As we have come to be reminded over the last two Octobers, this is the most dreadful time of the baseball year. Unless your team is actually in the postseason.
It’s the inertia. The void of meaningful news. We have to keep reminding ourselves that just because there isn’t any information or moves coming from out of One Royal Way, that doesn’t mean the entire front office is on a beach in the South Pacific somewhere, sipping Mai Tais. Work is happening, it’s just way out of the public eye.
In the meantime, what to discuss?
How about Jeffrey Flanagan’s mailbag from last week where a reader posed a question about Salvador Perez moving eventually to first base. That would certainly save on the wear and tear on his body that comes with working behind the dish. However, any eventual move to first would presumably come after, you know, he’s been ground to catcher dust.
The offensive decline was halted just a bit last summer as he posted a .259 TAv, which was the first time in four seasons that metric actually increased. He posted a career high in home runs and slugging percentage, but that was it as far as offensive positives. The point is, the bat really isn’t good enough to move out from behind the plate.
While the bat plays at catcher (for now) the defense is where Perez has made his reputation. Obviously, it’s not perfect. His pitch framing and pitch calling are subpar. The arm remains plus although he threw out his lowest percentage of potential base stealers (27 percent) of his career in a full season. His footwork did seem to improve last year.
At any rate, Perez is valuable to the Royals as a catcher, but that value won’t translate to first base. It doesn’t now, when he’s seemingly in the prime of his career. It’s difficult to see how that would work when he’s in his 30s.
The first order of Royals business will be the qualifying offers to their impending free agents. News arrived last week that this year’s QO will be worth. $17.4 million. That’s just a modest increase from last year’s $17.2 million. The number, however, shouldn’t alter how the Royals approach this part of their offseason.
It seems there’s a bit of game show tension to the qualifying offer (Will they? Or won’t they?) Yet, the decisions are easy and should be free from drama. There are three “no-brainers” who are certain to receive the QO: Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. All three will reject the offer. As easy as it is for the team to extend the offer, that’s how easy it will be for each player to turn it down in favor of the open market.
The Royals have similar easy decisions on rest of their potential free agents. Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas won’t get a qualifying offer. Neither will Peter Moylan or Mike Minor. (John Heyman wrote last month the Royals are debating giving a QO to Vargas. In a related story, I’m debating about buying the Royals from the Glass family.) The reason those players don’t get a QO is simple: They would accept it. And they wouldn’t provide the value you could find from similar players either within the organization or on the open market.
We’ve exhausted all the Royals news, so let’s move on to baseball in general. Baseball America had an interesting article on Monday about the potential for expansion, realignment and a longer postseason.
Let’s start with expansion, because that seems to be the first domino. It’s difficult to see how any market outside of the current 30 would support a team. It’s also questionable to discuss expansion when you have three teams (Tampa, Oakland and Arizona) with unsettled stadium issues. Tampa, in particular, is a disaster. The team is in a dire stadium, in a poor location and can’t draw at all, even when they’re competitive. They’re a prime candidate for relocation. Or, if I may use the “C” word… contraction.
So baseball wants to add teams, one to an unproven market in Portland and another to a market that already lost a team in Montreal? That doesn’t seem like a smart way to build the brand.
Realignment, however, is something I can get behind. It’s time to abolish the American and National Leagues and set up four or five divisions (depending on the number of teams) based on geography. Interleague is a gimmick that has worn out its welcome, but the odd number of teams in each league means it can’t go away. So just do away with the leagues. Simple.
The divisions posited in the BA article make sense. The Midwest would include the Royals, the Cubs and White Sox, the Astros, Rangers, Brewers, Rockies and Cardinals. It’s crazy to look at that list of teams and realize the Royals are only currently in a division with the White Sox. Personally, I’d figure a way to get the Twins in there and move the Rockies to the West, but this alignment is based on adding a team in Portland.
Finally, this all adds to an extended playoff format where 12 teams total make the playoffs. Sigh.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the Wild Cards, but the way they handle it with a one game playoff between the two teams is excellent. In baseball’s eyes, you can never have too much of a good thing, so they would be looking to double the number of one game playoffs amongst the Wild Cards.