Yesterday, Matthew Pouliot published the second half (51-111) of his Top-111 MLB free agent list over on Hardball Talk. While we can all dream that our Royals will target a handful of players from the top of the first half (1-50), reality is that Dayton Moore will be rummaging through the bargain bin with the misguided hope that he can catch lightning in a bottle.
It’s okay to take that approach and take some chances on a player or two as long as it’s not the only way you intend to acquire talent. Of the 60 or so players that made the second half of Pouliot’s list, nine of them have made their way through Kansas City at some point. At the time they were acquired, some of these players obviously had higher stock than they do now, while other acquisitions were truly of the wing-and-a-prayer variety.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce shall we?
#107 Ramon Ramirez:
He made his way to KC from Colorado on March 26th, 2008 for a PTBNL and spent the entire season in the Royals bullpen accumulating a 2.64 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 70-31 SO-to-BB and 164 ERA+ in 71.2 IP. It was his only year in the organization as he was flipped to Boston for Coco Crisp a few weeks after the playoffs came to a close. Those are all positives (relatively speaking). Of course the player to be named wound up being left-handed starter Jorge De La Rosa. A player who, despite injuries, pitched at or above league average for four straight seasons (2008-2011) in the Rockies rotation.
#102 Jonathan Sanchez:
Almost exactly a year ago, Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo were the return on the offseason trade that sent Melky Cabrera to San Francisco. At the time, the deal made sense on a lot of levels, but it absolutely blew up in Dayton’s face. Melky was an All-Star and would have won the NL batting title were it not for the positive drug test and subsequent 50-game suspension. On July 20th, Moore fleeced the Rockies in the deal that brought Guthrie to KC and sent Sanchez to the rarefied air of Coors field. Royals fans witnessed putrid in his purest form from Sanchez who racked up a 7.76 ERA, 2.04 WHIP and a 52 ERA+ in 12 starts that made even Sidney Ponson cringe. Amazingly Jonathan was even worse with the Rockies with a 9.53 ERA, 2.29 WHIP and 52 ERA+ in 3 starts. Guthrie for Sanchez may be one of the greatest trades of all time but it only mitigates the initial Cabrera deal that was a disaster.
#98 Jeff Francis:
Yet another pitcher to spend just a year with the Royals, and one that also has ties to the Rockies organization. A free agent signing in January 2011, Francis started 31 games in KC and came within shouting distance of 200 innings. He gave up 224 hits in 183.0 innings while striking out just 91 batters. Francis ate innings, but his 86 ERA+ made him the 4th best starter of the 5 that made 20 or more starts for the team behind Paulino, Chen, and yes even Luke Hochevar.
#92 Miguel Olivo:
Dayton signed Olivo as a free agent back in December of 2007. He spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Royals, and all in all more than earned the $4.75 million the team paid him for his services. Miguel played in 198 games, was fairly solid defensively and basically league average at the plate (97 OPS+) with 35 HR. For a catcher it was a nice return on their investment and he was an easy guy to root for which was a bonus. Unfortunately for Miguel his production has declined in each of the three seasons since he left the Royals.
#70 Raul Ibanez:
It’s hard to believe but it’s already been more than 10 years since the Royals picked Ibanez up off the free agent scrap heap back in January of 2001. His last year in Seattle (2000) he finished with an OPS+ of 64 but was reborn in KC. He spent three seasons with the Royals and was willing to stay, but the organization wouldn’t add a extra year on to the proposed extension and he wound up back in Seattle. Ibanez hit 0.291/.347/.492 in 398 games for Kansas City and had an above average OPS+ in each of his seasons with the team. In eight of the nine seasons since leaving town he’s been above league average at the plate and topped 30 HR twice (2006 and 2009).
#61 Kyle Farnsworth:
Signed as a free agent on December 13th, 2008, Farnsworth was a perfect example of Moore’s penchant for being overly aggressive in the market. Dayton signed the right-handed reliever to a 2-year deal worth $8.75 million despite lukewarm (at best) interest from other teams. Farnsworth logged 82.0 innings with a 3.40 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 78-26 SO-to-BB in his time with the Royals and was pretty good all things considered, but he did have a knack for imploding in high-pressure situations. He and Rick Ankiel were dealt to Atlanta at the trade deadline in July of the 2010 season. Kansas City received Jesse Chavez and Gregor Blanco in the deal but the real prize was diminutive lefty reliever Tim Collins who looks to be a long term bullpen asset for the team.
#56 J.P. Howell:
1st round pick (31st overall) of the Royals in the 2004 draft, Howell made his major league debut in Kansas City the following season and made 15 starts for the team in the process. The results were rather poor – 6.19 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and a 54-39 SO-to-BB in 72.2 innings but he was just 22 at the time and a year removed from pitching at the University of Texas. Howell was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays on June 20th, 2006 in exchange for Joey Gathright and Fernando Cortez. While neither of those two did much of anything at the major league level, Howell’s career took off in 2008 when the Rays moved him to the bullpen. He did miss the 2010 season with an arm injury and struggled in 2011, but he looked to be almost fully back to form in 2012.
#52 Joakim Soria:
Soria is one of the best Rule 5 draft success stories of the last 20 years and there’s no question he gave the Royals everything he had in his time with the team. Though he missed all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery back in April, Soria will have no shortage of suitors this offseason. In 315.1 innings with Kansas City, he’s turned in a 2.40 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 341-87 SO-to-BB and an ERA+ of 181. He also racked up 160 saves in five seasons (2007-2011) which ranks third in team history. With the Royals bullpen bursting with young and talented arms, Soria’s time with the team is most likely at an end but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he signed and came back.
#51 Jeff Keppinger:
If you blinked back in 2006, there is a good chance you missed the Jeff Keppinger era in Kansas City. He played in 22 games with the Royals and hit 0.267/.323/.400 while manning 1B, 2B, 3B and LF at various times. Keppinger was acquired by shipping Ruben Gotay to the New York Mets on July 19th, 2006. Despite his solid performance in KC, Keppinger was traded the following January to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for RHP Russ Haltiwanger. If you’ve never heard of Haltiwanger, it’s okay. He never made it past high-A Wilmington and was done after the 2008 season. Keppinger on the other hand, has turned into a quality major league player and is coming off a season that saw him hit 0.325/.367/.439 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Oddly enough if you look at how things panned out with the players listed above, the Royals have actually done fairly well in the moves involved – better than I anticipated when I started this article anyway. The J.P. Howell trade stings a bit, but had he remained in KC I have zero belief that the team would have moved him to the bullpen as the Rays did. Other than that there are more hits than misses, but the Jonathan Sanchez deal is an albatross weighing things down overall.