The Price of Depth
When I wrote about the depth of the organization last week, I didn’t intend for it to become a multiple post thought, but¬†a discussion on Twitter last night has caused me to want to write about it again. It’s funny because people ask me all the time how I am able to write so much about a bad team, especially in the offseason. I tell them that it’s very likely that my posting will be a bit more sporadic as we get into the offseason further because there’s just less to talk about, but that writing about a bad team is often easier than writing about a good team. Let’s say I was blogging in 2001 when the Mariners went 116-46. I’m just not sure what I would write about on a day-to-day basis. Then I got to thinking about it and I realized that I’d write posts like this, talking about the backup shortstop or who is going to be the top bat off the bench. That’s not to say the Royals are at the point where they’re so good it’s boring, but it is to say that we’re getting closer. Plus, I can only write about them needing starting pitching so many times before even my head explodes.
The discussion last night was based on Ryan Doumit who recently became a free agent after spending parts of seven seasons with the Pirates. For those who don’t know, Doumit is a switch hitting catcher who hits about like we were all hoping Brayan Pena would. Of course, he also plays catcher about as well. The difference between Doumit and Pena is that Doumit is capable of playing other positions somewhat adequately. I wouldn’t trust him in right field for an entire season, but if Francoeur were to twist an ankle and need two or three days off, I’d have no problem putting Doumit out there to keep the offense sharp. This isn’t specifically about Doumit, though he is the centerpiece of the point. This is about how much he will cost to the Royals or to any other team as someone who probably isn’t going to play every day. It was reported that the Dodgers offered him one year and just south of $3 million and he turned it down, so it looks like he’s holding out for what would make him about the fifth highest paid player on the royals next season (I didn’t look that up, just a guess, don’t shoot me if I’m wrong). We talked about this the other day, but historically Dayton Moore has shyed away from spending like that on a backup. My question is why he hasn’t wanted to spend on a backup.
Another player who I mentioned in Friday recently signed with a division rival, Jamey Carroll. He’s not going to be a great example personally for this because he signed with the Twins to be their starting shortstop and I think most players would choose starting over backing up, but the principle of Jamey Carroll is what I want to look at here. What we’ve seen from Dayton Moore in his tenure is that players who don’t play very often have not been given much in the way of contracts. Detractors to that statement will point to Willie Bloomquist, but as has been pointed out in the past, Bloomquist was not brought here to sit on the bench. I’m not sure he was brought in to get 600 at bats, but a guy getting 400-450 at bats is more than a bench player. We can talk about what kind of a talent evaluator DM is in a later post.
Our awesome writer, Clint Scoles, brought this up on Twitter last night that under Moore, the Royals have not previously been in a situation like their current one. They have cheap talent (mostly) all over the field. Looking around, you can expect all four infielders, the catcher and the center fielder to make roughly the league minimum while Francoeur, Gordon and Butler combined will make a bit less than¬†$20 million if Gordon doesn’t sign a long-term deal, which still isn’t all that much for three good players (yes I called Francoeur good…mostly because I lumped him in with Butler and Gordon). As it stands right now, the Royals payroll looks to be pretty low. Without looking, I’d estimate with their current roster they’d head into 2012 with a payroll somewhere around $50 million. For a team who was operating at near $75 million for a few¬†years running and who had a payroll south of $40 million last year, you’d think they have money to spend. I’m not advocating spending it because you have it, but I am saying that the situation might be different enough that Dayton Moore decides a backup is worth a decent sized contract to provide the depth the organization needs.
Think about this. In a year like, say, 2011, where the Royals weren’t expecting to compete and were using the entire season for developing it isn’t so important to have a guy who can pinch hit for Alcides Escobar or take over on defense for a Mike Moustakas or a Johnny Giavotella late in games. In a year like, say, 2012, when the Royals have visions of winning the division (not going to happen with their current crew), it might be important to replace Escobar’s bat in the bottom of the ninth with a guy who hit .303/.353/.477 last season. And then, when Doumit gets the big hit to tie the game, somebody better than Chris Getz needs to be able to go into the game to play shortstop because Esocbar was pinch hit for. I’m not so concerned about¬†the backup catcher position because I think the Royals will sign whoever they’ll sign and if Perez goes down for an extended amount of time, I’m very comfortable with Manny Pina defensively. That’s why I’m fine with Doumit being in there for pinch hitting and the occasional start behind the plate or in the outfield and I’d pay him. I’d even give him a year and an option or maybe even two years, though I’d be very hesitant for that. The other big thing the Royals need is a backup infielder which we talked about the other day, so I won’t go into the names. The point here is that while Dayton Moore hasn’t done things like this in the past, he needs to start thinking about doing things like this now that the Royals are presumably about ready to compete. The Royals won’t have perfect health again in 2012. I’d bet serious money that at least one regular who was more important than Matt Treanor last season¬†goes on the disabled list and misses at least two or three weeks. If the Royals want to compete, they have to be able to withstand that loss and not miss a beat. That’s what the good teams do.
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