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Friday, February 03, 2006

Rob & Rany on the Royals

Fresh from their two-month stay at the Miracle Distribution Center Retreat...Rob & Rany are back with renewed faith!

Neyer…..Allard Baird took over as General Manager in 2001, shortly after that June’s draft. I’m sure he played an instrumental role in that draft, which of course was an utter disaster (nobody they signed has reached the majors, or is likely to). But he wasn’t officially calling the shots, so we won’t hold that one completely against him. Beginning in 2002, here’s where the Royals placed in Baseball America’s “talent rankings”: 21, 26, 19, 28, 23. With an average ranking of 23.4, the Royals are essentially tied with the Orioles and Reds (both 23.2) and ahead of only the Nationals (who have an excuse) and the Cardinals (who don’t).

...So when you’re short on talent and your job’s hanging by a thin piece of string, what do you do? If you’re Allard Baird, you blow a goodly chunk of the owner’s money, I guess.

Repoz Posted: February 03, 2006 at 03:16 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: royals

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   1. Jerk Store Posted: February 03, 2006 at 03:53 PM (#1848909)
This is the key:

...the owner has made it clear that he suddenly feels that money is a good substitute for a plan, and insists on raising the team's payroll to $50 million no matter how pointless or self-defeating the exercise might be.

The payroll being raised is really all that the majority of fans in KC care about. They feel that real effort is being made and are actually excited about this team. They don't really care where the money goes, or what players are brought in, just that "the gap" is closing.

So it may not be pointless or self-defeating at all. People in KC have been told for such a long time (by local media) that payroll is the ultimate factor. So now that it is increasing, it must follow that the hometeam is not so bad after-all.
   2. Stratman01 Posted: February 03, 2006 at 04:07 PM (#1848930)
You know, I love these Rob and Rany rants. However, a thought struck me while reading this one, this exchange so easily could have been about the Pittsburgh Pirates.

(Come on. . . that doesn't happen that often).
   3. OlePerfesser Posted: February 03, 2006 at 04:07 PM (#1848931)
But, ultimately, it is self-defeating, because of the economic concept of opportunity cost, as R&R point out here:
Then again, maybe we’re asking too much of the general manager. Maybe he simply hasn’t had the financial resources to put together an effective scouting staff. If that’s true, though . . . shouldn’t a small chunk of the money that went to free agents this winter instead have gone into scouting and player development?

Wasting money is never a good idea; seek always the highest-return investments.

What a pity for the good folks of KC.
   4. Vrhovnik Posted: February 03, 2006 at 05:12 PM (#1849012)
The problem, of course, is that the Cardinals didn't win because of Sanders and Grudzielanek; they won because of Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds and a bunch of starting pitchers, any of whom would immediately become the Royals' No. 1 starter if transplanted to Kansas City.
Jeff Suppan, ex-Royal, says hi.
   5. Mike Emeigh Posted: February 03, 2006 at 05:16 PM (#1849019)
You know, I love these Rob and Rany rants. However, a thought struck me while reading this one, this exchange so easily could have been about the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Except the Pirates have been doing the veteran churn for a lot longer.

-- MWE
   6. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 03, 2006 at 05:21 PM (#1849026)
Yep; you can apply basically 98% of the article's points to the Pirates without hampering the fit.
   7. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 03, 2006 at 05:37 PM (#1849067)
Rob makes the Cardinals connection twise but seems to miss the obvious one. While the Cardinals have never had a deep enough system to be ranked very high they have produced Albert Pujols, J.D. Drew, Matt Morris, and now Anthony Reyes over the past few years. The Royals dont' currently have a deep system but do have Gordon and Butler. Is it possible that they aren't doing such a bad job if one of those guys becaomes a real star?

Then again, the Cardinals have the money to fill in the gaps and the Royals don't.
   8. BTL: Lesser Primate, 4th Class Trainee Posted: February 03, 2006 at 05:38 PM (#1849069)
The Royals had to spend the $ this year. They promised to boost payroll last year, but couldn't find any bargains. They lost a lot of credibility by not doing so, and the fan base is eroding. So they had to spend some $ this year.
They tried to get some mid-level players. However, they are so bad and their future prospects are so poor that Byrd took a much worse offer just to play on a contender. Jacque Jones refused to play for them. So now they're stuck in a position in which they have to substantially outbid other teams for players, albeit with a lower payroll. Impossible. So (IMO) they just grabbed whatever guys they could get to fill some gaps in hopes of losing less than 100 games and at least slow the bleeding if not stop it, while waiting for prospects to develop and more revenue sharing to come in.
   9. Greg Schuler Posted: February 03, 2006 at 06:16 PM (#1849135)
So who is better at perpetuating a losing franchise, Allard Baird or Dave Littlefield?

While you can blame the respective ownership groups all you want, the fact remains that Baird and Littlefield have actually applied the thousand cuts to the organization.
   10. WTM Posted: February 03, 2006 at 06:38 PM (#1849170)
I think the main difference is that Littlefield has perfected the art of not being too horrible and allowing ownership to make money (lots of it) with a minimum payroll. Baird is still learning, possibly handicapped by the fact that he may not be as cynical as Littlefield.

It is interesting that several cheapskate franchises, most notably these two, have made a big show of increasing payroll this year. Probably has more to do with new revenue from MLB Advanced Media and the not-yet-dead Nationals sale.
   11. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 03, 2006 at 06:39 PM (#1849171)
the owner has made it clear that he suddenly feels that money is a good substitute for a plan, and insists on raising the team's payroll to $50 million no matter how pointless or self-defeating the exercise might be.


It isn't self-defeating if your goal is not necessarily winning games, but obtaining $200 million in public subsidies.

Rob makes the Cardinals connection twise but seems to miss the obvious one. While the Cardinals have never had a deep enough system to be ranked very high they have produced Albert Pujols, J.D. Drew, Matt Morris, and now Anthony Reyes over the past few years. The Royals dont' currently have a deep system but do have Gordon and Butler. Is it possible that they aren't doing such a bad job if one of those guys becaomes a real star?

Low revenue clubs like the Royals and A's need to be much more successful at churning out talent than the Cardinals do.
   12. Greg Schuler Posted: February 03, 2006 at 07:21 PM (#1849226)
I don't follow the Royals to know if Baird has the routine down on how to pocket the revenue sharing money like Littlefield does, but in terms of pure talent acquisition and judgement, I'd be interested in a detailed comparison.

On the Pirates side, you have the Giles trade. I don't believe KC was able to extract a reasonable return for a better player in Beltran or even Damon. On the amateur side, I do know that Baird swindled Littlefield on the Santiago-Nunez trade, and he got some MLB innings out of Chris Demaria, Shawn Camp and DJ Carrasco. And the Royals almost held on to Ron Paulino.
   13. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: February 03, 2006 at 09:20 PM (#1849432)
Yep; you can apply basically 98% of the article's points to the Pirates without hampering the fit.

No way man! The Pirates have produced a couple dozen good young players in the period that the Royals have produced Dos Carlos, Zach Greinke, and Jeff Stodolka. You'd have to take out all the article's points about horrible draft picks, and replace them with points about good draft picks who weren't given a chance to play.
   14. charlie Posted: February 03, 2006 at 09:36 PM (#1849459)
On the amateur side, I do know that Baird swindled Littlefield on the Santiago-Nunez trade, and he got some MLB innings out of Chris Demaria, Shawn Camp and DJ Carrasco. And the Royals almost held on to Ron Paulino.

Not to mention the Bautista/Huber/Benson debacle!
   15. Walt Davis Posted: February 04, 2006 at 12:52 AM (#1849709)
I've made the point before that what the Royals/Baird have done this offseason isn't THAT bad, the problem (and the reason Baird should be fired) is that they've put themselves in this impossible situation to begin with. That's why I have to disagree with this:

The Royals should have done what the Marlins are doing: husband their resources until a better day arrives. Instead, they've done something that will acutely delay that better day. Which may never arrive.

Other than Mike Sweeney, the Royals have no established veterans to trade for good, young talent. The Marlins plan simply wasn't available to them...because they've been an incompetent franchise for some time.

More important is the point that Rob started with: the Royals minor-league system is in bad shape. These moves aren't delaying anything because there's nothing to delay. This is a bad team for "scaffolding" but it's also a bad team to "let the kids play." The Royals seem to have rushed several players to the majors over the last few years with no benefit.

I have no idea how to fix the Royals because they're both low-payroll and their minor-league system is weak. Even if they were to suddenly inherit the recent developmental success of the Indians and Brewers front offices, they are not going to develop enough talent to be competitive for at least 3 and more likely 5 years. They have stunk for the last several years. Over these next 3-5 years, they've basically got a choice between running the risk of being the 2003 Tigers or trying to be the 2003 Pirates. Neither's an attractive option, but I'd go for the 2003 Pirates if I were Baird. But, as others have noted, the Pirates at least have some decent, cheap talent to complement their mediocre vets. The Royals will find it hard to reach even 75 wins over the next few years.

And again, if I owned the Royals, there's no way I'd trust Baird to pull off that Indians/Brewers turnaround.

But they could have had Tony La Russa in the dugout and John Schuerholz upstairs and had trouble competing with the amount of talent their R&D guys have been bringing into the system.

I'm not so sure. The Braves haven't really drafted all that well. Their history of 1st round picks since Chipper Jones in 1990 is not good at all (and it wasn't any better in the 10 years before Chipper either). Of course they haven't drafted very highly in that time, but still. What the Braves do incredibly well is develop talent. And they've had some big scores on the international FA market (A Jones, Furcal, Lopez).
   16. RichRifkin Posted: February 04, 2006 at 01:41 AM (#1849763)
"Rob: The Royals should have done what the Marlins are doing: husband their resources until a better day arrives. Instead, they've done something that will acutely delay that better day. Which may never arrive."

That is easier said than done. (And never mind the fact that the Marlins will surely draw a whole lot fewer fans in 2006 than they did in 2005 because of it.)

The Marlins traded away a ton of talent: Beckett, Lowell, Mota, Delgado, Lo Duca, Castillo, Pierre -- am I forgetting someone? -- and they lost a few free agents (Burnett, Encarnacion, Jones, etc.). In exchange, they have hope for a good team down the road. But KC couldn't have done what Florida did -- they don't have nearly that much talent to deal.

Mike Sweeney could have attracted some prospects. But which of their other position players would have? Maybe David deJesus, but there's no point in trading away a guy that young.

They could have exchanged Runelvys Hernandez for some prospects, but what good would that do for the Royals? There is no sense in trading Greinke. Maybe Mike Wood could have attracted something, but surely nothing compared to what Josh Beckett got for the Marlins.

While it is true that they signed a lot of mediocre free agents, they didn't have to pay big money for any of them, though I think Reggie Sanders at $5/year at his age is too much.
   17. RoyalsReview Posted: February 04, 2006 at 02:18 AM (#1849799)
Something else to consider: the NL Central is clearly in a state of transition, with the Cardinals and Astros (finally, finally) starting to decline and the Cubs... well, thats another thread. And of course the Reds are terrible. That leaves a real shot for the Brewers and Pirates to move up. Combined, StL and Hou might win 40 fewer games this season. And they'll stay closer to that level for awhile. Those wins have to go somewhere.

The AL Central, quietly, has actually become respectable. The days of Twins teams that might win 84 games in the AL East winning title after title are over. Thats whats really sad from the Royals perspective. Theres no way in hell they'll catch the ChiSox/Cleveland talent level anytime soon, and they're probably 2 years away from catching Minnesota.

Its truly truly hopeless. At least until 2008. I wouldn't be against trading DeJesus or Greinke at this point, well, if trading for draft picks was possible.
   18. jwb Posted: February 04, 2006 at 02:21 PM (#1850115)
I wouldn't be against trading DeJesus or Greinke at this point, well, if trading for draft picks was possible.

DeJesus and Greinke are exactly the kinds of guys the Royals need to obtain: young, inexpesive, and either good or the potential to become good. Trade 'em when they have established themselves and they start to get expensive.
   19. rr Posted: February 04, 2006 at 04:06 PM (#1850154)
This is a bad team for "scaffolding" but it's also a bad team to "let the kids play." The Royals seem to have rushed several players to the majors over the last few years with no benefit.

I believe that I was the one who brought this term from James' HBT article into the last discussion of this issue when the Royals made their moves.

Neyer and Jazayerli reflexively trashed the Mays/Elarton signings, and I can see why. But I think you can make a case that it's better to have guys like that out there on a 100-loss team than to let 20 year-old pitchers go 3-14 when they could be developing/building confidence in the minors. The case for Grudzielanek and Mientkiewicz is improving a leaky D which might help the young Ps. I did not see why they wanted Sanders, but if he continues to play OK--and he keeps himself in great shape--he could be traded at the deadline, possibly back to St Louis.

I agree that the Marlins' option is not available to them, so I don't think the Royals' off-season was that bad. The key issue, though, as Neyer, Jazayerli and Davis said, is obvious: teams at that market level or slightly bigger need to produce Grade-A regulars from the farm. Santana, Sheets, Mauer, Fielder, Weeks (although the latter three ar e not established) VMartinez, Sizemore (I know he was acquired in trade but was still very young when it happened) etc. and even the Reds have Dunn.

The Pirates have not been able to do this, except by trading Giles for Bay, and neither have the Royals.

It looks bad in KC--maybe even contractable ( iI hope not--I think contraction would royally suck) but I would not ever say it's hopeless. Things can change fast in baseball, and if Gordon and Butler are asskicking hitters...
   20. OlePerfesser Posted: February 05, 2006 at 02:33 PM (#1850913)
People are focusing on the Marlins' trades of established talent for prospects, but there's another aspect to "husbanding resources"--not paying guys millions when you're still gonna finish last in '06. When your drafting strategy is constrained by money and your development program is constrained by money, wasting money this way is dumb. Whatever false hope it raises among the fans in the off-season will be gone by mid-May.

Rob was pretty explicit about this opportunity cost issue, and it's important. But I suspect that Baird knows he's likely to be in the last year of his GM life, so he has ignored what is best for the long run in favor of creating false short-run buzz. It's just gonna make things harder for the next guy.
   21. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 05, 2006 at 02:50 PM (#1850918)
People are focusing on the Marlins' trades of established talent for prospects, but there's another aspect to "husbanding resources"--not paying guys millions when you're still gonna finish last in '06.

Let's not forget that these veterans can be flipped for prospects at the deadline. If the Royals do this, the end result is the use of financial resources to acquire youth and build for the future.
   22. OlePerfesser Posted: February 05, 2006 at 04:09 PM (#1850942)
The likelihood of flipping depends a lot on their $$$ price, Pops. Sign a guy to a 1-year deal for short money (and promise him PT and the chance to move to a contender and showcase himself), and you can get a prospect back.

But what Baird did was sign "known names" at a premium, on the theory that he had to do that to make them willing to endure KC. Unless they play at their 99th PECOTA percentile or something, they're probably not flippable for serious talent. Some of them won't even be waivable at those salaries.
   23. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 05, 2006 at 04:19 PM (#1850945)
they're probably not flippable for serious talent. Some of them won't even be waivable at those salaries

I think Grudz, Minky and Elarton could all have value.

The salary is pretty irrelevant to the transactions. KC is already set to pay these fellows the full contract price and could eat that money in order to move them.

The real problem with that strategy is Baird is clinging to his job for dear life and it's awful tempting to push for a few extra wins in 2006.
   24. greenback needs a ride, not ammo Posted: February 05, 2006 at 05:19 PM (#1851003)
Dialing to yesterday...

The key issue, though, as Neyer, Jazayerli and Davis said, is obvious: teams at that market level or slightly bigger need to produce Grade-A regulars from the farm.

Yes and no. The Cardinals are in one of those slightly bigger markets and their farm system has sucked. Now part of that is because farm system rankings tend to focus on Grade-B regulars, as Grade-A regulars generally zoom through the minors. Whatever the case, when I compare the Royals to the Cardinals, it's apparent there are other ways to acquire talent. The Royals don't need a Master Plan so much as they need execution (or luck).

Rob was pretty explicit about this opportunity cost issue, and it's important.

Yeah, but gross cash outflows is a poor way of measuring opportunity costs. Major league transactions have different capital requirements from amateur signings. There's a lot of talk about dollars per VORP, but the timing and risk of that VORP is important. There's not nearly as much at risk in signing Grudzielanek and paying him while (or even after) he's generating revenue.

If the Royals are cutting back or neglecting their amateur scouting because they signed Grudzielanek, then stupidity is a bigger issue than opportunity costs anyway.
   25. rr Posted: February 06, 2006 at 02:36 PM (#1851927)
The Cardinals are in one of those slightly bigger markets and their farm system has sucked. Now part of that is because farm system rankings tend to focus on Grade-B regulars, as Grade-A regulars generally zoom through the minors.

Well, as you say, yes and no. Pujols, by himself, makes the 2000 to about 2006 period successful for the Cardinals' farm system. To look at it another way, if your system produced a regular as good as Pujols every five years, well, that's a hell of a farm system, absent producing much of anything else. Not that this alone ensures success but guys like Pujols are, so to speak, scaffolding.

Now, of course, one can argue that the Cardinals' system itself had little to do with Pujols' success, but they did draft him.

Also, two products of the system, Polanco and Kennedy, were key in acquiring Rolen and Edmonds, although there were many other factors involved as well.

So, if Alex Gordon turns out to be, say, 75% as good as Pujols, the Royals could be on the road to recovery. Having a core of high-level home-grown talent that can be secured for below-market value is how small-market teans get into contention.

This is why people are excited about the Brewers.

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