At the trading deadline, Dayton Moore picked up Justin Maxwell from the Astros. Within two weeks, he’d make two more moves – acquiring Jamey Carroll from the Twins and Emilio Bonifacio from the Blue Jays.
Dayton Moore had the Royals in a buying mode and said he wanted to “enhance” the existing ballclub. Maxwell provided another bat against lefties and outfield depth. On August 11, the Royals had just defeated the Red Sox, their eighth win of the month, when Carroll’s acquisition was announced. He was brought in to be a veteran presence after Miguel Tejada injured his calf and went on the disabled list. Emilio Bonifacio was acquired to replace the struggling Elliot Johnson.
All three moves were intended to help the Royals gain ground in the wild card race. Maxwell had an instant impact, driving in a run in his first at bat against the Twins and hitting a game-winning homer against the Mets days later. Carroll hasn’t been very good. Bonifacio has been better than his time in Toronto.
But all three players were acquired with more than just 2013 on their contracts. Maxwell is arbitration eligible for three years. Carroll has a team option year for next season, and Bonifacio has one more year of arbitration ahead. Moore hedged his bet in a way, finding players who could also contribute next year and beyond in case the Royals were to fall out of the race – which they did.
When it comes time to look at next year’s roster, Maxwell and Bonifacio are performing well enough to earn strong consideration for a spot, if they don’t have one wrapped up anyway. Carroll, however, is not a good candidate for a return.
Let’s look at their performances in a Royals uniform.
As I said above, Maxwell had an instant impact, but he’s been more than just a fleeting producer for the Royals. In 18 games, he has 17 hits, four of them home runs. He has eight extra base hits. For comparison’s sake, Jarrod Dyson has 11 in 59 games. Jeff Francoeur had 13 in 59 games. Miguel Tejada had eight in 53 games, Chris Getz has eight in 65.
That works out to a crazy .354 isolated power measurement. Now, Maxwell wouldn’t be able to keep that up over a full season, but his career .207 ISO would be second to George Kottaras only and would have led last year’s team (if you omit 12 plate appearances from Adam Moore).
Maxwell hit 18 homers last year for Houston in part time duty. If nothing else, he and David Lough could platoon in right field next season. Since he’s only going to be in his first year of arbitration, he’ll be an inexpensive source of right-handed power. Can the Royals expect him to continue to produce a greater than 1.000 OPS? Realistically no, but the change of scenery has served him well.
Bonifacio has had a fine debut with the Royals as well. While he won’t have near the same power as Maxwell, he offers utility on the infield and in the outfield, has speed, and is capable of earning a walk. In 35 plate appearances as a Royal, he’s walked seven times. He’s stolen seven bases for Kansas City as well, and he’s been a 2 WAR player as recently as 2011. Bonifacio is just 28 now and turns 29 next April. There might not be much upside, but he should be an effective utility player and, if he gets on base consistently, could be an option for second base next spring.
He’s making $2.6 million this year, though, which could make him a non-tender option if the Royals feel the investment isn’t worth the return. He’ll probably be on the payroll for at least the same amount of money in 2014. The lowest they could offer him under the CBA is $2.08 million (a 20% cut).
Carroll is the odd man out. I’ve discussed the problem of roster redundancy, and for Carroll, it may be Bonifacio who makes him expendable. He has a team option for $2 million next year, but the Royals have a $250,000 buyout.
Carroll has one hit in 20 at bats, is 39 years old, and seems to be at the end of the line. For his career, he’s been effective against left-handed pitching and has been able to get on base (.338 OBP), but spending $2 million to find out if he can do so again is a poor choice. With Bonifacio (who I assume the Royals would retain), the utility position would be covered (I’m assuming the Royals also keep Chris Getz to be the everyday second baseman), and Carroll doesn’t have a spot. Additionally, Christian Colon could win a job out of spring training, and Pedro Ciriaco, Irving Falu, or Anthony Seratelli can all fill the same spot at the league minimum.
If the Royals find a way to upgrade positions of need, all three new acquisitions have exit strategies – simply non-tender Maxwell or Bonifacio and decline the option on Carroll – so there’s flexibility involved with all three. Maxwell and Bonifacio are making a case for next year’s team, though, and I’d expect both to return.
Jamey Carroll, however, may make a fine coach someday.