Kansas City Royals fans should be very pleased with the offseason that general manager Dayton Moore has had to this point. Even though we are only in mid-December, the Royals have made a few very nice moves to upgrade their roster. The best thing about what the Royals have done is that they haven’t fallen into the trap of trading away elite prospect talent to acquire immediate help at the MLB level.
We all know why I included the previous sentence into this piece — of course I’m referring to the blockbuster trade Moore made last offseason with the Tampa Bay Rays. In case you don’t remember the trade, Moore decided it was a good idea to trade one of baseball’s best prospects, Wil Myers, along with right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi and lefty Mike Montgomery to the Rays in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.
It made sense at the time, at least in Moore’s mind, because the Royals seemed to be just an elite pitcher or two away from being legitimate contenders. Unfortunately, some of their young players didn’t perform well in 2013 (I’m talking about you, Mike Moustakas), leading to a somewhat disappointing season.
The difference this offseason is that the Royals have taken a free agency approach to upgrading their team for the most part. They signed lefty starting pitcher Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal very early in the offseason — a deal that seemed bad at the time, but when looking at some of the other contracts given to pitchers this offseason, it doesn’t look nearly as bad. Vargas is far from a front-line starter. In fact, he is extremely average.
Another very intelligent move made by Moore and the Royals was signing second baseman Omar Infante to a four-year, $30 million deal. Infante is another player that is just a bit above average. However, compared to other second baseman, he is a very good hitter. Among second basemen with at least 450 plate appearances in 2013, Infante ranked fifth with a 117 wRC+. He is also a plus-defender at second base.
Possibly the best move the Royals made this offseason seems to have flown far under the radar. The Royals struck gold on a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers that brought Norichika Aoki to the Royals in exchange for lefty pitcher Will Smith. Royals’ right fielders were terrible in 2013, adding Aoki helps both offensively and defensively.
Last season, Royals’ right fielders hit a combined .254/.304/.392. Aoki hit .286/.356/.370. While he doesn’t bring the power that one would like from a corner outfield spot, he brings great on-base skills. In fact, he has walked in a higher percentage (7.8) of his career plate appearances than he has struck out (7.5).
The Royals have had the young, exciting prospects for a few years now. In addition to the young players, they now have a nice collection of veterans to help get them to the next level. 2014 could be an exciting year for Royals fans.