By Chad Rader
When Kansas City announced a "major baseball-related" announcement , I got a little excited and surfed around who could possibly be inked by the Royals. Carlos Beltran - nah, he's going to the big lights. Phil Hughes - ehhh, I'm not into 5.00+ ERAs. I hit the name Jason Vargas and thought "Has to be it." But "major"?
Thursday has come and gone, and while the signing doesn't seem "major", a four-year, $32 million deal for Kansas City certainly ranks as "major". Then instinct is to not get excited about the deal, and quite frankly, it isn't anything to get excited about.
But in the end, while perceived as "boring" than "major", it isn't a bad play by Kansas City.
- When on a budget and need a new/used car, the younger kid may buy the hot rod or slick car. But as you get smarter/older, you think "What will be most durable and last longer?" This appears to be a factor for Kansas City, as Vargas has averaged over 190 IP in the last four years. Jeremy Guthrie has averaged over 200 IP the last six years, and of course the real horse, James Shields, heaving 222+ IP over the last seven seasons.
For prior seasons, we watched the bullpen pitch admirably until about June/July, then they wore out or broke down. Last year, when Kansas City finally armed itself with three real starters at the top of the rotation, we saw what a rested bullpen can do. So adding Vargas with this strategy in mind checks out very soundly.
- Initially, feels like the Royals just signed the left-handed version of Guthrie.
In the four years ages 27-30
Guthrie: 4.06 ERA 118 strikeouts per year, 1.25 WHIP
Vargas: 3.97 124 strikeouts, per year, 1.27 WHIP
In the current market with blase starters out there, not bad for Kansas City.
- The contract has been analyzed by national pundits as too lengthy at four years. But guess what? If the Royals are to sign free agents, they have to go the extra mile. Yes, Shields and Ervin Santana arrived, but they were via trade. Signing Guthrie, Kansas City went extra. When KC had to land Gil Meche, they had to throw extra at him. Its the position the Royals are in - and I don't even think until this year, Vargas would've considered the Royals even at four years.
Until the Royals are division title winners, and consistently, Kansas City has to click the checkbox next to the extra year on the contract. Its the better approach than clicking an extra $3 million/year. Worst case, KC likely can trade a Vargas or Guthrie by the end of the contract if they really wish.
Plus, who's really out there? Josh Johnson has been injury prone over his years. Hughes has posted two seasons over 5.00 ERA in the past three years. Tim Hudson (38) is nearly as old as me, and just got two years at $11.5 million per year. Now the baseball world is clamoring over Ricky Nolasco and Bronson Arroyo? Yeah, Kansas City did good with its money here.
- Now with the reasonable signing, Kansas City needs to land a 2B and/or OF. Then say the Royals bring in Vargas, Kendrick and whomever, Kansas City can feel it has a very good, well-rounded club.
- Overall, feels like Kansas City has stacked itself with veteran No. 4 starters in Guthrie and Vargas. And maybe that's their plan - just some inning eaters who post a 4.00 ERA. They can provide stability until the All-Star Break, when hopefully a Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura takes the next step and then propels themselves as a No. 2 starter. Or hopefully, a No. 2 and No. 3 starter.
So let's say, if pitching potential for once strikes in Kansas City's favor, the rotation by August looks like this:
Or even Ventura above as the No. 3 - provided they are very stellar, say 3.35 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and around K/IP. Then you're onto something.
For the most part, Dayton Moore has been a solid judge of pitching. Shields has been everything as advertised. Santana was a real feather in the cap. A hiccup called Jonathan Sanchez, he quickly flipped into Guthrie via trade. And the bullpen has usually been pretty good over the years - until the fatigue factor sets in - until last year.
So while the Vargas deal appears boring, for a change, its time to trust Moore in this situation. And I can see the strategy of a safe, innings pitcher while the younger, promising guys come along and also saves the bullpen while putting them in the right innings of the 7th, 8th, and 9th.
Because sometimes boring isn't exciting. It isn't flashy. It doesn't go 180 MPH, but can get you 180,000 miles. And sometimes, boring does win.
By Chad Rader
The Royals season winds down, as with five games to go and 4.0 games out, the dreams of a postseason berth have faded.
A fun season indeed - who in early June would've imagined us clinging to the TV or radio or clicking refresh on the internet for Royals updates while scoreboard watching other teams in the league?
A successful, fun year indeed!
But now the real work starts, and will be the biggest Royals offseason in ages. The next few months will be as important to watch as from August through September.
Kansas City's window with Hosmer, Moustakas, Gordon, Butler and the gang is only so big, especially as a small market team. Fans are geeked up about this past season and that's fine, but it feels like a chance for the postseason was missed. Will the Yankees really be this bad after another year of reloading their roster? If not, then that may leave just one Wild Card slot in realistic distance to grab.
But the Royals could get there for the final Wild Card, or even looking back at this year, with a 9-14 April, been around the AL Central talk.
Kansas City will need to somehow pull off the following:
1) Evaluate Ned Yost.
In the second half, Kansas City were 40-24 (to this point), 14-7 in September when the pressure was on and enjoyed five of six winning months. But the Royals still suffered from a poor offense and if rumors are true that Yost pretty much accounted for Kevin Seitzer's departure as hitting coach, that's a major strike. As well as other decisions (Chris Getz, late-game decisions, etc).
However, the Royals are too invested with Yost and unless an OBVIOUS choice appears,and quick, Kansas City will have to commit to Yost by say late October or November. Obviously at 40-24, that's pretty good.
But does it feel like Ned is the one to lead the Royals to the playoffs? To the World Series, when pitch by pitch decisions are crucial in playoff baseball?
More importantly, as touted before the year, with Jim Leyland and Terry Francona in the division, KC is already starting in third place. And guess where they finished. Both of those clubs will try to improve as well this offseason, and have no-brainers in the dugout. So will the standings change?
KC is in a good spot that Yost is just fine, and unless an obvious upgrade like Tony LaRussa comes out of retirement or Mike Scioscia is let go by Anaheim/Los Angeles/whatever they are this year, Ned will be in the dugout in 2014.
2) Upgrade in RF/CF
The Royals have the flexibility to not just look for a rightfielder, but could go with a centerfielder if the market was better to grab a reasonably better CF than overpay for a RF. This discussion came on The Program, sparked by Bob Dutton's writing in the Kansas City Star on Tuesday. But the Royals could have options to upgrade CF or even LF, if Gordon can move to RF.
The likely play is to leave Gordon in left, and find a darn good RF. But how many of those are just lying around? The Cain-to-rightfield option would give Kansas City more options to find a centerfielder as well. Granted, Cain won't have the typical "cannon" in rightfield, but the team range in the outfield would be outstanding.
Much like the next position, we'll look into particular names in a month or less...
3) Upgrade at 2B
Everyone knew this last February. Let's just hope Dayton Moore does something about it by this February.
4) Frontline starter
Yeah, the list is growing, but needed. Keep in mind, "the window is now" and to tinker with Jeremy Guthrie as your No. 2, or fool yourself into Bruce Chen as a No. 3, or rely solely on Duffy, Ventura, and Zimmer or other youngsters as the No. 3-4-5 is really rolling the dice. Great two years ago, but the time is NOW.
Trades like this offseason for an Ervin Santana with 1-2 years left on the contract are out there. Signing a very good starter to just a 1-2 year deal off injury or bad recent performance (like Santana was in 2012) are out there. Going all-in and giving a 5-year deal in this market is NOT the answer, even as much as we like Ervin Santana. Now, willing to overpay Santana for just a 2-year deal? Sure. But this is Ervin's time to cash in on a lifetime setting, 5-year deal that he can retire after this contract, so that option is likely out the window.
Regardless, having Shields-New SP-Guthrie-Duffy-Ventura looks mighty attractive, and by season's end, Guthrie may well be the No. 5. And keep in mind, by season's end, the James Shields questions will come, will he be signed? Who's going to replace him?
And if you like Shields better than Santana, who would you rather push $20 million/year at for five years?
Getting a legit No. 2 starter for what should be the playoff ready team is essential.
5) Ba-bye to Chen, Hochevar?
Yes, both have been great this year. But Hochevar goes into arbitration and do you want Kansas City to devote $5+ million to a reliever who's not a closer? Dayton Moore has done a good job over the years building bullpens, so you'd think he could find someone for $3 million less somehow, whether via farm, trade or signing.
Ditto with Chen. Yes, he's been fantastic. But the problem is, even as the role players or No. 5 starters start improving, their market value increases and Kansas City or someone has to pay them. Would you rather put $12 million into Chen and Hochevar, or push that towards a No. 2 starter, and find another reliever?
I have a feeling, if KC brought back Hochevar this year at $5 million, they'll bring him back this offseason as well. Not a bad thing, but in the spreadsheet, is that the best money spent?
All this will require a few things. Getting the Glasses bump up payroll. Moore to strike a few deals in another very busy offseason for him. Even if there is just 1-2 major moves, there was probably weeks or months to get to that point.
And the whole time, Kansas City will be clicking refresh, watching TV and radio for the updates on the Royals offseason activity.
Isn't this fun?
By Chad Rader
The Royals and Kansas City fans got a cold bucket of reality splashed on their backs on Thursday night.
Kansas City enjoyed a fun run, and still can chalk 2013 as a very good season - and its far from over - but the Royals truly aren't a playoff team. This was evidenced in Thursday's opener at Detroit.
You see a lineup card, filled with Chris Getz, Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson and two guys picked up in last 10 days, Justin Maxwell and Emilio Bonifacio. Stack that against Fielder, Cabrera, Hunter, Jackson ... I almost laughed, "That's the lineup we start off the big AL Central showdown..."
My intramural team had more pop than that. And I'm talking about the co-rec squad.
Yes, the Royals had injuries (Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain) and an "injury" (Miguel Tejada) that predicated some of the feeble lineup insertions. But playoff teams have a solid bat off the bench. Normally, that would've been Tejada for Moustakas, but...
The month of May really hosed the Royals - one month can't win you a division, but can certainly lose it - and any glimmer of Wild Card can be looked at the Miami series. Yeah, winning 2 of 3 instead of a sweep is realistic. But losing 2 of 3. "Well, its just one game in the standings".
a) In playoff races, EVERY game counts
b) The Royals aren't that good to give away games and make them up later
Basically, the Royals are a .500 team, +/- 4 or 5 games in either direction. Applause for that. But besides that, I laughed when fans said "It's great to be in a pennant race!" That's like saying "It's great to be on a shopping spree!" as you window shop on the Plaza.
You're 7+ games out of the division lead behind the defending AL champs, or 4 to 5 games out of the Wild Card ... behind FOUR teams. Not all are going to be cold, and the Royals aren't going to win 17 of 20 every three weeks.
That's not a pennant race. That's a fun run to a season.
Overall, the fact that KC showed signs of getting over .500 is good. If they truly go for it in 2014, then it all makes sense. Pick up another veteran pitcher on a reasonable salary like Santana. Trade for a similar situation for a RF or 2B. Then we're talking.
Plus the Royals front office, fans and more saw what happens with real, legit pitching. You can win games. You can stay around in the race. Imagine a real offense what the Royals could do?
I read a few disgruntled fan emails tonight already, calling the season a disaster. No, its not. Or that Dayton Moore really sold out. Eh, you have to go for it sometimes (Myers trade).
Hanging on to Santana is fine, as the Royals will get a compensatory first round pick AND a pick after the first round. HOWEVER, Dayton Moore CAN'T DRAFT! So may as well got unlimited wooden nickels.
Win, lose or draw, there's still a lot to the season, and Royals fans have got their money's worth. Even if the Detroit series featured a lineup worth pennies.
By Chad Rader
The bells have sounded. Out they come. The second guessers of the James Shields trade officially can race out of hiding, with Wil Myers being called up this week, and Jake Odorizzi making his second trip to Tampa as well.
This discussion has been argued ad nauseam on all shows on Sports Radio 810 WHB, and doesn't need deep analysis here. However, the watch has started, and will look bad with the Royals lack of offense. But where would the Royals be without James Shields and Wade Davis' better pitching lately? The Royals have a chance this summer, and wouldn't even be sniffing .500 without those two.
Thanks to the Royals recent surge back from the doldrums, it should be a more exciting summer besides talking over and over about Chiefs camp, college football previews and the usual dead period from June to August.
Now we can actually talk about a questionable pitching change in the seventh, a base running blunder in the ninth or a timely, game-winning hit in the eighth - and know they made a difference! Hopefully the Royals stay in the race, because while a chance for the NFL playoffs or a quest for a Big 12 title is definitely fun, the day-in, day-out drama of a pennant race adds up to a great experience as a fan like no other...
I haven't had a chance to watch the NBA Finals until Tuesday, and boy, did I pick a great time to find some time with the kids in bed and watch the final quarter + overtime. Yeah, its great that the Finals go to a Game 7, but we all have seen the team who - up 3 to 2 in the series - lose Game 6 and get blown out in Game 7. Especially on the road. We saw it with St. Louis up 3 games to 1 in this past NLCS, go back to San Francisco and lose Game 6, and get blitzed in the finale. We don't have to recollect too hard to remember the famous Game 6 for St. Louis here in Kansas City in 1985, and the results in Game 7.
So while we can look at Miami's win-one, lose-one alternating in the past three playoff series, a Heat blowout should be in order.
But I would find it very ironic on the last year of David Stern's reign of the NBA and his dislike for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, that he would have to hand over his final NBA trophy to ... the Spurs.
How hard is it at the Major League level to know how to run bases? Honestly, there's been better coaching in city league softball games. Junior high baseball. Yes, a blunder here or there, but the entire Cleveland series? The Royals offensive margin for error is slim, and giving away outs is inexcusable.
By Chad Rader
"If you dream a little bit here, Willie drags a bunt, steals second and maybe get to George and A.O. with a chance to tie the game."
Fred White brought 25 years of his calling a game as he saw, and what he thought, on the air. his broadcast could be about the game, recollecting a memory, chuckling about a beach ball tossed in the stands or envisioning aloud a potential Royals rally.
No matter who you were, Fred always had a moment to tell a story. He'd ask where you're from, and he'd have a story about an athlete or team from that area.
Like many, I listened to Denny and Fred for years, the centerpiece of my childhood Royals memories.
Fred White may not have been a national broadcasting icon, or even a great broadcaster in the sound of a booming, strong voice. But he was a local icon and truly cared about the area and the local teams, from Division II Washburn to the Big XII to the Kansas City Royals. Fred was great story teller, and just told his story of a game on the air. Or basically set up a Paul Splittorff or whomever his color man was, basketball or baseball.
He was the same in person. I worked with him at the Royals, just as he started his role overseeing Royals alumni, a perfect fit for him. If I ever needed a break, I'd stop by his office and ask "So Fred, tell me about the 1976 playoff team." Twenty minutes and four stories later, you felt like you heard a chapter from a secret, hidden book. Curt Nelson, now the Royals historian who oversaw the Royals Hall of Fame, would also stop in with me and catch a piece of the audio vault of Royals lore, perhaps some of which made the Hall of Fame in left field.
Many times, Fred would also stop by office and start out "Did I ever tell you about who K-State was to hire after Lon Kruger left?" Fifteen minutes later, you learned it was to be Eddie Sutton, but on a cross up, Dana Altman was hired. Or other insight - whether true, off the record or just in Fred's head - was entertaining nonetheless.
For me, it felt like I was able to step back to a magical time, when the Royals were perennial playoff bound, to hear tales about a game I remember when I was 14, staying up in bed listening to Fred and Denny call. Or behind the scenes of area local college athletics. Or life on the road or in the broadcast booth. Many I can't recall now, or if I didn't, don't need to recite. But all fun, and always good to hear from Fred.
And it always seemed like Fred was just hanging out, having a good time telling stories, on air, or in person.
I'm certain Fred could dream up a tale for a win tonight. "A Dyson bunt, a hit by Hosmer, and if the Royals can just get to Butler, well ..."
By Chad Rader
Kansas City didn't mess around trying to bolster its offensive line.
The Chiefs took offensive tackle Eric Fisher of Central Michigan with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Fisher stands at 6-foot-7, 306 pounds and should start at either left or right tackle, depending on the Chiefs conclusion with current left tackle Branden Albert.
Fisher was just the third offensive tackle selected No. 1 overall since the NFL merger (Orlando Pace, 1997; Jake Long, 2008). New Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey selected Fisher over All-American Luke Joeckel, the Texas A&M offensive tackle many thought KC would select. Joeckel went No. 2 to Jacksonvile.
"Both of them are fine football players. You're looking at two fine players. (Eric's) overall makeup, we had a good feeling about," said Kansas City coach Andy Reid.
"You'll see he is focused. You just get that sense that he is with you. When we worked him out, he's no nonsense, let's get to work... He understood our offense well. He's not lacking for gigabytes. He has enough of that to hang with you."
Fisher, a first-team All-MAC selection, helped lead Central Michigan to a Little Caesers Bowl win as a senior. Despite playing in the MAC, Kansas City wasn't afraid to take him over Joeckel, who succeeded in the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference in his collegiate career.
"He's a Pro Bowl left tackle," touted NFL guru Mike Mayock on the NFL Network. "I put on the tape against Michigan State where he pitched a shutout, and against Iowa where he pitched a shutout. I thought he had as good a week as anyone in Mobile. It shut up the critics that he arrived."
Arriving at the podium in Radio City Music Hall with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as the No. 1 pick left Fisher pinching himself.
"I don't know what's going on right now," Fisher told NFL Network following the pick. "This is so hard to process that I'm the number one pick in the NFL Draft, it's a dream come true. It's hard to believe right now."
But Fisher called his shot at the NFL Combine in Mobile that he'd be the top selection come Thursday night.
" I did. That was my goal. The fact that just happened, I have to say I'm proud of myself for going through the process," Fisher said. "I've had so much support, so many people that have impacted my life were behind me the whole time."
Kansas City went to the wire on the pick, but Reid stated it wasn't that the Chiefs were working on a last-minute trade.
"We didn't have any trade offers working. We're very happy with Eric. We targeted him and felt very strong about him. This kid is a person that's a football player."
With a potential trade of incumbent starter Branden Albert still looming, the future of where Fisher will play on the Chiefs offensive line remains open.
"That doesn't bother me where he plays, because he's a good football player," Reid said. "We'll put the best five up there. (At Philadelphia), we picked Shane Andrews as a tackle and he started at guard his first year. He eventually moved to tackle."
Chiefs fans hope that Fisher will emerge as a force at tackle for years, as since John Alt was selected in the first round in 1984, and played 13 Ring of Honor seasons in Kansas City, the Chiefs have selected six first-round offensive tackles, none playing longer than five years.
But none selected higher than Fisher. Or any player for that matter.
There are no games scheduled for today.
There are no games scheduled for today.
There are no games scheduled for today.