I hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving. For those of you who are like me and have two full Thanksgiving meals with two families, I hope you’re not nearly as full still today as I am. Worth it, though. I always think about how Thanksgiving is a day where nothing in baseball happens, but then I think about the story of Theo Epstein and Curt Schilling on Thanksgiving. I don’t know that I have a point here, but that’s just an interesting story that they got together to work things out to get Schilling to Boston. But anyway, I always kind of feel like the offseason can really get started once we get into the holiday season. With apologies to Kurt Suzuki, the real moves can start to happen any time.
- With this week’s deadline to add players to the 40-man roster around baseball, a new crop of potential free agents is now out there. Some haven’t reached the open market yet, but there are a couple new names out there. One of interest to me is Derek Dietrich. Now, he was just DFAed, so maybe the Marlins have a deal lined up, but if he reaches the open market, he might be a nice fit for the Royals to play third base for them. It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with giving Hunter Dozier and/or Cheslor Cuthbert a chance to earn their future spot on the roster, but I don’t think either one is so important that you don’t try to improve on them. Dietrich has been an above-average hitter for the last four years and recently completed a .265/.330/.421 season. Over the last four years, he’s hit .262/.344/.428 in about 1,700 plate appearances. No he isn’t a star and it’s not like the Royals are looking for someone to put them over the top, but Dietrich is a nice player who could be useful if the Royals end up moving Whit Merrifield at some point, even if that’s unlikely this offseason. And if you look around the diamond, there aren’t many spots where the Royals are likely to even look at outside possibilities. On a vaguely related note, it’s too bad the Royals aren’t looking to compete because now that CJ Cron is available, he’d be a hell of a nice fit with Ryan O’Hearn in a platoon situation, but I digress.
- As for the players the Royals did protect – Scott Blewett, Josh Staumont and Arnaldo Hernandez – I think those are interesting choices. Hernandez was one of the more interesting cases they had, and while I’m not surprised they did add him to the 40-man, I wasn’t sure they’d do it. I think Blewett was sort of on the bubble before his strong Arizona Fall League performance, but I am a little surprised Jecksson Flores didn’t get added. He maybe isn’t a true shortstop, but he can handle the position and broke through big time in 2018 offensively. I think the odds are that he doesn’t get picked, so it’s not that big of a deal, but I just thought he had a shot. In all three of the pitchers they did add, I think they all have an opportunity to impact the big league club. Staumont, in particular, seems like a decent bet to make the club out of spring training after he’s spent parts of the last two seasons in AAA. If the Royals are serious about using their bullpen differently next year, they’ll need a lot of pitchers who can ride the taxi, since they’ll need guys who can work multiple innings, which means they’ll need to find fresh arms wherever they can. After 2017 when they had so few pitchers with any options, it’ll be nice to be able to have some serious roster flexibility.
- I’m a little surprised that there wasn’t more hand wringing over some of the Royals decisions, but I think it’s worth noting that the Royals have a pretty darn good track record of picking the right people to add to the 40-man and protect them from the Rule 5. Even if players like Merrifield should have been picked, they had a great read over what other teams would do and haven’t really lost anyone of note. I’m talking more specifically about Frank Schwindel than anyone. I wrote during the season that Schwindel was probably the guy to earn the callup over O’Hearn, and that’s still true even after what O’Hearn did, but that doesn’t mean that he’s likely to be selected. Guys who are first base only and aren’t that great of a hitter aren’t going to be picked all that often. That’s not to say that a contending team wouldn’t see him as a bench bat who could do something for them, but I’d be surprised if he’s taken this year, just like I’d have been surprised if he was taken last year. As we saw in 2018, if he continues to hit, he’ll likely earn his shot at some point during the season, so I guess we’ll just see how that goes.
- I think it’s fair to be a little more optimistic about the offense heading into 2019 than we were prior to the 2018 season. Looking at the TAv metric on Baseball Prospectus, the Royals leaders (other than Ian Kennedy) were Ryan O’Hearn (.323), Jorge Soler (.291), Adalberto Mondesi (.284), Merrifield (.284), Mike Moustakas (.273), Jon Jay (.263) and Brian Goodwin (.263). Of those seven, you might notice that five of them will be back with the team next season and will likely all play big roles, if healthy. Maybe more important is that the vast majority of the bottom of the barrel won’t be back with the team next season. That’s a big reason why I think the Royals could easily jump 12-15 wins from last year. It’s no guarantee obviously, but they have a real strong opportunity to replace all the players from last season who were so far below replacement level with maybe guys who aren’t quite so bad. It’s at least a good thought that was a big reason why they showed improvement down the stretch. Eliminate the horrendous players and you can typically find yourself at least in the realm of respectable.