Saturday, December 29, 2007

Olivo vs. Buck

The mystery behind the Miguel Olivo signing became a little more clear in an article by Sam Mellinger in the Star this morning.

When asked whether John Buck was still the number one catcher, Dayton Moore spoke about how deep this acquisition made the Royals behind the plate, which pretty much answers the question without answering it. And Moore said that Hillman may use Buck or Olivo as a DH sometimes. You'd think that Olivo might be a good candidate for DH against lefties since he hit .295 against them last year, but Billy Butler hit .340.

Speaking of batter averages, Mellinger pointed out that Olivo hits lefties well (but hit just .221 against RHP last year) and that Buck fairs better against righties (.231 last season against RHP vs. .189 against LHP). Looks to me like Olivo ought to be playing against lefties, while Buck has the slight edge against righties. But obviously they both struggle against RHP, so it probably doesn't matter who plays against them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Miguel Olivo Signs with KC

I didn't see the Miguel Olivo signing coming, did you? Makes me wonder if Dayton Moore is close to giving up on John Buck. First it was Jason LaRue, who turned out to be a total bust, and now it's Olivo--who has been the starting catcher in Florida for the past two seasons. He has some pop (he hit 16 HR last season), but his batting average is low (.237 last season) and his OBP is anemic (.262 last season). He walked just 14 times in 122 games last season.

As Royals Review points out, Buck and Olivo are similar catchers. Both have a little pop. Both struggle to get on base. Both hit right handed. And they are both in their mid to late 20's. I can't imagine that either of them are going to be happy playing a back up role, but I do think it makes the team more solid if you can get both of them some adequate playing time. And it'll certainly make us deeper than we've been in a while behind the dish.

But is that really what Moore is thinking? Or has he just made John Buck expendable?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mahay About to Sign with Royals

Sounds like Dayton Moore is close to signing veteran left-handed relief pitcher Ron Mahay to a two-year, $8 million contract. Mahay pitched for the Rangers and Braves last season and in 58 games, he was 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA. If the deal goes through, Mahay would become another lefty that Hillman could call upon out of the bullpen if needed. Jimmy Gobble, Neal Musser, and John Bale are the other three. From the right side, we should have some combination of Ryan Braun, Brandon Duckworth (if he doesn't make the rotation), Joel Peralta, Joakim Soria, and maybe Luke Hudson.

Mahay dominated left-handed hitters last season (they hit just .189 against him) and he's more than just a situational lefty. Thirty-eight times last season he pitched at least one inning or more in relief and ten times he pitched two innings or more. In a sense, if the deal goes through, it would be like signing an older version of Jimmy Gobble. Lefties hit .241 against Gobble last season, and much like Mahay, Gobble was more than just a situational lefty. Thirty-three times last season he pitched at least one inning or more. The addition of Mahay would give Hillman two solid guys who could play a situational role, but in both cases, I think they could be called upon to eat innings in the middle to late portion of the game.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Buckner Traded for Callaspo

So what are your thoughts regarding the trade that sent Billy Buckner to Arizona for Alberto Callaspo?

Buckner, a second round draft pick by the Royals in 2004, has decent minor league numbers: He's 32-28 with a 4.27 ERA who strikes out more than two hitters for every guy he walks (433 K / 185 BB in 474.0 IP). He was probably a long shot to make the back end of the Royals rotation coming out of Spring Training, but at 23 years of age, he wouldn't have been harmed at all by pitching a full season in Omaha.

Callaspo (pronounced Ky-AWS-po), a 24 year-old middle infielder, has put up impressive minor league numbers. He has a career minor league batting average of .317 with a .369 OBP in 651 games. He has 34 HR, 353 RBI, and 68 SB in 2,641 AB, which isn't anything to cheer about, but couple his ability to get on base with his incredible patience at the plate (he's drawn 228 BB while striking out just 141 times), and you have the makings of a good number two hitter. He's a switch-hitter who was Arizona's minor-league player of the year in 2006 and according to Dayton Moore, "He's a guy that fits into our long-term plan."

So, where does this leave Esteban German and Jason Smith--especially given the fact that Callaspo is out of options and therefore has to remain in the major leagues for the entire 2008 season? Smith just signed a one-year deal, but surely the Royals can't keep three utility infielders, so if I had to guess, Smith may be the odd man out. We'll have to see how things shake out during Spring Training.

I'm not crazy about giving up a talented young arm and it seems to go against the trend Moore has set since coming to the Royals, but in this instance, it probably makes sense. Plate discipline and the ability to get on base are two areas in which the Royals have been pathetic for far too long. Presumably, Callaspo could push Pena at shortstop, especially if Pena continues to swing at everything in sight, or he could be the long term answer at second base after Mark Grudzielanek moves on.

But I don't think the Royals traded for Pena only to sit him or move him to another team and Grudzielanek isn't showing any signs of declining yet. In fact, Grud won a Gold Glove in 2006 and he only made 6 errors in 2007. German was thought to be Grud's successor, and second base is German's best position, but maybe his .264 batting average in 121 games last season made Moore think that German isn't an everyday second baseman. He did have a .351 OBP and he was third on the team in walks with 43 though.

A little competition never hurt anything and maybe that's what Moore is thinking. I guess the rest will take care of itself.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sweeney: "No. 29 was Clean"

Reading Jeffrey Flanagan's article in the Star this morning, you get the feeling that Mike Sweeney wasn't holding his breathe as the Mitchell Report was released. Here's a little of what he told Flanagan:

"Maybe now people will really believe me," Sweeney said by phone from California. "People now know that No. 29 was clean. And if I've played my last game with the Royals, you don't have to put an asterisk by any of my stats."

Here's another quote from the article:

"I shouldn't have to worry about what other people say or do," he said. "But it did bother me when I would hear it. I mean, I put my hand on the Bible and my hand on my son's head and swore I didn't take steroids."

To read the rest of the article, here's a link: Maybe now people will believe Sweeney didn't use steroids.

Back in June of 2006, when the Jason Grimsley story first broke, I happened to be in the Royals clubhouse to interview a couple of Royals' players for a magazine I was working for. When reporters began to ask Sweeney about Grimsley, I joined them. Compare what Sweeney said in the second quote above to what he said on the day the Grimsley story broke:

Q: Can you give us a perspective about what really goes on in a clubhouse (regarding steroids)?

A: "Sure. All I can do is speak for myself. I'm proud—I'd place my hand on the Bible or on my children and say I've never used a greenie, I've never used steroids, never used growth hormone, never done anything that would give me an edge. And I'm proud to say that. As far as my teammates go, if I ever had any knowledge of them, I love them, I would never sell them out publicly. To my knowledge, I know I've never done anything and I love Jason Grimsley and I want to support him through this."

Here's a link to the Q & A with Sweeney that day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dan Glass Responds to Mitchell Report

Here's a link to a press release from Dan Glass about The Mitchell Report.

Royals in The Mitchell Report

Here's a brief breakdown of what The Mitchell Report says about current and former Royals players. I have not included everything that The Mitchell Report said about the following players. You'll need to read the full report to get the full story.

As you read through the report, you'll see the name "Radomski" repeated over and over. He is Kirk Radomski, who according to this article, "pleaded guilty in April to federal charges of illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs. As part of his agreement with the government, he was required to cooperate with Mitchell's investigation."

You'll also see the name Brian McNamee throughout the report. According to this article, McNamee "worked for the Yankees and as a personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte."

How reliable are Radomski or McNamee? Who knows, but as you go through the report, you'll see many checks written by players to Radomski. Take that for what it is worth.

Here is the list of Royals named in The Mitchell Report, followed by an excerpt about them from the report:

Hal Morris (played for the Royals in 1998): "Radomski said that he sold Deca-Durabolin and testosterone to Morris in late 1999 when Morris was with the Reds. Morris paid by check. Morris's, with an address we have confirmed was his, is listed in the address book seized by federal agents from Radomski’s residence."

Rondell White (played for the Royals in 2003): "According to Radomski, White started buying performance enhancing substances from him in 2000. White bought both human growth hormone and Deca-Durabolin. In our first interview, before he had access to all the checks his banks were able to supply, Radomski estimated he had engaged in 'six to ten' transactions with White, some paid for with cash, others paid by check. Subsequently, Radomski was able to produce seven checks that he deposited drawn on White’s checking account. All are included in the Appendix."

Chuck Knoblauch (played for the Royals in 2002): "McNamee provided personal training services to Knoblauch. McNamee said that he acquired human growth hormone from Radomski for Knoblauch in 2001. Beginning during spring training and continuing through the early portion of the season, McNamee injected Knoblauch at least seven to nine times with human growth hormone. Knoblauch paid Radomski through Jason Grimsley and, once or twice, through McNamee. (Radomski produced two checks from Grimsley in 2001 that totaled $5,550.)"

Jason Grimsley (played for the Royals from 2001-2004): "As previously discussed, he was released by the Diamondbacks after it was publicly revealed that a federal search warrant had been executed upon his his residence in 2006. Kirk Radomski remembered meeting Jason Grimsley in 2000 when Grimsley was pitching for the Yankees. In our first interview, conducted before Radomski obtained complete records from his banks, Radomski estimated he had engaged in at least seven or eight sales to Grimsley involving human growth hormone, Deca-Durabolin, and diet pills from 2000 through 2003. Radomski ultimately produced fourteen checks written by Grimsley (including cashier’s checks for which Grimsley was the remitter) from June 2, 2001 through July 29, 2005, totaling $35,400. All are included in the Appendix."

Gregg Zaun (played for the Royals in 2000-2001): "Radomski believed that Jason Grimsley referred Zaun to him when they both played for the Royals in 2001. Someone else (Radomski could not remember who) called and ordered steroids for Zaun. Although Radomski never spoke to Zaun about the transaction, Radomski received a check from Zaun for the steroids. Radomski produced that check, a copy of which is included in the Appendix..."

Phil Hiatt (played for the Royals in 1993 and 1994): "Radomski first spoke to Hiatt while he was with the Dodgers in 2001. Over the span of several seasons, Radomski sold Hiatt both human growth hormone and Deca-Durabolin. According to Radomski, he sold these performance enhancing substances to Hiatt on two or three occasions."

Kevin Young (played for the Royals in 1996): "Radomski first met Young in New York City during the 2000-01 off-season.Young later called Radomski. While Radomski could not remember who introduced him to Young, he did remember that he was asked to bring two kits of human growth hormone to this first meeting. Radomski said that he went to lunch with Young and afterward went up to Young’s hotel room where Radomski sold him one or two kits of human growth hormone. Young did not call Radomski again until 2003, during the final season of his career. Radomski said that he sold Young five or six kits of human growth hormone on this second occasion. He noted that he did not view this amount as unusual because Young needed the human growth hormone to recover from lingering injuries, and Radomski believed a five or six-month supply of human growth hormone was necessary to complete such a recovery. Radomski stated that Young mailed $9,600 in cash to him as payment for this second transaction. Young’s name, with multiple telephone numbers, is listed in the address book seized from Radomski’s residence by federal agents."

Jose Guillen (recently signed by the Royals): "In an article on November 6, 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Seattle Mariners outfielder Jose Guillen purchased human growth hormone, testosterone, and other steroids through the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center in multiple transactions over a three year period between 2002 and 2004 and possibly also in 2005. According to the article, Guillen placed his first order with the center on May 1,2002, when he was playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He paid $2,180 by wire transfer for human growth hormone, testosterone cypionate, nandrolone, and syringes. On September 19, 2003, when he was playing for the Oakland Athletics, he used a credit card to purchase $2,083 worth of human growth hormone (Genotropin), testosterone propionate, stanozolol, and syringes, which were shipped to him at the Oakland Coliseum. In July 2004, when Guillen was playing for the Anaheim Angels, he 'placed a $6,000 order for [human] growth hormone, testosterone propionate and syringes,' in addition to clomiphene and Novarel. The article also reported that records reflected two additional orders from Guillen for human growth hormone and syringes: in September 2003, when he was playing for Oakland and in June 2005, when he was playing for the Washington Nationals...The Chronicle article suggested that at least some of Guillen’s purchases of human growth hormone were based on prescriptions that had been written by the same suspended dentist who reportedly wrote prescriptions for human growth hormone for Paul Byrd."

Paul Byrd (played for the Royals from 2001-2002): "On October 21, 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd had bought nearly $25,000 worth of human growth hormone and syringes from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center, one of the anti-aging clinics implicated in the Signature Pharmacy investigation, in thirteen transactions between August 2002 and January 2005. According to the story, Byrd used his credit card to purchase the substance and received more than 1,000 vials of human growth hormone in the transactions, which were sent to his home in Georgia, to the spring training facility of the Atlanta Braves, where he was playing at the time, and in one instance to a New York hotel. In public comments in response to the article, Byrd admitted that he had been taking human growth hormone but said that he had been using it to treat a tumor on his pituitary gland."

Update (12-14-07 @ 10:05 AM): I forgot to include a blurb about Wally Joyner (who played for the Royals from 1992-1995). Joyner didn't have his own section in the report but was mentioned in the "Early Indications of Steroid Use in Baseball (1988 to August 1998)" section on pages 60-77. Specifically Joyner was named in conjunction with Ken Caminiti. Here's what the report says:

"One of Caminiti’s later Padres teammates, Wally Joyner, acknowledged that he discussed using steroids with Caminiti in 1998, when Joyner was feeling the effects of the game on his aging body. In an interview for this investigation, Joyner told us that he struggled with the decision whether to try steroids, but eventually he decided to use them. After taking the drugs three times, Joyner decided that he had made a mistake, discarded the rest of the pills, and never tried illegal performance enhancing substances again."

Oh, and how could I forget about Benito Santiago? But was Santiago ever really a Royal? He played 49 games with the Royals in 2004, so I guess that qualifies, but the guy was on the DL almost as often as Juan Gonzalez.

Durbin is a Free Agent

Former Royal Chad Durbin learned yesterday that the Detroit Tigers will not offer him a contract for 2008. Durbin was expected to received about $1.2 million through arbitration and the Tigers didn't want to pay that much for a guy who probably wouldn't end up in their rotation and may not even make their roster. He was 8-7 in 2007 with a 4.72 ERA. He started 19 games and saw relief work in 17 others. Don't expect to see his name surfacing on lists of free agents that the Royals are interested in though. He told the Detroit Free Press that he wants to go somewhere other than the AL Central. Of course, what he wants and what he gets my be two different things.

Roster Moves & The Mitchell Report

Emil Brown won't be back in Royal blue in 2008. The Royals decided to nontender his contract, making him a free agent. Beyond some of the crazy claims Brown made over the past few years, and some of the crazy things he did (remember when he shot a reporter in the eye with a toy dart gun?), perhaps the thing I'll remember most about him happened last year at Kauffman Stadium. I was in attendance when he hit a ball and stood and watched it, thinking it was gone. It hit the left field wall and Brown was thrown out at second base.

Brandon Duckworth signed a one-year deal with the Royals. He was 3-5 last year with a 4.63 ERA. At times last season, he was one of the many relief pitchers for the Royals who produced one of the best bullpens we've seen in Kansas City. Unfortunately, his season ended early when he tore a left oblique.

The Royals also signed Jason Smith to a one-year contract. He showed a little pop (6 HR in 85 AB), but little ability to get on base (.188/.213/.447). Fortunately for him, he's versatile and can play every infield position.

Aaron Rowand signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. I haven't seen his name mentioned by the Royals lately, but at one time he was believed to be on the list of outfielders the Royals were interested in.

Paul Phillips was designated for assignment recently to make room on the 4-man roster for Jose Guillen.

Finally, the Mitchell Report is due out this afternoon and I'll be scanning the list of names, much like you will. One source for ESPN is already saying that Roger Clemens is on the list. And an article on cites the Bergen Record as saying "several" prominent Yankees will be named in the report.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Royals Changing Numbers

As is often the case, several Royals are changing numbers for the 2008 season:

Player Old # New #
Jose Guillen -- 11
Ross Gload 11 7
Alex Gordon 7 4

Hillman's 2008 Lineup Card

Trey Hillman is talking about how he might fill out his lineup card when the 2008 season rolls around. Here's what he's thinking right now:

DeJesus CF
Grudzielanek 2B
Teahen LF
Guillen RF
Butler DH
Gload 1B
Gordon 3B
Buck C
Pena SS

This lineup still doesn't have enough power. And it still doesn't have enough speed, but I can see things I like. 

First, Jose Guillen, assuming he doesn't get himself into more trouble, should produce numbers similar to a healthy Mike Sweeney. That's a big plus, given that Sweeney hasn't been healthy in many seasons. I like Butler hitting fifth rather than clean up, like he probably would have been hitting if Moore hadn't added Guillen. And I like Gordon hitting seventh--not nearly as much pressure there.

I also like something that Moore said recently about the lineup: "We have some versatility on our roster. But we do want to create an environment where there is more of an everyday lineup than we had last year."

An everyday lineup would be nice to see and it would give some of our young guys, like Teahen, Butler, and Gordon, and chance to settle in.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jose Guillen Suspended

Nearly as soon as the Jose Guillen signing became official today, MLB released the following statement:

Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today that Jay Gibbons of the Baltimore Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals each have received 15-day suspensions for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Both suspensions will be effective at the start of the 2008 regular season.

In the big scheme of things, 15-days isn't that big a deal. But what exactly does it mean to be in violation of the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program? Does it mean that Guillen once again exhibited a poor attitude by failing to follow through on something he was supposed to do under the MLB agreement? If so, is it an indication of things to come?

And now we have this recently released statement from Dayton Moore regarding Guillen:

"We signed Jose knowing that was a possibility," Royals general manager Dayton Moore. "While my initial reaction is one of disappointment, I am thoroughly convinced that Jose will put this behind him and we collectively support him as he begins a new chapter in his baseball life as a member of the Kansas City Royals."

Didn't Moore just express surprise about the possibility of Guillen being suspended? Oh well, whatever the case. I hope he's right about Guillen putting this all behind him.

Craig Brazell Signs in Japan

Craig Brazell, the 27 year-old first baseman who mashed 39 home runs and drove in 91 runs for Omaha and Wichita last season, has signed a contract with the Seibu Lions in Japan. I guess that with Ryan Shealy, Justin Huber, Ross Gload, and maybe even Mark Teahen, the Royals feel like they are covered at first base and decided not to sign Brazell.

Jones, Riske, and Guillen

Lots of things to talk about today:

Andruw Jones signed a two-year, $36 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sounds like Jones preferred to stay in the National League. And former teammate, and current Dodger, Rafael Furcal, made "more than one" phone call to Jones attempting to get him to sign with the Dodgers. So, we'll see if Moore pursues another bat. I'm sure that Mike Sweeney could be had for a relatively cheap price and this may open the door for more discussion between Sweeney and Moore. I'd love to see it happen. Mark Teahen could stay in right field. Ross Gload could play first base. Billy Butler could play DH. And Sweeney could fill in at first or DH whenever needed.

David Riske signed a three-year, $13 million contract with Milwaukee. That's going to be a real blow to the Royals' bullpen, but that's the reason Moore signed Yasuhiko Yabuta. And the Royals are said to be interested in LaTroy Hawkins, who was 2-5 with a 3.42 ERA with the Rockies last season. Jeremy Affeldt is a free agent, and the Rockies are said to have offered him $4 million for two years, but he's thought to be seeking $16 million for four years. I'd be stunned if Moore was interested at that price (or maybe at any price).

The Jose Guillen signing has become a bit strange. According to a recent article by Bob Dutton, "ESPN created a stir by reporting union officials were negotiating with Major League officials on terms of a potential suspension for Guillen resulting from his alleged purchase of steroids and human growth hormone from May 2002 through June 2005." This is reported to have caught the Royals off-guard. I'm not sure how that's possible given this information also supplied by Dutton, "The San Francisco Chronicle reported last month it had obtained documents showing Guillen purchased $19,000 in steroids and HGH from a Florida anti-aging clinic under investigation for illegal drug sales." MLB says they don't negotiate discipline.

The Royals say they are unconcerned about Guillen's past, which beyond his alleged steroid usage, includes his much discussed spat with Mike Scioscia in 2004 and his "occasional outbursts" as Dutton calls them. But this signing is raising the eyebrows of fans and guys like Joe Posnanski. Here's a little of what he said: "I think it [the Guillen signing] was a mistake, though. I wish the Royals would have taken a chance on a young talent in a trade or gone crazy and tried to get some mega star like Miguel Cabrera here. We in Kansas City have seen these sorts of aging veteran moves backfire so many times over the last 15 years or so--think about Reggie Sanders, Juan Gonzalez, Chuck Knoblauch, Eli Marrero, Bip Roberts, Vince Coleman, Felix Jose, Jeff King and, of course, [Kevin] McReynolds himself."

As with every other free agent signing, we won't know the validity of this one until the Royals hit the field. I'm inclined to give Moore the benefit of the doubt given his gutsy Gil Meche signing last offseason, but I have all the same reservations that everybody else has.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

DeJesus Trade Rumors

Bob Dutton is reporting that Texas and Atlanta are interested in making a trade for David DeJesus. If the Royals sign Andruw Jones, a DeJesus trade seems likely. Dutton says that the Braves are offering 26 year-old lefty Chuck James for DeJesus. James has started 48 games for the Braves and he's worked out of the pen for nine games. Overall, he's 22-14 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.

Dutton is also saying that with the glut of outfielders, Mark Teahen may be moved to first base, which could spell doom for Ryan Shealy and make Ross Gload expendable since he's also a left-handed stick.

Royals Sign Guillen

If Dayton Moore was talking about looking past Jose Guillen as a tactic to catch his attention, it worked. The Royals and Guillen have agreed to a three-year $36 million deal and now the Royals have their power-hitting corner outfielder.

But they might not be done yet.

According to Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports, Moore might also "make a run at another free-agent outfielder, Andruw Jones."

Rosenthal also said the Royals are still in the bidding for Hiroki Kuroda.

If the Royals were to sign Jones, it will be interesting to see what happens next with the outfield. Would David DeJesus be dealt away? And what about Mark Teahen if DeJesus stays? Obviously, these would be great problems to have. Let's just see what happens.

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