Kansas City Royals Building Depth But Still Lack Vital Pieces

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July 21, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Seattle Mariners left fielder Carlos Peguero (4) hits a single in the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Seattle Mariners defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively, the acquisition of Carlos Peguero is a bit of head-scratcher given that he now becomes the 7th outfielder on the roster, one of four competing to lock-down the Royals fourth outfield slot. Peguero is a monster of a man standing 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighing in at a healthy 260lbs so he was clearly signed in an effort to provide some offensive firepower.

He put up decent numbers in AAA Tacoma last year hitting 19 home runs and driving in 83 while hitting a respectable.260 but he has some substantial holes in his game that make him incompatible with the Royals philosophy to date; he strikes out at a prolific rate (156 strikeouts in only 118 games last season), he lacks any real speed, and he’s a sub-par defender.

It’s just hard to see him making the squad with that kind of baggage. Moreover, he’s out of minor league options so he must make the squad or the Royals will be forced to explore other options for his future within the organization.

One thing is for sure, Peguero does not represent the “impact bat” so many felt the Royals needed to acquire this off-season.

Objectively speaking, the Royals would appear to be primed for an exciting season with a very talented roster. They sport the league’s best bullpen, the league’s best defense, and the league’s most prolific running game.

Questions still loom over the offense but they are not major unknowns like in past years and there is genuine reason to be optimistic they will improve offensively.

If we assume even a moderate level of offensive progression for players like Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar, and if Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante put up just average years for them, the Royals will likely improve significantly offensively.

If we also see Alex Gordon’s numbers jump due to his new slot in the heart of the lineup and Billy Butler return to his 2012 numbers now that he’s allegedly got better protection around him, we could even see a prolific offense. Of course, there’s more than one “if” in there but none of those things is a stretch of epic proportions and all are realistically possible.

I just can’t help shake the idea that despite GM Dayton Moore’s exceptional efforts thus far this off-season, it still feels like the Royals have some work to do. In particular, they need to lock down a front-end starting pitcher.

While the organization is replete with potential young contributors to the rotation between Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, and Kyle Zimmer, let’s face it, the odds of recreating the magic of 1985 when fellow 23-year olds Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza, and 20-year old Brett Saberhagen all three emerged as foundational pieces of the Royals staff, are not good.

Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It just doesn’t happen that often that three youngsters emerge to play key roles in the starting rotation a playoff caliber team and it would be foolish to think it will happen this year.

If I were Royals GM for a day, I would have a hard time walking away from a one-year offer to the likes of Pittsburgh’s AJ Burnett or Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo. Both are proven veterans with playoff experience who can be depended upon over the long haul and both, at times, have even been capable front-end starters.

Cleveland’s Ubaldo Jimenez is less appealing in that he would cost the Royals a draft pick but it may be worth it if he could produce on par with what Ervin Santana did last season. Of course, Santana is still a viable option at this point, especially if his dollar and year demands go down.

We all know draft picks are truly a crap-shoot in baseball so it would be difficult not to be pleased with either one of those two. Plus, if the Royals sign Jimenez there is the added benefit of taking him out of Cleveland’s rotation thus weakening a divisional competitor.

The impact of signing a solid front-end starter would make a definitive statement to the rest of the division and more importantly, to the fans, that the Royals time to win is now. It would formally close the book on the “it takes time”, the “we need to be patient” and the “it’s a process” commentary that have come to be staples of the Royals management in recent years.

Of course, it’s always hard to gauge the value of making that kind of statement, particularly if it is going to cost in excess of $15M to do it and there are no guarantees but in the final analysis, as “the great” Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game.” Now is the Royals time Dayton, seize it!

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