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March 18, 2013

Rumor Roundup

The Hole in the Plan

by Daniel Rathman

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Royals general manager Dayton Moore spent the first half of the offseason overhauling his rotation—at the cost, in part, of his top prospect, Wil Myers. And although Moore was able to obtain Wade Davis, Ervin Santana, and James Shields, he did little to address the Royals’ offensive concerns, one of which was and is the performance of right fielder Jeff Francoeur

Were Myers still around, the Royals might have had a ready-made replacement for Francoeur. The 22-year-old could have displaced the veteran with a strong spring, or supplanted him before the All-Star break with an encore at Triple-A Omaha, where he hit .304/.378/.554 in 99 games last year. But Kansas City’s starters ranked 26th in the league with a 5.01 ERA in 2012, and Moore decided that the rotation was a more pressing concern—pressing enough to overlook a short-term need and create a void that he is now scrambling to address.

Royals looking for a platoon partner for Francoeur
According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Moore is in the market for a left-handed-hitting outfielder that could take Francoeur’s place in the lineup “against tough righties,” presumably implying that the 29-year-old would still see the lion’s share of the playing time. The newcomer’s role could grow, however, if Francoeur failed to bounce back from his dismal .235/.287/.378 triple-slash line from last year, or if Lorenzo Cain—who is taking over as the everyday center fielder—added another ailment to his already-lengthy injury history.

With Cain’s fragility in mind, Rosenthal believes that Moore’s preference would be to obtain a lefty outfielder with both the range to handle center and the arm to play right. Brennan Boesch, who was released by the Tigers last week and subsequently signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Yankees, drew interest from the Royals, but met only two-thirds of the job description. With the free-agent market running dry and Opening Day only two weeks away, Moore is “not optimistic” that his search will yield an ideal candidate before the start of the regular season.

On the other hand—even after sending Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, and third baseman Patrick Leonard to the Rays—the Royals have a well-stocked farm system and plenty of controllable bullpen arms, giving Moore an abundance of chips from which to deal. The weight that the eighth-year GM places on filling the position in the next 14 days, and the degree to which he emphasizes his targets’ defensive profiles, will determine the amount of talent that he is willing to dangle and the likelihood that he can meet the deadline.

The list of ideal candidates is short, but (purely speculating) the Cubs’ David DeJesus fits the job description to a tee. DeJesus logged a .293 TAv versus right-handed pitchers last year, nearly matching his .295 career TAv against them, and he can adequately man all three outfield spots. He is entering the last guaranteed year of a two-year, $10 million deal, with a $4.25 million paycheck heading his way in 2013, and another $1.5 million due in a buyout for a $6.5 million club option.

The Cubs are unlikely to keep pace with the National League Central’s top teams, so DeJesus is a good bet to leave the Windy City before July 31. Brett Jackson, the top internal candidate to succeed him, has hit .313/.458/.625 in 24 Cactus League plate appearances, after scuffling in a 44-game debut last year. DeJesus told ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers that he is in no rush to leave town or to cede his everyday role, but a strong offer from Moore could give Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer other ideas.

Nationals’ Chris Snyder a popular back-up-catcher target
as is the Rockies’ Ramon Hernandez
While the Royals are looking to add, the Nationals and Rockies are preparing to subtract. General managers Mike Rizzo and Dan O’Dowd each have a spare catcher that they would like to unload, and if the weekend’s reports are any indication, they won’t struggle to find counterparts eager to take those backstops off their hands.

Rosenthal noted that Snyder, who ranks third on Washington’s depth chart behind starter Kurt Suzuki and backup Wilson Ramos, is “likely to be moved,” with the Angels among the teams in play. The 32-year-old Snyder is far removed from his days as an intriguing fantasy sleeper, but he still provides impressive power for a catcher, having slugged seven homers in 258 plate appearances last year. Of course, with that pop comes a bloated strikeout rate—27.1 percent, to be exact—and a worrisome injury history, including back surgeries in 2009 and 2011.

Hernandez, whose trade buzz was most recently noted by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, comes with other baggage—namely, a $3.2 million salary that is excessive for an aging backup. The 36-year-old took a backseat to rookie Wilin Rosario last year, logging only 196 plate appearances and doing very little to warrant more action. Hernandez is 3-for-13 in Cactus League play, and the Rockies could easily supplant him with Yorvit Torrealba or Gustavo Molina, who are in camp as non-roster invitees.

In addition to the Angels, Heyman mentioned the Phillies, Pirates, and Rays as teams that could hypothetically pursue Hernandez. It’s unclear, at this point, whether any of them have already inquired.  

Update (11:47 a.m. ET): The Nationals have released Snyder, who subsequently took a minor-league deal from the Angels.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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