Royals make some changes...

Frustrated by the mounting losses, Allard Baird on Friday and Saturday made a series of roster moves:

Mike Wood Kyle Snyder (to AAA)
Denny Hocking Ruben Gotay (to AA)
Jonah Bayliss Leo Nunez (to AA)
Paul Phillips Alberto Castillo (released)

First, we'd like to say that RC applauds each of these moves. Wood for Snyder is a no-brainer, as is Bayliss for Nunez. Both moves should easily be upgrades. The two most controversial roster moves are the promotions of both Hocking and Phillips.

Not long ago, RC argued for exactly what the Royals had previously decided upon -- having Gotay and Murphy platoon in a pseudo-competition for the 2B job in 2006. Of course, we never really expected an actual competition, even when the Royals announced that a competition was exactly what they had in mind.

We assumed it would be the same type of "competition" the Royals held in Spring Training between Ken Harvey and Calvin Pickering, even though we already thought the Royals were going to bring Pick north instead of Harvey. We figured then that the Royals already knew Pickering was a more productive player than Harvey, but announced the competition just to placate Harvey's fans in KC. Likewise, after watching both Gotay and Murphy in successive seasons at Wilmington, we knew that Murphy was the superior player, and we figured that if it was so easy for us to figure out, the Royals surely must also know it to be true.

Ruben Gotay: Not as good as Murphy

Well, they do know, and today's demotion of Gotay proves it. If it had been an actual competition, Murphy certainly wouldn't have won it after starting out 7-for-37 (.189). The fact is that Murphy is far better defensively (although we have no idea why he keeps making errors), and he's better offensively, in terms of both power and plate discipline.

The reason we were happy to see both Gotay and Murphy on the roster at the time of Murphy's promotion was that we figured Murphy would inheret Tony Graffanino's at bats. In other words, we expected to see him start at 2B vs. lefties, but we also expected him to get some other occasional starts at 3B and SS. That didn't happen, but that's fine with us as long as the Royals view Murphy as their second baseman of the future.

So why did the Royals call it a competition when Murphy was promoted back in July? We're not sure, but we have a theory: the Royals are simply terrible with public relations. Just horrid. It's not a big deal, because it has no practical effect on the game, but frankly, it probably wouldn't hurt if the Royals just stopped talking to the media altogether, or at least about roster decisions. When asked tonight about the sudden reversal regarding the "competition," manager Buddy Bell simply said "That was probably not the greatest approach on my part."

Well, duh. If Murphy is only going to play second base, it doesn't make any sense to have both him and Gotay on the Major League roster. And therefore, it's a good move to send Gotay away to get regular playing time in the minors. We don't expect Gotay to ever be a quality starter in the big leagues, but it makes sense to have him get as much playing time as possible in the minors just to see if he improves.

As for Hocking, his promotion is completely insignificant. He'll be the second utility player off the bench, behind Joe McEwing, so he'll be lucky to play once a week. Contrary to what's being said on the radio and the Internet, his promotion does NOT signal anything about a reversal of the Royals youth movement. Rather, it enhances it, as the Royals will now roll with Teahen at third and Murphy at second at least five out of every six games.

Now, as for Castillo's release, it was inevitable, and it signals to us that Baird is thinking precisely as we are. Back in June, RC posted what we thought was a best-guess estimate of what the Royals will look like next year. We argued then that:

"[We'd] like to see the Royals fill their backup catcher and utility infield spots with players from their minor league system...There's really no reason to keep a veteran like Castillo around when a younger, cheaper, better option is available within the system."

At the time, we argued that Matt Tupman would be a good option for backup catcher in 2006. That may still happen, but it can't hurt to give Phillips a shot first, and we're happy to see the Royals trying to figure it out now, rather than next spring. Yes, it sucks for Castillo, who has done everything the Royals asked of him, but the Royals have to look ahead. We hope that Castillo can catch on somewhere else, but this is a good move.

  • We were also pleased to learn that Billy Butler was finally promoted to Wichita. We listened to about half of the Wranglers' game tonight, and Butler hit a screamer off the third basmen's glove in his first at bat for his first AA hit. On the night, he went 1-for-4 with two strikouts in Wichita's 5-4 squeaker over the Tulsa Drillers.

    On a side note, this was the first Wichita broadcast we ever listened to, and we must say that Wichita's play-by-play man cannot hold a candle to High Desert's. That's a shame, but we'll manage.

  • There's really little reason to even listen to High Desert games any more, because most of the top prospects who started the year there have now moved on to bigger and better things. However, three interesting players still remain -- Kila Kaaihue, Chris Lubanski, and Chris Demaria.

    Kila Kaaihue: Lonely in High Desert

    Frankly, with the recent minor league reshuffling, we were expecting Kaaihue to get a promotion to Wichita by now. His power numbers aren't very impressive for the California League (14 HR, .485 SLG), but his on-base numbers deserve some serious attention. Kila is currently second in the league in both walks (75) and on-base percentage (.435). In fact, his OBP is even higher than Butler's, which is very surprising. It will be interesting to watch Kaaihue as his career progresses, because the 21-year-old shows some signs of becoming a very good ballplayer.

  • Some more good news from the minors: J.P. Howell made another nice start for the Omaha Royals tonight. Howell picked up the victory with a line of 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, and 4 K. After a tough first start following his demotion, Howell has done a nice job showing that his close proximity to Chris George has not yet caused any of George's influence to rub off on him. That's good, because we were a little concerned. Hopefully Howell can finish the year off well in Omaha and vie for a spot in KC's rotation next season.

  • Finally, we are aware of the Royals' last two games vs. the A's. We'd just prefer not to talk about Jeremy Affeldt's meltdown on Friday, or the 16-1 drubbing KC took tonight. They're really not all that significant, and perhaps it's good that RC is insulated by over a thousand miles from the pissing and moaning in KC. It puts us in a position to remind everyone that every team loses 16-1 occasionally, and we urge Royals fans to keep in mind that neither of the pitchers against whom the majority of the damage was done tonight (Jose Lima and Jimmy Gobble) will be on the Royals' roster on October 3.

  • We haven't yet had a chance to watch this weekend's games, because we've been checking out prospects at a couple minor league games. Here's a few photos, in case you're interested. The first is a photo of Nationals prospect Kory Casto.

    Casto strokes an RBI triple on August 5, 2005

    Casto is a third baseman who we'd really like to have. He's currently blocked in the Nationals' system by 2005 first rounder Ryan Zimmerman, although if he continues hitting like this (.305/.398/.547/20 HR -- very impressive for the Carolina League), the Nats won't have any trouble finding him a place in the outfield.

    At tonight's game, we were particularly interested in checking out the potential Tiger SS of the future, Tony Giarratano. Coming into the season, Giarratano was ranked by Baseball America as the Tigers' sixth-best prospect, on the heels of a fine season in A-ball last year. This year, he's been a disappointment, hitting only .263/.332/.378 while playing his home games in a hitter's park.

    Giarratano signs for a fan before a game on August 6, 2005

    The 22-year-old SS is built very similar to Mendy Lopez, and in the game tonight, he looked just like him. Giarratano made a horrible error that led to two Baysox runs, and he looked pretty bad at the plate.

    Finally, RC saw an old friend tonight, although we did a double-take when we saw both him and his position for the evening.

    An old friend, a bit fatter than we remember...

    You could be forgiven if you didn't realize that the player in the photo above is none other than Byron Gettis, the 2003 Royals Minor League Player of the Year. It seems as though Gettis has added about 40 lbs. of fat since his KC days. But if that wasn't funny enough, the SeaWolves (Editor's note: What the hell is a SeaWolf?) had Gettis starting in center field tonight! RC is convinced that we've never seen a fatter center fielder in our life, but the joke was on us...Gettis made an amazing diving catch on a soft liner in the seventh inning. The earth literally shook...

    At 8/07/2005 3:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I agree with you on the promotions and demotions. Gotay had his chance, and now it's Murphy's turn. We need to see if were going to have to pursue a 2nd baseman this offseason, or if Murphy or Gotay are good enough.

    At 8/07/2005 3:24 AM, Blogger Dave said...

    Well, I disagree with one thing there. Just as I didn't buy the notion that there was actually a "competition" between Gotay and Murphy, I also don't buy Baird's statements about potentially being in the market for a 2B in the offseason.

    Even if Murphy falls on his ass for the rest of the year, it still doesn't make any sense to go out and sign a veteran 2B. There are far too many middle infielders moving toward the upper levels of the minors to block them next season with a veteran who won't be around in 2007.

    Frankly, I don't care what Murphy does for the rest of this season...He's still my starter come April 2006. If he doesn't improve after a few months, then you can start to look elsewhere.

    At 8/07/2005 10:54 AM, Blogger COroyal said...

    The Hocking move was stupid skilled. Buddy Bell is going to have a game w/both him & McEwing in the lineup at some point. Diaz or Guiel should have been called up. I know you're a big Baird fan, but I'm waffling on the guy a bit.

    At 8/07/2005 2:44 PM, Blogger Rob said...

    quote: perhaps it's good that RC is insulated by over a thousand miles from the pissing and moaning in KC.

    Well, excuse US for somehow still giving a rat's behind about whether or not we get to see a team NOT lose 100 games for the third time in 4 seasons.

    Yes, the season's down the toilet and has been for quite some time, but should we just sit back and say, ok, ho hum, another 100 loss season? I don't think so. As a season ticket holder I will voice my displeasure and too bad if you, the Royals or anybody else doesn't like it.

    At 8/07/2005 2:54 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    Well, don't buy season tickets if you don't understand that winning baseball games isn't going to be priority number one for at least another season. As much as losing 100 games in the midst of a rebuilding process hurts, this is just the way it has to be, man.

    At 8/07/2005 3:30 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    Rob, don't misunderstand me. I was talking about how being far away from the mess right now -- along all the whining that accompanies it -- allows for me to place these losses in the proper perspective. Complain all you want, you've got the right.

    But also keep in mind that this nine-game losing streak (looks like it's gonna be 10-game streak now) shouldn't change anything. The long range plan of this franchise has been in development for a couple years now, and a few horrible games in a row isn't going to change anything, nor should it.

    Yes, it sucks to watch the team we love drop games 16-1, but like I said, the outcome of these games is really insignificant. And my point was that maybe it's the thousand plus miles of America between me and KC that allows me to say that.

    At 8/07/2005 3:38 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    CO, you'd be comfortable with only one backup infielder? If not, which infielder would you rather have? Ugeuto? There's really nobody else who the Royals would feel comfortable sitting on the bench five out of every six games. Make no mistake...Hocking's job is to sit on the bench.

    If he and McEwing wind up in the same lineup sometime, then that's on Buddy Bell. But even if it does happen, it probably won't happen any more than once or twice, so we're not exactly talking about some great derailment of our youth movement.

    The one thing that I do want to see, however, is for the Royals to drop T-Long. Just get rid of him any way they can, and get Chip Ambres (and/or Matt Diaz) some freaking playing time.

    At 8/07/2005 4:18 PM, Blogger Rob said...

    Guys, don't mind me..I was listening to them get lit up again when I posted that.

    Jeez, it's so frustrating to like the Royals anymore. I guess it's a good thing people like me still get upset, though. It shows we still care about the team. When the passion (for or against) disappears, that's when the team will too.

    And Kevin, I buy season tickets because I support the Royals. I also complain because I support the Royals. This stretch doesn't have to be so putrid. Just because we've got young players doesn't mean we have to accept losing 100 games, 3 out of 4 years.

    At 8/07/2005 10:58 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    Rob, I guess what I've been able to do is detach myself emotionally from the Royals' situation. There was a time from 1995 to about 2003 when the quality of each individual day depended on whether the Royals won or lost. Eventually, I wised up and just let it go, realizing that I was using WAY too much energy on that. As much as I love 'em, I don't have any control over what those players do on the field of play, so I just don't worry about it anymore.

    Don't get me wrong. It still frustrates me to no end when the boys get outscored eleventy billion to three at home with two of their best starting pitchers on the mound in the series.

    But things are going to get better in 2007, the year we're going to start seeing results. Allard Baird's a very determined, intelligent, and hard-working baseball man, and that hard work and vision is going to lead us to a winner.

    At 8/08/2005 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Kevin, you'd like to believe that we could be contending by next season. I mean the 2007 season is basically two years from now. Wow, guys can you believe it ONLY 2 YEARS UNTIL WE CONTEND? YEA, that's how bad we are we have to take two years just to get to a .500 team. If Baird is actually smart, Kevin, he will be a good enough GM to go out and get a pitcher or two this offseason and get a 100RBI/power bat this offseason which would improve us dramatically. I have also been doing what you said you did from 1995-2003 lately, and I think I'm going to stop really caring about if they win or lose after May 20th each season. I mean if they lose Tuesday, who cares, I need to stop worrying about it.

    I'm 15, so I'm probably about the age you were when you became a full-time Royals fan. Well anyways it's getting old relying on if they win or lose on the quality of a day kinda. I'm not going to make a big deal out of them losing from now on.

    But things are going to get better in 2006, THE YEAR WE ARE GOING TO SEE RESULTS. I am not waiting until 2007 to see a good team. I don't care if we have the next Manny Ramirez(Butler) cooking in the minors, I want a .500 club NEXT season.

    At 8/08/2005 4:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    If we don't contend next season, infact, I want Baird fired. If we don't get atleast 80 wins, BAIRD IS GONE. I won't tolerate watching pathetic 100-loss seasons after this year as long as Baird is GM. I do realize that I have no control over what these guys do, and really I'm sure you saw some "decent" seasons from '95-'03 but after watching a 104 loss season last year, and the Royals have already put themselves on pace to lose 100+ this year, I don't let it get the best of me if they win or lose, and I'm not as focused on watching every single game anymore.

    At 8/08/2005 10:56 AM, Blogger ME said...

    Look at the bright side guys, we'll get the #1 pick in the '06 draft except knowing the Royals this year they will probably go on a 10 game winning streak in September and end up with the #3 pick. This year stinks anyway, we might as well get a good player for it.

    At 8/08/2005 5:22 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    It might be interesting to do a piece on potential 2006 draft picks to watch. I subscribe to Baseball America, but I've never checked to see if they have anything yet.

    I'm definitely going to make a point of going to some HS and college games next spring, particularly if there are any top prospects in the area again -- there usually are. I definitely could have seen both Ryan Zimmerman and Justin Upton this past spring if I had thought of it beforehand.

    At 8/08/2005 5:30 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    Anonymous, while I don't want to put an arbitrary number on the amount of wins I demand next season, I will say that another 100 loss season in 2006 could be devastating to the point that Baird may very well have to be fired.

    Of course, for me there really is no magical cutoff number. 85 losses? 90? I'd actually take 85 losses in 2006, as long as the improvement of our young players is clear. That would probably be about a 20-game improvement over this season, which realistically is all you can ask for. I'd be willing to accept 90 losses under the same conditions, as long as the team was playing far better baseball at the end of the season than it was at the beginning.

    But for a team to lose 100 games, pretty much everything has to go wrong, in which case you may see RC someday argue that Baird has to go.

    But I REALLY, REALLY don't expect that to happen.


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