On Tuesday the Kansas City Royals signed three veterans to minor league contracts. Joining the organization are OF Willy Taveras, left-handed reliever George Sherrill and right-handed reliever Dan Wheeler. All three have been invited to partake in Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona.
With 29 seasons of major league experience between them, if you follow baseball on even a cursory level you’re probably already aware of who they are and perhaps even what they could potentially bring to the table. Regardless, let’s take a look at each of them and how they could fit into the 2013 picture.
Taveras turns 31 on Christmas Day and in joining the Royals will play for his ninth organization. Since being signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Indians in 1999, he has spent time in the majors or minors for the Astros, Rockies, Phillies, Rangers, Reds, Braves and Nationals in addition to Cleveland. He last played in the major leagues back in 2010 for Washington and has a career line of 0.274/.320/.327 in 670 big league games. Taveras didn’t play in affilitated ball during the 2012 season but did hit 0.302/.336/.448 with Colorado Springs (AAA) in 2011.
Speed is his claim to fame and he used it to steal 195 bases in the big leagues – including a major league leading 68 bases back in 2008 with Colorado. He also swiped 260 bags during his time in the minors. In addition to being fleet of foot, Taveras does a reasonably good job of putting the ball in play with a 14.8 K%. However his value is limited by the fact he doesn’t draw walks, lacks notable on-base skills and is devoid of power. Defensively he is an above average fielder who has played almost his entire career in center.
As far as his potential impact on the Royals, the team currently has five outfielders on their 40-man roster and all of them (Cain, Gordon, Dyson, Lough and Francoeur) are at least three years younger. He’s not as fast as Dyson, especially at 31-years old, and can’t come close to the power that the other four have.
With the trade of Wil Myers, the release of Derrick Robinson and the assumed likelihood that David Lough finally gets his shot to stick as the team’s 4th outfielder, the Royals needed to add some Triple-A depth in the OF. And it’s organizational depth that Taveras has been signed to provide. Barring a spring training performance reminiscent of his 0.320/.367/.382 line from 2007 in Colorado, Werner Park in Omaha is where he will likely spend the bulk if not all of the 2013 season.