Quiet, Confident, Cray-Cray Royals
By Ed Connealy
The Royals subtle off season has me scratching my head. In the past, they made me itch my dome due to perplexing, ill-advised moves. Happily, this off season’s rash is born of healthy curiosity.
Are the Royals scheming to make the entire season a collection of 5 inning games, closed out by a 4 headed bullpen monster? Are they going to try something completely new, outside the box, and progressive?
If the season started today, their bullpen line up would be Luke Hochevar in the 6th, Kelvin Herrera in the 7th, Wade Davis in the 8th, and Greg Holland in the 9th. The recently re-signed, and capable, Jason Frasor is available. Tim Collins should also be on board. If the Royals choose not to make Brandon Finnegan the 5th starter, this deep bullpen potentially gets even deeper. They wouldn’t have to stick to the 6-9th inning script either. One could see Kelvin playing the role of fireman anytime in a game, and the Royals could rotate closing duties from time to time.
It’s starting to feel like the Royals are an Ervin Santana signing away from having a very unique, creative plan for success for 2015. I say Santana because he’s the best pitcher they can likely afford. If not Santana, they do need to sign up a serviceable starter to properly launch this bullpen centric plan. Finnegan, Lamb, and Zimmer are all big gambles to be “rotation ready” in April, but they make great insurance policies. Injuries and faltering performances happen. We saw Duffy push Chen out of the rotation last year, and that worked out quite well.
I’m veering too far from the main point, the main question: Have the Royals decided to turn the pitching staff on it’s ear? Are they about to build a staff from the 9th inning back to the 1st? Did the Royals see other teams, besides just themselves, use this strategy in the playoffs, and decide it could be done throughout the regular season? That would be a trip.
Or could the Royals, now proven winners, have moved to a more patient and disciplined space? Instead of rushing to sign guys early, they have faith they can react wisely to the market, while doubling down on their strong, bullpen assets.
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The Royals really do need an answer for right field. They may be able to trade Holland or Davis to the Dodgers for that right fielder. They could simply trade one of them for prospects, freeing up the money needed to sign Melky Cabrera. I say Melky, because I can’t think of another free agent right fielder worth acquiring if it means a piece of HDH has to go. With the contract Nick Markakis just got from Atlanta, I am now more worried what the hell the Melkster will command. The Red Sox, like the Dodgers, have a surplus of out fielders. I don’t see what big league guys the Royals have that Boston needs, and I would hate to see the Royals purge what little they have from their minor league cupboards. Wouldn’t it be great if Glass would just sign Santana, Melky, and Morse and not give a damn about the money? That would be a trip.
Hochevar getting a 2 for 10M contract is the hardest off season move to accept so far. He’s had a few terrible years, one great year, and just missed a whole year with an injury. That said, if this subtle move allows the Royals the creativity and balls to execute a pitching staff by bullpen plan, I get it. If signing Luke and Frasor means the Royals can trade for a desperately needed bat, I get it. If the Royals simply sign a guy like Kendrys Morales, and Francisco Liriano, then this move’s itchy for the wrong reasons.
The Winter meetings in San Diego start next week, insuring the market will get even more frenzied. Don’t be surprised if the Royals continue to lean back. They are not in the hunt for the John Lesters of the world, and probably not even the Melky Cabreras. They can wait, sign a mid level starter or two, or trade late with teams scrambling for a chair at the end of free agent duck, duck goose.
The Royals are having their most quiet, inactive, yet interesting off season in years. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds.