It’s Just Speculation: Jair Jurrjens to the Royals

Every once in a while I like to throw out a wild trade idea in the It’s Just Speculation section. They don’t always make complete sense, but they’re fun to debate regardless. This time around it’s Jair Jurrjens, an All-Star pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. Yes, the Braves already dealt away Derek Lowe from their starting rotation and noted that they are happy with the depth they have, but GM Frank Wren hasn’t specifically stated that they wouldn’t trade from their strength again.

Current Royals GM Dayton Moore has already stated that it is his desire to improve the top of the Royals’ starting rotation this offseason and he’s not opposed to using prospects from his deep farm system to do it. With the team’s lack of payroll flexibility, taking the trade route is obviously Moore’s best option.

Yet there’s not much upper-tier talent available on the trade market. Other than the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves, who are overflowing with good, young pitching, other teams are hoarding their best pitchers in hopes of contention next season. The Braves in particular are an interesting trade partner for the Royals. Moore has been known to acquire a couple ex-Braves….ok, plenty of ex-Braves. Although Jair Jurrjens wasn’t on the Braves when Moore was hired by the Royals, Jair should be enticing for him nonetheless.

With the Scott Boras client inching towards free agency and the desire to place more of their young pitching firmly into the rotation, the Braves may be inclined to trade Jurrjens for some offensive help. But where can the Royals spare an offensive player good enough to entice the Braves? What about Alex Gordon? After a breakout season, Gordon is entering his arbitration years and is starting to get more costly, much like Jurrjens. Gordon would fill the void that the Braves have had in left field for a while as well as inject a little additional speed into the lineup, a target of GM Frank Wren lately.

But can the Royals give up such an important cog in their lineup? Eric Hosmer will be entering his first full season in the majors and is a likely candidate to break out. His teammate across the diamond, Mike Moustakas, struggled early last season, but really turned it on the final month (.352/.380/.580). If both break out, they could certainly take up the slack. As for the hole in left, Lorenzo Cain has strikeout issues, but is essentially ready for a long-term trial in Kansas City. If Cain doesn’t work out a couple months into the season, top hitting prospect Wil Myers may be able to take his spot. Although Myers had a down season at the plate in 2011, he’s tearing up the Arizona Fall League (.338/.471/.632, 17/16 BB/K) and could be on the fast track tot he big leagues if he keeps it up.

Of course other players would likely be involved in such a deal, but it is an intriguing proposition. The Atlanta Braves recently sent Jurrjens to the instructional league for a start at the end of the season instead of shutting him down completely. It could be that they were parading him as healthy again for a possible trade.

With Derek Lowe now out of the rotation, the Braves may be more unlikely to pull the trigger on such a trade and have too much inexperience in the rotation. But the idea’s not completely too far-fetched.

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Trade Bait: Wilson Betemit to the Tigers

Ever since prized prospect Mike Moustakas was called up from Triple-A, speculation has been rampant that Wilson Betemit is on the trading block. He is now off the trading block as he is now heading to the Detroit Tigers in a deal for minor leaguers Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez.

About this time last month I speculated on possible landing locations for Betemit with Tigers included in my list of seven. Brandon Inge is hitting just .177/.242/.242 on the season, primed to take a spot on the bench, regardless of his defensive abilities. Although Betemit doesn’t have 20+ home run power, he does give the Tigers a relatively reliable bat at the hot corner.

Rodriguez is a glove-first catcher. The Detroit Baseball Page raves about his defensive prowess, especially his footwork and arm. Offensively, he has little to offer. He has very little power and he doesn’t walk much, but he also doesn’t strikeout much either (11.4 K% at High-A).

The website has a good scouting report on Julio, but I disagree with on his ceiling. Regardless of his hand-eye contact, Julio will likely have troubles in the upper levels without a higher walk rate. He seems to profile as more of a fringy backup catcher, with much of his time spent at Triple-A throughout his career. But he should be a stable presence to the young pitching that is flowing through the system.

Cruz may be the “prize” of this trade for the Royals. The lefty reliever has a low-90s fastball and an occasionally good curveball. Most prospect analysts see him as a potential LOOGY as he is very tough of lefties. But he will have to hone his stuff more just to get to that point.

Neither player has been seen as a difference-maker in the majors, but they both can play roles down the road.

Replacing Betemit on the roster will be Mike Aviles, who has hit .307/.329/.586 with 9 HR in 140 AB since being sent down. Although you’d like to see more walks out of him at Triple-A, his power has been impressive to say the least.

This trade looks a little better for the Tigers than it does for the Royals, but not by much. Betemit isn’t exactly a difference maker, he’s a utility infielder that is playing full-time due to the lack of available players at the hot corner that can hit decently. However, with the ability to control Betemit through 2012 and the number of potential suitors out there, you’d think Dayton would be able to get a little more.

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Rookies to Look For: Mike Moustakas

It looks like the Kansas City Royals are looking to strike lightening in a bottle twice in a season. First, they called up uber-prospect Eric Hosmer, now they have called up Mike Moustakas. Two of their top three positional prospects are now in the majors, cutting their teeth in preparation for a run at the AL Central crown over the next few seasons.

Mike was a second overall pick in the 2007 draft as a shortstop. Due to his size, it quickly became clear that Moustakas would need to shift to third base. But he should easily stay at third base as he plays relatively well defensively at the hot corner.

However, his glove is not the reason the Royals drafted him. Mike’s bat has All-Star potential. He has significant power and good contact rates. Mike doesn’t draw many walks, an issue that may cause him to get off to a slow start in the majors. He’s still only 22 and the walks should come with some tutelage and experience.

I’ve seen Mike play in one game at Triple-A last season, he hit a massive home run to center in that game and looked relatively fluid at times on the field. For the season, he has a .287/.347/.498 line at Triple-A. Although that line would look great in the majors, some have scoffed as those Pacific Coast League statistics are unlikely to transfer to the majors and that he’s not ready. It is important to note that he hit only .229/.304/.410 in April, a massive May and early June brought him up to those current statistics. His BB/K ratio still isn’t that great and should cause struggles early on, but Mike should adjust.

It will be fun to watch him in a Royals uniform for the next few seasons.

Here is a prospect profile of Mike created by the NWA Naturals:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

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Trade Bait: DeJesus Finally Traded

For at least the last two seasons there has been plenty of speculation as to when the Kansas City Royals would trade David DeJesus.  The versatile outfielder has been rumored to go to just about every team that has been in contention.  He has finally been traded, with the Oakland Athletics receiving him in exchange for pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks.

The A’s must have an affinity for Kansas City Royals outfielders.  Coco Crisp recently roamed center field in Kansas City.  They’ve also brought in Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye in the past.  Now with DeJesus, they have an ideal #2 hitter.  David will hit for a good average and gets on-base at a rate appropriate for that spot in the order.  Although he has gap power, it’s unlikely that he’ll hit more than 10 home runs in a season.  Also, even though he has good speed, DeJesus is not a good base stealer.  In 2009 he hit a low with only four steals in 13 tries.

The A’s outfield picture gets a little cloudier though.  The team has already picked up Coco Crisp‘s option for next season and also have Rajai Davis, Ryan Sweeney, Conor Jackson, Jack Cust and to some extent Chris Carter.  At least one of Cust and Jackson will probably not be offered contracts for next season though and Carter may be used primarily at DH.

Dealing from their surplus of starting pitching after winning the bid for Japanese right-hander , the A’s sent over to the Royals.  Mazzaro will take over the recently released ‘s spot in the rotation and should provide some solid innings.  He’s been known to keep the hits down in the minors, but the walks get to him occasionally.  If he refines his control, Mazzaro could become a decent mid-rotation starter (at least the middle of the Royals’ rotation).

Marks slings a low 90s fastball, a slider, a curve and a changeup.  He gives up his share of hits and walks.  Although he hasn’t posted good numbers in the lower minors, it is a small sampling and Justin could improve as he moves through the system.  With his high strikeout rate though, if he doesn’t survive as a starter, Marks could become a decent situational lefty out of the pen.

At first when I looked at this I felt that Dayton could’ve gotten a much better deal.  But when you look at DeJesus’ numbers, it’s nothing to get really excited about.  Yes, he hits for average and gets on base well.  He’s also provided very good defense in left field.  But he’s mediocre in the other outfield spots and left field is typically where you hide your poor-fielding power hitter.  David also doesn’t hit double-digits much in home runs, can’t steal bases, and gets hurt often.  Essentially, he’s only a few notches above fourth outfielder status.

This is a better trade for Moore than I thought.  Mazzaro could decline next season outside of Oakland’s spacious ballpark and away from a good defense behind him.  But he should eat innings better than Bannister and Marks is a wild card that may turn into something useful.  Moore also saves $6 million to spend elsewhere.  Beane gets a number two hitter with decent left field defense, but doesn’t address the glaring need for more power in the lineup.  The trade looks to be somewhat of a wash to me.

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Notes from Misc Weekends Games

There were some notable aspects of this weekend’s games that deserved some commentary.

First to note, as most of the media has centered on, Alex Rodriguez is now not only a member of the 600 home run club, but he’s also now the third member of the 600HR/300SB club.  Such numbers of course should make him a lock to be a first-ballot hall-of-famer and his career isn’t even near its end.  But then again, like Mark McGwire his name will always have an (*) by it.

Two notable Blue Jays events happened over the weekend.  Rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia decided to make a name for himself in his first game in the majors.  He hit 4 for 5 with a double and two home runs.  For the record, he is hitting .800 with a 3.000 OPS.  After being seen as a bit of a bust after he hit .236 last season at Triple-A, J.P. has taken off this year to hit 31 home runs and post a .998 OPS in the minors.  He’s made more contact this season and more importantly, his walk rate.  It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to improve his game to be a viable offensive catcher in the major leagues.

Then there’s the Brandon Morrow, near no-hitter.  On top of the five no-hitters we’ve had this season, there’s been two that have gone to the final out before they were broken up.  This has clearly been a year for the pitchers.  Hopefully this game will turn Morrow’s career around and turn him into a viable #3 or #4 starter.

I happened to be watching the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Houston Astros game on Saturday and noticed Randy Wolf‘s great off-balance throw to first base.  Just as interesting though was what happened afterwards.  First, Wolf covered his mouth with his glove to not show up the other team while he was smiling about the acrobatic move.  Secondly, Rick Peterson, the team’s pitching coach, went out to the mound immediately to talk to Wolf.  I’m guessing he just went out to give Wolf a breather and to say, “Nice!”  But you have to wonder if Wolf wasn’t a veteran that he’d be out there telling him to “stick it in his pocket” next time.  All to often you see a ball thrown from an angle like that in the bleachers or down the foul line while the runner continues on down the base paths.

Finally, a couple notes from the Royals this weekend.  Saturday’s lineup included; Gregor Blanco CF, Jason Kendall C, Billy Butler DH, Kila Ka’aihue 1B, Wilson Betemit 3B, Alex Gordon LF, Mitch Maier RF, Mike Aviles SS, and Chris Getz 2B.  It’s interesting to note (at least to me) that six of those nine have played third base in the majors or minors. 

On Saturday and Sunday the team trotted out Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies to start each game.  Both players are former Braves prospects that their former team soured on.  They weren’t alone either.  Third baseman Wilson Betemit, center fielder Gregor Blanco, and catcher Brayan Pena (Sunday) had all worn Braves hats at one time and were playing in the games as well.

They were playing the Mariners this weekend and I think GM Dayton Moore might’ve been along to scout Ryan Langerhans for a possible waiver deal so that he could get another former  Braves prospect into the fold.

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Trade Bait: Pods in Dodger Blue

The scuttlebutt for most of the afternoon was that the Los Angeles Dodgers were chasing after Scott Podsednik as the trade deadline approached.  The scuttlebutt became truth as Pods was sent to L.A. in exchange for two prospects.

Podsednik was signed by the Kansas City Royals this past off-season after a resurgent year with the Chicago White Sox.  It was a signing that was widely panned, including here at TBO.  But Scott broke out of the gate fast, hitting .350/.418/.375 in March/April.  He slowed down in May, but has been hitting even better in July (.366/.404/.505). 

Scott will get most of his at bats in left field, where he belongs, as a defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez.  His presence will also give Ramirez the chance to rest his sore hamstrings more often as well.

GM Dayton Moore and the Royals will receive catcher Lucas May and pitcher Elisaul Pimentel in the exchange.

May is a 25-year-old catcher at Triple-A hitting .296/.352/.496.  Albuquerque, and the PCL in general, is good for hitters.  But the line is relatively intriguing nonetheless.  I watched him in a game this season against his new team, the Omaha Royals.  He seemed to have an accurate arm, but he seemed to get fooled on off-speed pitches relatively easily that night.  A few different reports have him as a good back up catcher in the majors, but nothing more.

Pimentel is a 21-year-old righty in A-ball.  Is a fringy reliever with a low-90s fastball, a mediocre slider and an occational average change-up.  His statistics through the minors are all over the charts. 

They’ll bring up reliever Greg Holland to take Pods’ place on the roster.

Although neither player will become a regular on a big league roster, it is a decent pick up for the Royals as Podsednik isn’t exactly a difference maker outfielder.  May is the better prospect of the two and could see a decent amount of time in Kansas City eventually.

Ned Colletti didn’t do too bad either.  He gave up two players that weren’t likely to a chance in L.A. for a good fourth outfielder with a relatively decent $2 million option for 2011.

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Trade Bait: Angels Fill Not So Hot Corner

Third base for the L.A. Angels has been a position where offense goes to die…..their own offense that is.  Brandon Wood, who’s played the most games at the position this season, is sporting a nifty .430 OPS.  Note, that’s not just slugging, that’s OPS.  With the team already back five games in the AL West, the Angels had to do something to improve down the stretch to have any chance at catching the Rangers.

To solve this dilemma, the Angels snatched up Alberto Callaspo from the woeful Kansas City Royals.  Although he had some innings at third in the past, Callaspo had played mainly second base before this season.  But Royals had a former third base phenom that wasn’t living up to expectations either.  Alex Gordon struggled in the majors and was sent down to Triple-A Omaha earlier in the season.  Callaspo has taken over the position and, though he’s not hitting as well as he did last season, is at least hitting better than Gordon was at the time he was sent down.

Callaspo’s .718 OPS is a definite improvement over Wood, heck his slugging percentage alone is only 20 points lower than Wood’s OPS.  The Angels brass are hopeful that his stick will return to 2009 form with the protection of the Angels’ lineup around him.

In return, the Royals received two pitchers.  The first, Sean O’Sullivan, is a 6′-2″ 230 lb. righty that was a third round pick out of high school in 2005.  He slings a low-90s fastball as well as a curve ball and good change-up.  Although he was well-respected when he was drafted, O’Sullivan hasn’t had an ERA under 4.73 since 2007.  Except for an 18.2 inning stint at Double-A in 2009, his WHIP hasn’t been below 1.312 since 2007 either.  But as Halos Heaven has eluded to, his stuff looks better out of the pen and he may become a serviceable reliever for the Royals.  They’ll likely utilize him as a starter until he gets bashed around and demoralized by major league hitters, then send him to the pen.

Will Smith was a 7th round pick in the 2008 draft.  The young lefty has a fastball that he throws in low 90s, a sinking fastball, and a curve ball.  He commands each pitch well, but it’s not an overall impressive arsenal.  He projects as a back of the rotation starter, or possibly a situational lefty out of the pen. 

If O’Sullivan actually thrives in the pen as his 1.29 Major League ERA (in only 7 IP) indicates, this trade might look good for both sides.  But I have more trust in Callaspo’s rebound.

The bigger story of this trade to me is the impact it will have on the careers of two other third basemen.  Brandon Wood’s chance at a regular starting position in the majors is essentially over.  Once a highly touted prospect, Wood has never hit over .200 in parts of four seasons in the majors, yet he crushed the ball at Triple-A to a .910 OPS last season.  He may well become the poster child for the “Quadruple-A player” moniker.

Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, is on the rise.  He’s absolutely destroyed Double-A pitching this season (1.100 OPS), but has struggled somewhat against tuffer competition in Triple-A.  However his struggles have been a small sample size and he could impress the front office enough to receive a September call-up.

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The GM of the Month – May 2010

Each month I  provide the GM of the Month Award to one MLB GM who’s had the best month based on mainly on his transactions.  Trades, waiver claims, signings, are the main aspects to be looked at.  As this will be a monthly award, I’ll be basing it off of MLB.com’s Transactions page and press releases.  So, even if a player’s signing is essentially complete, if it doesn’t show up until the next month on the transactions or an official press release, the GM won’t get credit for it until the Award for the next month comes out.   This month we look at May.

Sometimes being the GM of the month may be a result of who you have obtained through a trade or signing, it’s more of who you let go.  Without many significant transactions in May, we’ve come down to that aspect as a deciding factor.

Although I could give it to Royals GM Dayton Moore for ridding the team of Trey Hillman, I am pretty sure it wasn’t his order.  Dayton was praising Hillman for doing a “terrific job” earlier that week.  Since Hillman was let go, the team has been 10-8 under Ned Yost.  They were 10-5 before the three-game series with the Red Sox.

Then there’s Ed Wade.  Yes, Ed is a candidate, even though I shudder to say it.  On top of dealing with Roy Oswalt‘s trade demands, he released Kaz Matsui.  Although he had a decent, but injury filled 2008, Kaz has struggled mightily since then.  They also signed a couple of decent Dominican priching prospects in Michael Feliz and Jose Montero. 

But I have to give this month’s award to Dave Dombrowski.  Although Dombrowski is the one that originally signed Dontrelle Willis to the ill-fated 3-year, $29-million contract, he’s finally giving in to the mistake by DFA‘ing Dontrelle Willis.  The Tigers are in the thick of the race for the AL Central crown and cannot have roster space taken up by an ineffective pitcher.

 Thank you Dave, I was getting scared that I’d have to give the award to Dayton or Ed!

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Trey Hillman Dismissed

Matt Klaassen over at FanGraphs has a good article up on the release of Trey Hillman from his managerial duties for the Kansas City Royals.  It’s an interesting post on Hillman, as well as a commentary on GM Dayton Moore and how his days may be numbered as well.

I was not apprised of the depth of the disdain that Royals players had for Hillman, but it’s not too often that a players-only meeting goes well for a manager, regardless if they specifically discuss the manager or not. 

In Hillman’s defense though, he wasn’t really provided with a workable roster.  As can be read in previous posts, I have not been a fan of Moore’s ability to build a roster.  I liken it to being given an older Monte Carlo to drag race with.  Sure, it’s not the best vehicle to drag race with, but if put together properly, it can at least give the other cars a decent race.  But someone keeps putting below-average parts on the car, from the economy sedan tires to forgetting to include a radiator.  Even the bobble hula dancer on the dash has been replaced with a Mike Jacobs bobble-head.

Hillman’s not the last to go.  There’s some more housecleaning ahead.

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The Kila Ka’aihue Award

As a new post category, I am starting the Kila Ka’aihue Award.  Each month I plan to provide the Kila Ka’aihue Award to one ball player who’s path to the majors has been blocked by an existing player in his position, or just by the sheer st…..general discretion of the front office staff. 

The award will be named the Kila Ka’aihue award, not because he has been the most hindered of the players that will get this award, but because of his unique name alone.  Yes, Kila is deserving of the award, (and will be the first recipient) but I have seen even greater injustices over the past decade alone.  It is also easy to profile Kila as the first recipient since I have already completed a ”Rookies To Look For” posting on him.  Sure, this is partly pure laziness on my part, but I like to look at it as “building a base for a new category out of existing material”.  Comedians do this all the time, contractors building a new building…not so much.  So, let’s look at Kila once again:

Kila Ka’ahiue (pronounced KEY-luh Kuh-eye-HOO-a) was drafted in the 15th round of the 2002 draft.  The lumbering 6′-3″ 233 pound Ka’ahiue rose slowly through the minor league ranks, putting up rather lackluster numbers along the way.  But he broke out in a big way in 2008.  He posted a 1.086 OPS in 376 plate appearances at Double-A that season before moving up to Triple-A and hitting .316/.439/.640 (1.079 OPS) in139 plate appearances.  He also hit 38 home runs between Double-A, Triple-A, and the Majors that season.

But those types of numbers didn’t impress the Royals front office enough and they traded for Mike Jacobs from the Florida Marlins after the 2008 season.  The Royals’ trade for Jacobs was disgusting in itself.  But for Kila, it meant that he would toil away in the minors for the 2009 season.  Jacobs would go on to hit even worse than expected (.228/.297/.401), yet Kila didn’t get a single at-bat in the Majors in 2009.  Although his .252 batting average at Triple-A didn’t impress enough, he still walked 102 times.  Marc Hulet of FanGraphs pointed out that it was “…six fewer times than Jacobs has in the last three years combined.”

There’s still doubt out there that Kila will hit for a decent average in the Majors, given an adequate number of at-bats.  But there’s no doubting his ability to draw a walk or display a show of power.  Defensively, Kila is mediocre at best at first base, but the team is currently playing Billy Butler there and it comes down to who you want to hide at DH more.  So Kila isn’t going to be great, but with the high loss total they had last season, they should of at least seen what he could do in August/September.

As of right now, Kila is third on the MLB.com depth chart at first base.  He’s not even on the DH depth chart.  All of which is interesting since Kila is hitting .306/.419/.583 (1.002 OPS) in camp.  Then again, this is just spring training and outfielder Brian Anderson is hitting .368/.415/.605, a tell-tale indication of how spring training numbers are not a good indicator of how well a player will hit in regular season action.

Where once Kila’s chances were hurt by the illogical acquisition of Mike Jacobs, they are now hindered by the acquisition of Josh Fields.  Yet Jose Guillen’s offensive prowess has slid significantly since he signed the multi-year contract with the Royals and Fields has failed to hit well in the majors.  A mid-season call-up may be in place if those two don’t hit and if the team doesn’t go with Alberto Callaspo in their place.

At the time of the posting I mentioned Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane’s love affair with slow, high-OBP mashers may draw his interest in a trade proposal.  But I’d also suggest another AL West team, the Seattle Mariners.  Ken Griffey Jr.’s uninspiring season last year and Milton Bradley’s tendency to get injured or suspended leaves the DH position as a possible spot for Kila.

Congratulations to Kila Ka’aihue for becoming the inaugural winner (and namesake) of the Kila Ka’aihue Award!

If you haven any recommendations for this award, please forward them to The Baseball Opinion through the TBO Contact form.

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