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Airing of Grievances


Yes, it’s another Yuniesky Betancourt post.

On Tuesday it was announced that the Royals had agreed to terms on a one-year contract with “shortstop” Yuniesky Betancourt to be a utility infielder for the coming 2012 season.

The news spread across Twitter just as everyone was sure the “veteran infielder” being pursued by the Royals had to be former Atlanta Brave and owner of two World Series rings, Edgar Renteria. All the pieces and arguments for Renteria seemed to fit the normal criteria Dayton Moore uses when acquiring players: Brave, World Series, reputation greater than performance.

To everyone’s shock however it wasn’t Renteria but the erstwhile shortstop Betancourt, who for his brief stint with the Royals was either supremely hated by fans or merely tolerated for “being better than the last guy”.  His 2010 performance of a meager .9 WAR and negative 9.5 UZR (!) suggested that even though he may have been better than the guy before him, simply being able to write the same name next to the “6” in the lineup everyday holds little significance when that name performs at a pretty terrible level.

When Betancourt’s name was added to the trade of Zack Greinke a winter ago, there was a sense of relief that Dayton Moore was actually willing to admit his mistakes (although indirectly), and had come to the realization that the Yunigma was not worthy of a starting position. Betancourt’s perceived talent has been proved largely more of a figment of the scouting eye than anything tangible, and whatever potential he may have had is no longer there because he’ll be 30 years old next month.

And so why sign Betancourt now?

The counter argument to signing Betancourt is that it is mostly inconsequential. Alicides Esobar, the current Royals shortstop, will play 150 games and Ned Yost doesn’t play his bench anyway, so really the uproar is about a player that should play no more than 25 games in the coming season. While a perfectly fine argument, out of context, when applied to the current Royals roster-structure it just doesn’t fit.

However injury resistant Escobar may be, injuries do happen and for a position as important as shortstop, the backup needs to be someone capable of playing the position more with the glove, and there’s little Betancourt has done during his career to prove that he is that guy. Whether he’s just a backup or not, backups still need to be able to handle the position athletically.

And this is where the “just a backup” argument swings and misses.

The Royals just committed $2 million to a player that has never been a backup in the Major Leagues, and hasn’t played anywhere other than one position in six years. While the “utility infielder” jokes write themselves, wouldn’t it make more sense to sign a player to play multiple positions that has actual experience playing multiple positions?

Also, if we’re only talking about a utility infielder that may play 25 games during the coming season, why guarantee that player two million dollars?

If Ned Yost never uses his bench anyway, paying a player $2 million that isn’t a starter and isn’t going to play is a terrible use of the resources available to the organization at the Major League level, especially when it’s this same GM that continues to lament his lack of resources at the Major League level.

I’ve written before that there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal, and I’m not sure I’m ready to come off that stance. This deal, although terrible in the amount and the player that was given to under the circumstances, does still end at the close of the 2012 season. And, it can easily be dismissed at some point during the season if necessary.

But given how the Royals have operated under Dayton Moore, how can anyone be so sure that either a) he would just release Yuni if the performance warranted or b) Betancourt wouldn’t end up being the starting second baseman by June? Both scenarios are entirely conceivable.

Moore has done a lot of things right since being hired as the GM of the Royals – most notably hiring J.J. Picollo to run his drafts – but it’s these kinds of things, his allocation of money on the big league roster, that still leave much to be desired. Two million dollars to a backup (that is mediocre at best to begin with) instead of some random minimum salary player to fill the position and perform just as well, just doesn’t make much sense.

And that, is my grievance.

Happy Festivus everyone.

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