Next up in our Needs and Luxuries series, the Royals. My projected 2008 setup is below.
C - John Buck
1B - Ross Gload/Billy Butler
2B - Mark Grudzielanek
SS - Tony Pena Jr.
3B - Alex Gordon
LF - Joey Gathright
CF - David DeJesus
RF - Mark Teahen
DH - Billy Butler/Mike Sweeney
SP - Gil Meche
SP - Brian Bannister
SP - Zack Greinke
SP - Kyle Davies
SP - Jorge De La Rosa/Billy Buckner/Luke Hochevar/Luke Hudson
Setup - David Riske
Closer - Joakim Soria
You have to like what Dayton Moore is doing with this club. They're looking to have their best record since '03 and definitely appear on the way up. Of course, like any rebuilding team, they have some needs.
One need the Royals have is power. They're dead last in the AL with a .392 SLG. To be fair, their stadium is not receptive to the longball. But the Royals don't hit for power on the road either. The good news is that Gordon and Butler both project as 30 home run guys in the near future. And Buck can hit 20. The bad news is that Mark Teahen's '06 power surge now looks like a mirage and the cupboard is otherwise bare. I don't think the next contending Royals team will have its corner outfielders combining for 16 home runs.
The Royals also need an injection of OBP but I'm less worried about that. Gordon will pick it up, and Emil Brown will hopefully be non-tendered. I also think Gload should be less of a regular and more of a bench player, so the team needs to decide if Butler can handle first base.
The team's 4.47 ERA isn't too bad; it's barely worse than that of the Yankees. Of course, most teams need pitching. The Royals should continue to stock up on young hurlers however possible. I liked the way Moore turned the Octavio Dotel rental into Davies. Maybe they can try it again with Milton Bradley, Mike Piazza, Matt Clement, Jon Lieber...I could go on. Hell, they could just sign Dotel again and flip him.
Rebuilding teams aren't known for having surpluses. That said I do like DeJesus and Riske as candidates to be flipped this winter or at the '08 trade deadline. DeJesus is signed reasonably through 2011, while Riske's '08 option for around $3MM will certainly be picked up. Both have their flaws but neither will kill you. The targets should be more young pitchers and maybe a corner type with pop. Perhaps Moore could get the Braves interested in DeJesus for Scott Thorman or Kala Kaaihue. Or if he can do better, fantastic.
Hopefully teams will look at DeJesus and Riske as lower cost alternatives to the free agent center fielders and late inning relievers.
I suppose another luxury could be an excess of first base types lacking the offense for the position, like Gload, Ryan Shealy, and Justin Huber. But the market for those guys is surely weak. Maybe a Thorman type would only add to that.
You can't call the starting pitching a luxury at present but you have to like the core of Meche, Bannister, and Greinke for the next few seasons. If Moore gets a third cheap guy to pan out, he can make a big free agent splash for one more veteran arm when the team is ready to contend.
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