visceral anti-yankee reaction, call it the “Chris Chambliss Syndrome”).  however, when was the last time KC had a starter post a 3.70 ERA over at least 165 innings ?  and in his second year, when he can (only) get better ?  Still, Shields (or the next 3 TB starters) would be better, but can we look a gift horse in the mouth ?
     
    we can keep Butler, I like the idea.  when is his contract up ?  (2014).  At that point in time, should we resign our DH, or our 1B? 3B? SS? CF? 2B? LHP? RHP? Closer ?  (Bravo to GMDM for taking C out of that equation)?
     
    and if you conclude that we may put DH toward the bottom of the list of re-signing priorities, then think it through – if we can make a move now that gives us a #1 starter for even just a few years, then why not do it now, as opposed to losing a free agent DH in 2 years ?
     
    God forbid, if none of our pitchers turn into #1 Starters, then we will likely always look back and wish we had seized the “relatively” low cost to acquire the Organization’s next Saberhagen.
     
    or, we can hold hands and talk about how Hochevar has finally gotten it, Chen can continue defying the odds, and Colt Griffen is about to make a comeback…
     

  • michael.allen.engel

     @the5allens Butler’s never going to return a #1. Probably not a #2. It’s just not going to happen.
     
    I’m not sure what the best way to go about resigning people will be, but there are plenty of seasons to look at and decide a) who’s going to be worth keeping (they aren’t all Hosmer) and b) what other prospects/options pop up. They don’t have to be extended today. Most won’t negotiate for a couple years yet, some may never even have the chance to. 
     
    Feel free to come up with a list of teams that a) need a DH and b) their best pitcher. Pitching is usually going to be a more costly acquisition because it’s always in demand. Every team wants more pitching. The Rays would want Butler, Myers and probably one of Duffy/Monty/Odorizzi for Shields. Can’t even imagine what they’d want for Hellickson/Price/Moore. 
     
     
    To get back to the original idea, I don’t see Robinson/Nova as a better group than Butler/Hochevar. I just don’t. You can (and likely do) disagree. I’m just not seeing it. I wish Robinson could carry over his performance from the minors, but it’s getting late in his days for that. He’s already 27, an age when most players have a couple of years of adjusting to the big leagues under their belt (aside from the superstars – CRob is not Longoria or Braun who had no problems adjusting). If the Royals viewed him as more than just depth, they’d have found a way to fit him in somehow.

  • Kevin Scobee

    @michael.allen.engel @the5allens Nova’s xFIP proves more that he’s a product of his environment moreso than a true talent. But, info understand your point, and it is valid.

    With Butler’s contract up in a few years theres a good chance at that time, given how expensive he’ll be at that point if he continues this pace of almost-elite offensive consistency, he will no longer be a Royal, so get something for him now. I get that. But let’s say he does bring back a good starter, this team still can’t compete. I’d rather have a part of the roster that is actually above average instead of having a roster full of just average. Stars win championships, not balanced rosters. So I’d rather take chances with an offense of three near-elite-to-elite bats in Butler, Gordon, and Hosmer, than to trade Butler in a market that’s likely to undervalue him because pitching is so scarce.

  • the5allens

    I guess we will see what this year brings.  I seriously doubt that Chen or Paulino will post ERAs as low as they did last year.  I believe Duffy will take a good step forward.  Sanchez is a wild card, and I am just not a believer in Hochevar (sorry Luke).  Keep in mind, Hochever is our #1.  Let that sink in.  Frankly, I wish we could move him to the bullpen – avoid letting the opponents face him 3 times in a game, maybe we could then avoid the big inning.  I often wonder if he couldn’t become dominant in the pen.
     
    there have been teams in the past that build a good young core, and were able to resign key pieces early.  Tampa recently, Cleveland before that.  But, and I think this part is important, those teams were competitive at the time.  The team needs to be competitive for those young players to want to be around long term.  And I have grave concerns over this rotation and its ability to be competitive.  And if they don’t get the right production out of the rotation, then that can stress and defray even a solid bullpen.  and when young good hitters get frustrated losing games when they have posted 4-5-6 runs, they don’t want to resign club-friendly contracts.
     
    I am probably overly pessimistic about this rotation, but I also have a hard time thinking that any other seriously competitive team would go with a staff composed like ours (not counting Duffy, in whom I do believe).  There are starters out there who may not be “true #1 guys”, but who would be a big improvement over any single one of our starters.  I know that Tampa has at least 4 of them in their rotation alone.  Granted, over the next couple of years (or slightly longer) we will be (hopefully) adding Montgomery, Odorizzi, and Lamb.  And if all goes well, those guys + Duffy is a very good foursome.  But, there are a lot of “ifs” and years in that equation.
     
    however, all that being written, i have to admit I haven’t felt this excited about a season in years !

  • jim fetterolf

    Two thoughts: Hangups on Gordon are likely two, the no-trade clause and his age, the same as Frenchy’s and with one good season: I expect Billy to get another extension this year or next, as his hitting fits so well in the lineup and his fielding is enough to give Hoz a break sometimes. For prediction, 85 wins. 78 is a good average of the various projection systems but is also what pythag showed for last year and this team has much better talent. I would add to the above comment on four starters’ ERA that Jon Sanchez had a 4.26 in the NL, approximately a 4.50 in the Al, so the rotation is average, a major step up, and is backed by an above average offense, defense, and bullpen. 4.50 starters plus 3.00 relievers give up four runs per game, 648 for the year. The offense scored about 730 last year. 648 is optimistic, but the staff should stay easily below 700 runs allowed, so suggests an above .500 club. Just a matter of getting some of those extra wins against Detroit and Cleveland and the season could get real interesting.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf This assumes everyone stays healthy. If pitchers get hurt, they’ll have to fill in with other starters of the Vin/SOS variety. I’m okay to comfortable with the rotation, but they probably won’t all stay healthy.
     
    As for the Gordon extension, I haven’t seen anything about a no trade clause being anywhere in the discussions. Both sides seem to have things locked down leak-wise and the only numbers of any kind I’ve heard are the 6/80 Nate Bukaty mentioned and the 4/30 area that was rumored to be offered. As for his age, he’s not wildly out of control age-wise relative to other extensions (Victorino, Corey Hart). The same age as Frenchy is still younger than the league average for batters (28.7 in 2011). 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel You may be right, but this year we have much better options than SOS/Maz in Teaford, Mendoza, even Adcock for just a couple of games and Montgomery and maybe Crow for long stretches, much different than last year.
     
    Second, on Gordon, his age is important relative to the future. Sal Perez is 21, Danny Duffy, possibly the next extension 23, even Billy is 25. And Perez, Duffy, even Billy are much harder to replace than a LF, especially with Myers looming. The two years Frenchy got after a career season might be more reasonable.  Because of that I think the no-trade is key, Gordon willing to give a home team discount in exchange for a no-trade, the Royals preferring a shorter contract with trade options so they can deal him. A six year deal has Gordon still on the club at high cost and age 34 with Myers, Bubba, and Elier all up. Add to that that Hoz has suggested willingness to stay and GMDM may need flexibility for him as well as Moose and others, and Gordon is no longer the top priority. If a deal can’t be reached on Gordon and he has a good first half and Myers is Hosmerizing the PCL, I expect Gordon traded for a bunch of prospects at the break.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf there are so many good stats in this comment that I’m pretty ticked at myself for not including them myself.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf there are so many good stats in this comment I’m pretty ticked at myself for not including them in the piece.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf you saying you expect Gordon to be traded hurts me. It hurts me real deep, Jim.
     
    On the point about Hosmer: the natural reaction to the “news” that he would be willing to sign and stay in KC should have been met with a pretty swift ignorance by everyone. All his good feelings mean is that he’d be willing to sign for $150MM instead of the $160MM. Or still more than that. We should all pretend as if Hosmer won’t be here long term, and be pleasantly shocked if he is. Getting our hopes up isn’t the way to go on this one.

  • jim fetterolf

     @Kevin Scobee Kevin, I like Gordon as a player and he seems a genuine stand up guy, but OF is a position that is filling up in the pipeline and could get real crowded in four years, much less six, so unlike the young Savior Perez, who has no reasonable replacement until we get down to Cam Galleger(sp?) and what can be hoped from him, we don’t really need to lock in a guy at his peak age-wise.
     
    Perhaps Hoz is unattainable, I’m sure GMDM is looking into it, but the fact that there are stud kids like Duffy in play will tend to push the Gordon extension off til later. I’ve seen it suggested that if he starts out seriously dominant then he might no longer want to talk, so that would trigger a trade with a year and a half of control left and should bring a good haul of prospects. Baseball used to be so much simpler before it became an MBA final exam:)
     

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf I think I’m onboard with your thinking on Gordon regarding an extension, which may seem a bit odd considering I’m the resident Gordon fanboy around these parts.
     
    He’s signed through another season which puts him at 29 when he reaches free agency. At that point, looking him down to a 4-5 year deal, which it’s almost assuredly going to take, I’d be hesitant to do that deal, like you’re saying. That really has more to do with a player’s in their 30s on multiple year contracts at upwards of $12-$15MM per year – that Gordon will probably make on that  contract – than anything regarding Gordon himself.