Mike Moustakas Rumors

Silverman’s Latest: Greinke, Royals, Rays, Blue Jays

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Michael Silverman of The Boston Herald that he was unsure if he'd be able to acquire Miguel Cabrera (and Dontrelle Willis) in 2007. “A lot of clubs were involved and I didn’t think it was going to work for us for where we were financially,” said Dombrowski. “Once we sat down with the Marlins, it took us just a day to work out that deal. It happened very fast.”

Here are Silverman's rumors…

Royals Open To Trading Prospects

With baseball's best farm system at his disposal, Royals GM Dayton Moore acknowledged that he's willing to trade prospects for pitching, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Dutton says Moore would like to find a deal similar to the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, where the Indians acquired a talented, controllable starter in exchange for prospects.

"We'll be aggressive in trades," Moore said, looking ahead to the offseason. “We'll try to make a trade or two that helps us. We have to look internally first, but then we have to look at trades. Then, finally, we have to look at free agency. We’ll explore all of those options…. We have a minor league system that's ranked pretty good. So we'll see what's out there. We're a pitcher or two away."

This spring, Baseball America said Kansas City's minor league system was "among the best we've seen," with nine Royals ranking among BA's top 100 prospects. So while there's no doubt that the Royals have the depth to make such a move, you could contest Moore's assertion that the club is only "a pitcher or two away." Even in a weak AL Central division, with some of their youngsters starting to make an impact in the bigs, the Royals are 25 games below .500 this season.

Still, according to Dutton, club officials believe that the rotation doesn't need to be overhauled for 2012, and that adding a top-of-the-rotation starter to their current core is the key for a "rapid rise" in the standings.

"What we need, if we're going to win a championship," one official said. "Is somebody who can match up with [Justin] Verlander and [C.C.] Sabathia and [Josh] Beckett."

ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider link) identifies the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Braves as teams who might match up with the Royals, specifically naming Mike Moustakas as a player who could interest Atlanta as a successor to Chipper Jones at third base.

Olney On Yankees, A’s, Moustakas

The Yankees have lost reliever after reliever to the disabled list this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to rush top pitching prospects like Manny Banuelos to the Bronx. GM Brian Cashman told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that he’ll try to strengthen the team’s bullpen in other ways. Here are the rest of Olney's rumors:

  • Triple-A reliever Kevin Whelan could be an option for the Yankees, who have a depleted bullpen instead of the dominant one they expected after the offseason.
  • Olney says turnover was inevitable for the A’s “because the franchise continues to rot day by day.” Oakland’s ballpark situation remains unclear and Olney says the franchise will continue to “rot” until there’s resolution on that front.
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore told Olney that the time is right for top prospect Mike Moustakas to play in the big leagues. “Ned [Yost, the manager] wanted to get another bat in here, and our people feel like he's ready," Moore said. Moustakas has a .287/.347/.498 line with ten homers at Triple-A and he still has enough time to pick up a few hundred MLB plate appearances this year.

Update On The Timing Of Top Prospects’ Debuts

Teams like saving money and extending their control over top young players. Why wouldn't they? Having impact players on affordable contracts simplifies a GM's job. As a result, teams call top young players up strategically every season to control their service time and, in doing so, delay their free agency and/or limit their earnings.

Though service time is a consideration all season long, it's most evident at two times: in April and again midseason, around early June. If teams wait until a few weeks after the season has begun to call a prospect up for his MLB debut, the player doesn't collect a full year of service time, which delays his free agency by a year.

The precise date until which teams must wait before calling prospects up varies each year and according to whether players are on the 40-man roster. Now that we're nearly three weeks into the season, even prospects on the 40-man roster can be called up, since they have spent the requisite 20-day period in the minor leagues. 

None of the following prospects have big league service time, which means that their teams can call them up at any point and keep them through the 2017 season, if not longer: Dustin Ackley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Julio Teheran, Manny Banuelos, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.

On the other hand, Michael Pineda, Zach Britton and Brandon Belt are now in the majors, picking up service time. Because those players are now on MLB rosters, they're currently on track to hit free agency after the 2016 season. However, if their respective teams option them to the minors for 20 days or more, their path to free agency could be slowed as well (that's an immediate possibility for Belt and a long-term one for the pair of impressive rookie hurlers).

That may sounds complicated, but it's the easy part. Later this spring, in late May and early June, the guessing game begins. Teams do not (and can not) know exactly when future cutoffs for super two status will be, so if they want to play it safe and ensure that prospects like Montero and Ackley only go to arbitration three times, they'll want to wait until at least the middle of June before calling them up.

Moore On Butler, Moustakas, Hosmer, Ka’aihue

Royals GM Dayton Moore told John Sickels of Minor League Ball that it takes time to develop prospects and turn them into major leaguers. Moore says he understands fans' concerns about the Royals' recent history of losing and shares their excitement about the players currently in the Royals' highly touted system. Here are the details:

  • Moore says players can take a few years to develop, pointing to Billy Butler. The Royals extended Butler earlier in the year because he has improved every year and they "think he's about to take that to another level."
  • Hitters take time to develop, since it's hard for them "to develop beyond their level of competition." In other words they need to face good pitching to learn to hit it. 
  • The Royals are "very optimistic" about Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, partly because the two top prospects have experienced failure.
  • Moustakas "can stick at third base, no question," according to Moore, who likes the infielder's arm and body control.
  • Hosmer and Moustakas could push Kila Ka'aihue into a reserve role, but the Royals say he's capable of more. "We think he can hit .240-.260, hit 20-25 homers, .370 OBP," Moore said. "It will be a nice problem fitting all these guys in the lineup."
  • Christian Colon, the team's top pick in 2010, "can be an Orlando Cabrera type at short, or a Placido Polanco if he moves to second," Moore said.
  • Moore says the Royals need more speed and athleticism. The GM says his ideal team would have a center fielder like Adam Jones or Torii Hunter - someone with speed, defense and power.

Royals Notes: Moustakas, Hosmer, Ka’aihue, Young

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star answered a number of Royals-related questions during an online chat with fans today.  Here are a few of the more notable items…

  • The Royals' highly-touted farm system has more depth than ever, so Dutton explains that this wave of prospects will be different than past (failed) "youth movements" in Kansas City.  "Will some guys flop?  Absolutely," Dutton writes.  "But the depth is so good that not ALL of them will flop.  Some should be really good."
  • Dutton thinks Mike Moustakas will be in the majors by June, but Eric Hosmer may be a September call-up at best since K.C. wants to give Kila Ka'aihue "an extended look."
  • Speaking of Ka'aihue, Dutton notes that if Hosmer lives up to expectations, the question for Kansas City becomes whether Ka'aihue or Billy Butler is the better long-term DH.  You'd expect Butler would have the edge given his proven hitting abilty and recent contract extension, but that team-friendly deal (four years/$30MM, plus a 2015 team option) could make Butler very attractive on the trade market.
  • Moustakas' arrival could turn Wilson Betemit into "trade bait," but Dutton notes that Betemit could take over at second if Chris Getz can't handle the job.
  • The Royals have no interest in Michael Young.  He's both too costly and would block "high-quality alternatives" from the minors at various infield positions.
  • "The Royals appear committed to opening the season with Melky Cabrera in center," Dutton writes.  Kansas City signed Cabrera before they acquired Lorenzo Cain from Milwaukee, but Dutton notes that Cain could he called up from the minors should he play well.  Cabrera is only slated to earn $1.25MM in 2011, so the Royals wouldn't be sending a lot of money to the bench if Cain usurped the center field job.  Dutton mentions later in the chat that the Royals can be flexible with Cain since he has minor league options left.
  • Dutton thinks the Blue Jays and Braves will regret trading minor league left-hander Tim Collins.  The 21-year-old was sent to Atlanta in the Yunel Escobar deal last summer and then became a Royal at the trade deadline as part of the package that sent Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel to the Braves.
  • "It's a long shot" that the Royals would try to sign Zack Greinke after the right-hander's contract expires after 2012.

Royals Notes: Kendall, May, Francoeur

The Royals are having a tough season at the major league level, but their minor leaguers are playing extremely well. Today's news and developments are no exception to the year's trend:

  • Jason Kendall will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, according to MLB.com's Dick Kaegel. The catcher's under contract with Kansas City for 2011, but he won't be back until early next season, since the recovery time is at least eight months.
  • The Royals called on catcher Lucas May, according to a team press release. The Royals obtained May in July when they sent Scott Podsednik to Los Angeles. When the Royals acquired May, GM Dayton Moore called him a "slam dunk MLB catcher" in some capacity.
  • The Royals named third baseman Mike Moustakas and left-hander John Lamb minor league hitter and pitcher of the year, respectively. Moustakas raked in the upper minors this year, hitting 34 homers, posting a 1.008 OPS and driving in over a run per game as a 21-year-old. Lamb wasn't too bad, either, posting a 2.33 ERA across three levels and striking out more than one batter per inning.
  • Speaking of future Royals, one NL official guaranteed to Newsday's Ken Davidoff that Jeff Francoeur will play for Kansas City in 2011 (Twitter link). The Rangers technically control Francoeur's right's next year, but they'll likely non-tender him, so the Royals, who have appeared interested before, will likely have a shot at signing the outfielder.