Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Free Agency

On Monday, Jason LaRue and Reggie Sanders filed for free agency. Yesterday, Mike Sweeney and David Riske filed as well.

The Royals will show the most interest in re-signing Riske, who is sure to get a multi-year deal worth more than the $2 million he received in 2007. He already turned down a one-year player option worth $2.9 million for 2008. Riske had a 2.45 ERA in 65 appearances and was a mainstay in the Royals' bullpen all season long. The Royals are still saying that they might bring Sweeney back, and I'd love to see it happen, but I have a feeling that Sweeney has played his final game in Royal blue. 

The Royals also made the obvious choice of declining Odalis Perez's $9 million option for 2008. They bought him out for $1.5 million instead--half of which the Dodgers picked up. I can't seen any reason whatsoever to bring him back for 2008. He was was 8-11 with a 5.57 ERA in his 26 starts this year. Not good.

Now let's hope that will all of the cash coming off the books that we are able to pick up a legitimate power threat--someone like Torii Hunter. But I'm not crazy about Hunter's demand for a five-year contract--especially at the age of 32. If he's unwilling to budge on that, I wouldn't sign him. Aaron Rowand is available. He had an impressive season in Philadelphia, and I wouldn't mind seeing him play for the Royals, but I think we need to sign at least one proven power hitter and so far he's not exactly proven.

Here's a link to a list of free agents if you want to follow along.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More on Hillman

So far I like what I'm hearing from Trey Hillman. He's talking about pitching, defense, and spending extra time in Spring Training on fundamentals. It's the way he's found success in Japan and it's the way he expects to find success in Kansas City. In Sam Mellinger's article about Hillman in the Star on Monday, he pointed to an acronym Hillman uses: AAO--which stands for adapt, adjust, and overcome. His current team in Japan, which is playing in the Japan Series as we speak, got to the series even though they were last in every major offensive category except stolen bases.

Hillman should feel right at home in Kansas City. The Royals were 27th in the Major Leagues in runs scored last season. They were 23rd in hits, 30th in home runs, 28th in RBI, 22nd in BA, 26th in OBP, 29th in SLG, and 29th in OPS. Oh, and they didn't steal bases very well either. They were 21st with just 78 steals. I still can't get over the fact that Emil Brown led the team in RBI with just 62 and John Buck lead the team in HR with just 18. It was a pathetic year offensively, so Hillman better know how to get the most out of pitching and defense. Presumably Moore will find a legitimate free agent bat or two, but I wouldn't count on a lot of help if I were Hillman.

Now let's just hope that he can do here what he did in Japan.

Tony Pena to Succeed Torre?

How sweet would it be if the evil Yankees hired Tony Pena? Pena is convinced that he did a great job in Royal blue and he feels like he's grown in his ability since going to New York. Here's his exact quote: "There's no question that just being around Joe, I learned so much from him. I know I did a great job in K.C., but the two years that I've spent in New York working from Joe Torre helped me a lot and made me a better manager."

I would love to see Pena become Joe Torre's successor. Pena is reportedly third in line behind Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi, but how much fun would it be to watch Pena routinely pull his bizarre managerial stunts in Yankee pinstripes? How would the likes of Derek Jeter or A-Rod react if Pena danced in the shower with his uniform on after a losing streak? Or if he declared that the Yankees were going to win the East while they were eighteen games out of first place? Or if he called for four bunts in a row from guys who can't bunt? Of if he pitched around horrible hitters to get to clean up hitters? Remember those days? I sure do.

Please, oh please, let it happen in New York!

2008 Royals Coaching Staff

We now have a full coaching staff heading into the 2008 season:

Trey Hillman, manager

Mike Barnett, hitting coach

Bob McClure, pitching coach

John Mizerock, bullpen coach

Dave Owen, bench coach

Rusty Kuntz, first base coach

Luis Silverio, third base coach

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hillman Expected to Become Royals' Manager

According to Buster Olney over on, Trey Hillman is expected to be named the successor to Buddy Bell as the Royals manager today.

Hillman is 44 and has been managing in Japan for the past five seasons, during which he lead the Nippon Ham Fighters to their first title in 44 years. He also has 12 years of experience in the evil Yankees' minor league system. You can read a little more about him in Bob Dutton's column today.

Hillman was believed to be in the running for the job in New York as Joe Torre's successor. Honestly, I don't know a thing about Hillman, but I have found a few links that may enlighten all of us, at least a little:

Quality of play now on par with majors

Hillman's resume has several viewers

Hillman again a Rangers candidate

I'm relieved to know that Dayton Moore isn't looking to Atlanta to fill our every need. And I'll be interested to learn more about Hillman in the coming days.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bell Headed to Chicago

I've been expecting changes in personnel any time, but I was a little surprised to hear that the first one on the list is Buddy Bell. You've probably heard by now that he has accepted a position with the White Sox as a minor-league field coordinator. He walked away from a job as a senior advisor to Dayton Moore. While it was a nice thought to keep Bell on board in KC, having a clean break feels better, doesn't it?

I don't think Buddy Bell is a terrible manager, even though he was 174-262 with the Royals and 519-724 overall. He's never managed a good team, or even a decent team. His temperament is probably better suited for a team of veterans, but it's not exactly easy to find premium managerial positions given that those who have been successful in the past are always at the top of the list.

Bell said that he had an epiphany after his cancer scare. He realized that he wanted to spend a lot more time with family, so he decided to step down as the Royals' manager. His new position with the White Sox will allow him to work out of his home and that's a good thing. So, let's not pile on as he leaves Kansas City. Let's thank him for what he's done and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Season in Review

Before the season started, I predicted that the Royals would win 74 games. I had every reason to believe that they were on the right road. I looked down the line and saw Billy Butler, Luke Hochevar, Billy Buckner, and many others waiting for their call to the big leagues. I felt the hope that we all felt when Alex Gordon made the club out of Spring Training. I expected Mark Teahen to continue to build upon the success of his 2006 season. I expected Ryan Shealy to make his presence felt. And I expected Gil Meche to be the anchor of the rotation.

I knew that the extended losing streaks would probably continue. I just had hopes that they wouldn't reach monumental proportions as they have in the past couple of seasons. I knew that our rotation was far from adequate. I knew that we had a couple of guys who don't hustle. And I knew we have several injury prone guys on our roster. But I still figured that if the Royals could catch a break or two, then they'd crack the 70-win mark for the first time since 2003.

Going into September, that looked like a certainty. Most of the summer they played at a 74-win pace, and for several months they were above .500, but the wheels came off in September, during which there were a pitiful 9-19, and they finished the season with a 69-93 record. I understand that Buddy Bell was retiring, and that guys wanted to finish the season, and that we sometimes had guys playing out of position. But to not win 70 games after making such great strides all season is a major disappointment.

Mark Teahen suddenly lost his power. Alex Gordon had a disappointing season. Tony Pena swung at nearly everything, drawing just ten walks for the season, while striking out 78 times. David DeJesus hit just .260. Emil Brown, who didn't play nearly as much this season as the previous two, led the club in RBI with just 62. That's pathetic. Esteban German hit sixty-two points lower this season than he did last season. John Buck showed more pop than in the past, but he finished the season with a .222 batting average. Ryan Shealy was awful. He hit just .221 with 3 HR and 21 RBI in 52 games and was constantly injured.

The season certainly had some bright spots though. Joakim Soria was beyond outstanding. In fact, our bullpen was the best I've ever seen in Kansas City. David Riske, Joel Peralta, and Jimmy Gobble kept hitters off balance all year. Billy Butler proved that he can hit pitching at any level. Joey Gathright proved that he belongs in the major leagues. Ross Gload had a decent season, especially since few people expected him to get more than 300 at bats. Brian Bannister was dominant at times and had one of the best seasons we've seen in many years from a Royals' starter. Arguably, Gil Meche was equal to the task, but had less run support than Bannister did. Zack Greinke appears to have turned a corner and should settle in nicely as the number three starter next season.

So, where does that leave us for 2008? Who knows. We'll have a new manager, presumably an extra bat or two in the line up since we have a lot of cash available, another starter or two, and the hope that all of the young talent will finally blossom at the same time to make the Royals a contender in the AL Central. And you know what? I'll hope right along with you that all of this happens. I've just learned to temper my hope with reality. Dayton Moore has made many great personnel decisions already and I suspect that he'll continue to do so. So let's sit back and wait to see what he does this offseason and then let's cheer the boys in blue as they begin the 2008 season.

Thanks for sticking with me for the entire season. Stop back during the offseason for commentary about the moves the Royals make.

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