Leftridge: Royals Add More Pieces Through Free Agency

1219coverAfter the ho-hum signing of designated hitter Kendrys Morales, the Kansas City Royals unleashed a flurry of punches in the 12th round, signing outfielder Alex Rios as well as starting pitchers Edinson Volquez and Kris Medlen. While two of the jabs were on target but weak—Volquez and Rios—the Medlen deal could end up securing a judges’ decision. (Except it’ll take a long while for the results to arrive; Medlen will be out of commission until June or possibly July.)

In general, it feels like they missed the haymaker.

Unless general manager Dayton Moore pulls a rabbit out of his sleeve and blows our collective minds with some sort of blockbuster deal to land the Baseball Superstar KCC’s Craig Glazer so desperately pines for, this will probably be remembered as the offseason after the long-awaited World Series appearance where they signed a bunch of retreads in a thrifty effort to capture old magic.

I’m keeping the faith that Moore knows what he’s doing, though. After all, the team he constructed made it to the World Series this year while the team I built just got knocked out of the playoffs after a first round bye. (I was 10-3 and had the largest point differential in league history. Fuck you, Peyton Manning and Jordy Nelson. Way to stop showing up over the last three weeks.)

Anyway, I’ve already shared my thoughts on Morales (essentially: why didn’t they just keep Billy Butler if this was all they were hoping for from a full-time DH?). Here’s what I think about the other signings.

1219RiosAlex Rios, RF: Once upon a time—2006-2008, and then again in 2012—Alex Rios was great. In those four season, he posted an average WAR of 5.2, a figure considerably higher than most other outfielders. In his other eight seasons, however, he has averaged a WAR of 1.  ( I guess this is the point where I point out that incumbent Nori Aoki has averaged a 2.5 WAR in three big league seasons; a much smaller sample size to be sure, but a more consistent one, too.) The best case scenario for Rios is that last year’s disaster in Texas was a fluke (four homeruns in 131 games!), and he bounces back. If he hits 18 bombs, 35 doubles, steals 25 bases and plays the perfectly adequate defense that he’s capable of, he’ll be worth the 1 year/$11MM deal. If he doesn’t, well, it’s only one year.

Fun fact: He was born in Coffee, Alabama and he isn’t really sure why. (He grew up in Puerto Rico.)

Grade: C+

1219volquezEdinson Volquez, SP: This is basically the opposite of the Rios deal. Whereas Alex had a lot of decent numbers early in his career but a terrible 2014, Volquez is a dude who has basically had a pretty average-to-bad career with two good seasons—a 2008 with Cincinnati that saw him go 17-6 in 196 IP with an ERA of 3.21 and an ERA+ of 137, and last year with the Pirates where he did basically the same thing. He has averaged an ERA of 4.44 in 10 seasons, which isn’t quite as good as Jeremy Guthrie (4.23 in 11 seasons). So basically, he’s Groundball Guthrie with less consistency and more walks. If God loves the Royals, last year’s success wasn’t a fluke; he had a good coaching staff in Pittsburgh and he’ll have the same in KC under pitch-whisperer Dave Eiland. In an ideal situation, he goes 14-9, gives you 180 innings and has an ERA a smidge under 4. That would certainly make him worth the $20MM over two years he’s been given.

Fun fact: It’s Edinson. EdiNson. Not Edison, like you thought.

Grade: C

Kris Medlen, SP: This is the interesting one. Medlen—when healthy—is a pretty amazing pitcher. The problem is, the “when healthy” thing is kind of a big deal. See, Medlen is coming off of his SECOND Tommy John surgery.

From Mark Townsend of Big League Stew:

“After undergoing the procedure in 2010, Medlen bounced back to produce a 2.47 ERA over 84 appearances between 2011-13. Of his last 44 appearances, 43 have been starts, including a 12-start stretch to end 2012 where Medlen allowed only nine earned runs and the Braves never lost. His ERA as a starter was a consistent 2.46.”

1219medlenThat’s great. But, you know, two Tommy John surgeries. The thing is, most people never even NEED a second one, and the sample size for those who’ve undergone a repeat is fairly slim. Baseball America suggests that, of the 43 players who’ve had two, “10 were pitchers who have not had a chance to work back from their second surgeries yet, but of the others, 26 made it back to the big leagues while seven did not.” Results on those folks seem to vary, with most of the repeaters returning to somewhat decent form. But with such a limited history, it’s hard to know what to expect.

The best case scenario is that Medlen comes back in June and is a reasonable replica of the same pitcher. If so, he’s the ace and the Royals got a hell of a deal. The good news is, even if things don’t work out, they only owe $8.5MM over two years. (Incentives could push the deal to $10MM.) It’s a low risk, very high reward proposition and I’m pretty excited about it.

Fun fact: Medlen could walk at nine-months-old.

Grade: A

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2 Responses to Leftridge: Royals Add More Pieces Through Free Agency

  1. Mysterious J says:

    Here is the bottom line: this is not the kind of off season destined to excite anyone, especially casual fans who just jumped on the bandwagon. However: they didn’t get saddled with any long term deals and they didn’t have to give up a single prospect or valuable piece of the team that nearly won it all last year. If Hosmer and Moustakas play like they did in the post season and Duffy and Ventura take a step forward (and stay healthy) this is going to be a very competitive team. If not, they won’t.

    You are far from alone in being confused on Morales. I would tell you that the answer lies in the combination of the discount price (the deals for Morales AND Rios combined are cheaper than what Butler got from Mr. Moneyball) and the fact that he has a proven record of hitting home runs in pitcher friendly parks, something one can not say of Butler. Obviously one hopes the club did some SERIOUS due diligence on his health in general and his bad ankle in particular.

  2. “they didn’t get saddled with any long term deals and they didn’t have to give up a single prospect or valuable piece of the team that nearly won it all last year. ”

    These are two points that I didn’t necessarily touch on, but are of tremendous importance. Thank you for mentioning it. As underwhelmed as I am by a couple of these deals, nothing goes beyond two years. That makes everything a bit more palatable.

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