Allow yourself to dream a little with me to a time at this time next week when the Winter Meetings are over and we have all sorts of moves around baseball to talk about and maybe a Rule 5 pick or two to be way too hasty to judge for the Royals. It’s a better time. Though there is action this offseason, so at least there’s that. A big tip of the cap to Jerry Dipoto for most of that, but a nod in the direction of the Phillies, Braves, Mets and Nationals as well and for the National League East dogfight in 2019. It’s still at least another year (and probably more) before we can worry about the Royals in any sort of division fight, so we’ll have to live vicariously through both East divisions.
- You may have noticed that we didn’t post anything on Wednesday or yesterday surrounding the Royals signing Chris Owings to a $3 million deal with $500k in incentives. If you were wondering why, at least from my end, it’s because I was confused. And I still am. There was a time that Owings was highly regarded and he’s still just 27 years old. But he’s also six years into a big league career where he’s hit .250/.291/.378 playing half his games at what was a hitter’s paradise before the 2018 season. And the role he’s presumably in for is to be a utility infielder, which includes backing up the shortstop position. Sounds fine, I suppose, but Owings didn’t play shortstop at all in 2018. Why? Well, the metrics say he isn’t especially good there. I haven’t seen a ton of him, so maybe the metrics are missing something in him, but my concern is that if you bring in a guy who can’t hit, he better be very good defensively and Owings just isn’t. Now, it could be that this is just the first move in a series of moves, but I doubt that. If that’s the case, I’ll call off the dogs. And beyond the actual player, why give him $3 million? Who are you competing with for Owings and why aren’t you just letting them have him? There are plenty of shortstop options out there who can probably be had for less than that. Look, there are worse things than signing a utility guy for a relatively small amount, but this to me seems like a poor use of limited funds and limited roster space. And to make it all worse, the Twins signed Ronald Torreyes, who is a better defender and probably a better hitter (or at least has a higher floor) to a minor league deal worth $800k. Come on, Dayton.
- In Ken Rosenthal’s latest at The Athletic (okay, probably not even his latest at this point), he talks about the Angels decision to non-tender Blake Parker and that the Royals (among many others) had reached out to him already. When I saw he was cut loose, the Royals were my first thought for him and a great opportunity for both sides. No, he’s not a part of the next good Royals team or anything and teams are smart enough to look past save totals, but a team that figures to be in a lot of close games would be a good team to sign with when trying to build some value. And he could be a nice trade chip mid-season if a team is looking for relievers as the 2019/2020 free agent relief market isn’t nearly as strong as this year’s, which leads to a weaker trade market as well. 2019 will be Parker’s age-34 season, which would probably surprise some, but he’s still pretty good with more than a strikeout per inning and good control. He got hit a little too hard with the home run ball, but he’d be a nice fit in a bullpen trying to be rebuilt. I know Ned Yost said that he’d be willing to be creative with his bullpen, but these roles have a way of working themselves out and I think Wily Peralta is a ticking timebomb. And I’ll say this again after I mentioned it last year. Some may think it’s not worth having a closer on a bad team, but I disagree. It’s not worth paying big money for one or keeping one who could have big trade value, but there’s value to being able to close down a close game for young players developing, so I’d definitely give Parker a shot and even give him two years if that’s what brings him in.
- Another non-tendered player seems to be mentioned quite a bit with the Royals and that’s Billy Hamilton. Look, I get it. The Royals love speed and they love defense and Hamilton is fast as all get out and can really go get it in center field. So it makes sense. And I’ll even go as far as to say that I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if the Royals picked him up just because of all that I mentioned before. But I really don’t see a purpose for it nor do I see why people actually seem to be in favor of it. I said before that Owings can’t hit, but Hamilton really really can’t hit. He’s a .245/.298/.333 career hitter and that’s playing half his games in a hitter’s haven. He strikes out too much and even though he actually walks a decent amount, it’s just not enough. He’s better defensively than Brian Goodwin and a bigger stolen base threat than Brett Phillips, but he also doesn’t hit lefties well, which would be the reason I could see to bring him in since Goodwin and Phillips are both lefties. I will say that the bigger dimensions at Kauffman Stadium could actually benefit him because of the type of hitter he is, but I doubt it would do enough for him. I just don’t see a reason for it personally and I hope they steer clear of the flash of his speed and defense. I do think Phillips probably finds himself in Omaha to start the 2019 season because of inventory, but I don’t think that needs to open up a spot for another outfielder, especially with Whit Merrifield and now Owings in the fold.
- The Rule 5 draft is coming up on Thursday at the end of the meetings, so I’ll give my thoughts on what the Royals could do here. I’ve mentioned Drew Jackson in the past as a guy they could look to as someone who could back up at shortstop and around the infield, but the Owings deal makes me think that won’t happen. The same is true for Richie Martin, who was a first round pick of the A’s just a few years ago and finally started to hit this past season in AA, but I’m not sure the spot for him is there. Art Warren from the Mariners could be fun with a fastball in the mid-90s that can get up to 98 and a filthy slider. He’s an injury risk and walked a ton of hitters last season in AA, but he could be a steal. Riley Ferrell from the Astros would be a big-time risk/reward proposition as well. Like Warren, walks are an issue and maybe the Royals already have this profile enough with guys like Josh Staumont, but if they can figure out his control issues, they could have a potential relief star. Of course, if the Astros can’t do it, can the Royals? Andrew Sopko from the Dodgers could be interesting. He gave up more hits than innings pitched last season, but also struck out more than a batter per inning. He’s not a star, but could be a number five guy or a middle relief arm. And one more (there are plenty, but I’ll stop here) is Emmanuel Ramirez who has a very good changeup and a very good curve but not a great fastball. Maybe it doesn’t work in the big leagues, but he’s had enough success that I’d give it a shot on a rebuilding team in a big park. I guess we’ll see in a few days what they do here.