The laughter has finally died down.
It was less than four months ago that Allard Baird stood before the baseball
world and announced that
had traded one of the best right fielders in the game for Neifi Perez.
In one of the great non sequiturs of all time,
Baird claimed that because the Royals could not re-sign Rey
Sanchez–Rey Sanchez!–Jermaine Dye had to be sacrificed. He
spoke about how he could not stand to see the Royals unsettled at a
Baird was right. When it comes to shortstops, the Royals were definitely
settling for Neifi Perez.
Baird spoke, and everyone else had convulsions. Rarely has any trade
produced such overwhelming, unanimous ridicule. In all four corners of
America, in cities completely unaffected by the trade, columnists poked fun
at the Royals brass. Less regulated and more mouse-friendly news providers
were not nearly so charitable. Even in Kansas City, where the press
criticizes the local teams about as often as Pravda criticized the
Politburo, the Royals were savaged. Joe Posnanski sees the good in everyone;
he’s Mr. Rogers with a laptop and a deadline. He ripped the Royals a new
Perez had his chance to silence all the critics who pointed to his career
.248 average and 632 OPS away from Coors Field. Well, he showed them. He
didn’t hit .248; he hit .241. With a 579 OPS.
Almost from the moment the trade was announced, it seems, Baird has been
engaging in damage control. He had so little leverage to trade Sanchez that
he threatened to play him at second base in lieu of dealing him. (In the
medical field, we call this a "suicidal gesture.") To his credit,
was able to extract fair value from the Braves: Brad Voyles, a
reliever of considerable promise, and Alejandro Machado, a teenaged
middle infielder with precocious defensive and on-base skills.
By September, the Royals were so eager to get a look at überprospect Angel
Berroa that they announced that Perez, who had been playing with an injured
thumb since April, could not wait until the season ended to have surgery.
The stated reason? The Royals wanted Perez to rehab in time to play winter
ball by December. That’s right: the Royals claimed they were sacrificing
their starting shortstop for two weeks for the greater glory of the
But if you really want to claim that the Perez trade was the product of
temporary insanity, brought on by eating too much ice cream at once or by
trying to follow the plot of "Memento," why not go all the way? As
first reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Royals are engaged in
discussions with the Dodgers to send Perez to Chavez Ravine in exchange for
Australian hurler Luke Prokopec. Now, not all trade rumors are based
in fact–if they were, the "Transactions" page would just link to
Peter Gammons’ latest column–but this is one proposal I believe. It’s
believable because one decent prospect is about all Perez is going to fetch.
Frankly, Prokopec might be the best prospect that Baird can get. The Dodgers
are one of the few teams with the abundance of cash to afford Perez and the
poverty of intellect to want him. They shouldn’t be a tough sell at all; if
they could win 86 games starting Alex Cora and his .217 average,
think of how many they can with with Perez? (I hope you’re writing this
down, Allard. And remember to compliment Dan Evans on his keen fashion
In return, the Royals get Prokopec, who went through some growing pains in
his rookie season, saving the Royals the trouble of enduring them. True, he
posted a 4.88 ERA in a ballpark large enough to fit Bill O’Reilly’s ego.
Yes, the rookie gave up some cookies–27 homers in all. But he also walked
just 40 batters in 138 innings, or 2.60 batters per game, fewer than any
Royal starter has since 1996.
To boot, Prokopec is still just 23; among the Royals’ current starters, only
Chris George is younger. (Supposed phenom Mike MacDougal is a
year older than Cool Hand.) He also comes armed with–don’t everyone crowd
around at once–an out pitch. He throws a curve ball that would immediately
be the envy of every pitcher in an organization that seems to have forgotten
how to teach one. (It’s no coincidence that the Royal pitcher with the best
curve today is Voyles, a Braves product.) The Dodgers might not need
him–after all, who needs Luke Prokopec when you can pay Darren
Dreifort $11 million?–but he would start the season as the Royals de
facto #3 starter, with room to grow.
Do it, Allard. Bite the bullet. Cut your losses. Suck it up. Jermaine Dye,
the greatest asset on the auction block in 2001, is history, and no amount
of spin is going to erase your mistake. Be man enough to admit your blunder,
and be shrewd enough to cash in Perez while you can. You can lop five
million dollars off your payroll, freeing up cash for other needs. You can
give Tony Muser yet another young starter to squand…er…develop. You can
market the single most precious asset in baseball: pitching depth. Teams are
looking for a dependable innings-muncher? Step right up and bid on Jeff
Suppan! Don’t fret if you missed out on him: Paul Byrd is a
lovely consolation prize!
You can boldly rework the Royals’ roster to make it cheaper, younger, and
better with a single stroke. You can open up an opportunity for Angel
Berroa, who might be the greatest shortstop prospect the organization
has ever produced. Heck, you can even bring back Rey Sanchez to keep the
position warm for a year, and don’t tell me that doesn’t excite you, right?
Best of all, you can make another team the laughingstock for a change.
Rany Jazayerli is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by
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