Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mariners ink former Royal

Former Royals great, and five-time all-star, Mike Sweeney, who played for the Oakland Athletics in 2008, was signed on Thursday to a minor-league contract by the Seattle Mariners. Sweeney, a likely shoo-in for the Royals Hall of Fame one day after spending 13 years in the organization, is holding out hope he can again be a productive player in the big leagues. It's likely Sweeney will DH for the Mariners as he appears well past ever being a full-time position payer again. It has been speculated that if Sweeney doesn't crack the 25 man roster coming out of Spring Training he will hang up his cleats for good.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Royals interviews: Part II with Brian McRae

Here is the entirety of my interview with former Royals, Cubs and Mets great Brian McRae. In this discussion McRae talks about the keys to success this season for the Royals, the Mark Teahen situation and what he's up to these days.

Q: You get to see a lot of this team, obviously. Just talk about what you see out of this team this year in regards to the direction they're taking.

McRAE: "Well, with how they finished the season last year and with the editions they made you hope that they can continue to get better. I think that with Gil and Zack at the top of the rotation, and with Soria at the back of the bullpen that they have those positions pretty much locked up and they're as strong as any team in the division (at those positions).

Offensively, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are going to have to take a step to the next level and do the things that they are projected to do. They might have been rushed to the big leagues and that's why they have struggled a little bit, but they're not really young players anymore. They've had some significant time in (the big leagues). For (the Royals) to do bigger and better things offensively I think it's going to start with what they're able to do with Billy and Alex. If they swing the bat well and are productive then I think that's going to make the whole lineup a lot better and be a lot more consistent.

I think the keys to the lineup are going to be what those guys do.
I think you're going to have typical seasons out of about everybody else. The wild card there is just how much better are Billy and Alex? They have some question marks as far as who is going to be the extra first baseman. They have an extra outfielder, so they have some chips to trade when they start assessing what they need in Spring Training.

They have some parts that (other teams) may want. I think Ryan Shealy is out of options, Kila (Ka'aihue) has put himself on the map, so he's got a shot at making the ballclub. If he don't make the ballclub out of Spring Training he could come up very soon. They have to find somewhere for him to play if he's still swinging the bat well and being very productive, because offensively they don't hit a whole lot of homeruns. So you can't keep a guy like that down too long."

Q: That's kind of a good situation to be in too, right?

McRAE: "It's a good situation to be in if you make the right decisions. You know, Mark Teahen has got to play somewhere. He's not a bench player. And the outfield seems like it's set with Guillen, Coco Crisp and DeJesus over in left. So where is Teahen going to play? How is he going to get his at bats? Because I don't think he's going to be productive if he plays twice a week. I don't think he's going to be happy because he's not a twice a week type of guy and he's made a lot of concessions (for the team).

He's moved from third base to right field, from right field to left field. He's done things at the teams request that might have hurt him offensively. You know, now it's time for the team to help him out a little bit and either find him a place to play, or get rid of him so he can go play somewhere else."

Q: Right, because I can see a lot of teams that would love to have a player like him?

McRAE: "Right. That would love to have a guy like him. So they have some parts that they can trade for upgrades that they may need either in Spring Training or down the line once the season starts. That's something they didn't have before. They have a lot of talented players, and the competition in Spring Training is going to be one of a talented player battling against another talented player - not just a plain guy.

The competitions (they used to have) in Spring Training were between guys that couldn't play. Now they have big league players that are backing up big league players and that's when you can tell the depth of the organization is better when you can have a good player backing up another good player, and they're both qualified to make the big league roster.

I think their (minor league) system is getting a little bit better. Some of the guys in double-A and triple-A are close to being big league ready, and that's the sign of an organization doing some of the right things. They made some good trades, good drafts. On the field side that's something to be excited about.

Off the field, with the renovations they're doing, and I heard some people in the organization say it's not a renovation project - it's a whole new stadium. That's good for the fans to be able to come out and experience that, and have fun coming out to what a lot of people believe is one of the best ballparks in baseball. But you have to have some good product on the field, because the stadium (itself) is only going to bring people in for a short period of time if the talent on the field and the results in wins and losses don't get better."

Q: Talk about yourself personally. I know you've done some radio and TV stuff. How much do you enjoy still being able to be around baseball a lot?

McRAE: "I like being around the game. That's why I continue to be doing what I've been doing. Been doing some radio work, helping the Royals with some clinics and camps. It's fun for me to be around the game. It's fun for me to go to the ballpark and watch baseball. I follow it that way and travel to different ballparks. I'm just a big fan. I love the fact that a lot of times my office is at the ballpark watching a baseball game. I get to go to Spring Training and things like that. That, for me, is just a thrill to be around people that want to talk baseball or watch baseball and enjoy it as much as I do."

Q: Have you ever thought about getting into coaching? Has your dad (Hal McRae) given you any advice on getting into anything like that?

McRAE: "I'm not ready to do that yet. I've been out almost ten years now, retired in 2000, and I'm enjoying not having February through October or September locked up. For right now I'm not seeing myself wanting to coach (professionally). I coached summer league ball a little bit. I help out with a sixteen and seventeen year old team in the Kansas City area a little bit. That's three or four days a week I do that. For right now that's good enough for me. I did enough in the fifteen years that I played pro ball.

Being gone that long and being locked into, 'this is what you have to do from Spring Training to the end of the season' - I don't know if I'm ready to go back into that lifestyle. I kind of enjoy having off the 4th of July, going to the lake if I want to on Memorial Day. Just doing things that normal people get to do. Baseball, you're locked in and that's a big time commitment.

Maybe down the road, maybe five years from now, I'll want to do that when things slow down as far is what I'm doing. For right now this suits me pretty good."

Another tidbit on the Greinke front

Just a little something extra to throw in about the Greinke contract. It appears Greinke will receive 'MINOR' trade protection throughout the first two years of the deal. However, when the contract shoots up to $13.5 million starting in 2011 he will have 'NO' trade protection. This deal sounds better and better all the time.

R's ink reliever

I just learned the Royals have signed former Astros reliever Oscar Villareal to a minor league contract.
Villareal, who posted a 5.02 ERA in 37 2/3 innings last season for Houston, will get a 1 year, $400K deal. Also included in the deal is an agreement that the right hander can get out of the contract (request his release) if he doesn't break the 25 man roster by May 15 or June 1.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Numbers on the Grienke deal

Here we go guys. The way the Greinke deal shakes down is that Greinke will make between $36-38 million over the course of the deal with him making what is believed to be $13.5 million over the final two years of the deal. Sorry, in my initial post the details were just emerging and early indications were that he was to make $13.5-16 million in each of the final three years. Obviously, he wasn't only going to make just $13.5-16 million over the entire length of the deal. My mistake in writing. I admit I'm human.
Too bad we don't blogs don't come with copy editors.
Also, the deal goes through 2012 rather than 2013. Apparently the deal kicks in this season rather than going with his arbitration figure and then extending it. Anyways, as goes the news business when you're in a hurry to get it out there first, sometimes we mess up.
Thanks for pointing out my mistakes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

As the Teahen turns

Wow. I don't think this saga is never going to end. Mark Teahen, God bless his soul, has agreed to again switch positions for Kansas City this season. This time the 3B/RF/LF/CF will give second base a shot. As if the poor guy hasn't wasted the past four years getting jerked around from position to position by the club, Teahen seems to be ready to take another lump for the team.
Look, I know some of you guys aren't big Teahen fans. I understand I'm likely in the minority on this one, but I honestly feel for the guy. Yeah, yeah, I know the Royals pay him a lot of money to play baseball. But I honestly feel his slump in offensive production has had everything to do with the fact that every year he's spending so much time learning a new position.
Brian McRae more or less said the Royals need to crap or get off the pot with Teahen. I think all of us fans would agree. McRae, like myself, feels Teahen is an everyday player and should be in the lineup regularly. He also agreed that the team should leave him alone and reap the benefits of his offensive game, or trade him to someone who will. You can read the entirety of my interview with McRae in the coming weeks. It's possible that you will see the McRae interview posted on Wednesday.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Follow me fellows

I just added a new 'followers' tab to the right of the column (just over the poll question) and would like it if all of you in ROYALS NATION would join in. Just click it and sign in and off you go! Thanks!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Q&A with Royals No. 1 starter Zack Greinke

OK everyone, sorry for the delay but I now have up the first of four interviews that I will post in the coming weeks. Right now my plan is to post one interview each week, on Wednesdays, for you guys to enjoy. That should take us into spring training when more news hits the airways.

Let me preface this Q&A session by pointing out that Greinke doesn't hold back anything when he speaks to the media. What I respect about the kid is that everything he says is 100 percent what he believes and isn't coached up or watered down words. Whether you agree with him or not is like comparing apples to oranges, but regardless he pretty much seems to hit the nail on the head. Also, Zack and his agent exchanged arbitration numbers on Tuesday. Zack is asking for $4.4 million and the Royals countered with $3.4. They will likely settle around the $3.9 mark.

Anyways, you've waited long enough and I thank you for that. I think he had some interesting things to say, and the comments about Japanese baseball did raise my eyebrows a bit. Here's a full transcript of what was said. I hope you enjoy!


Q: What was your approach on the mound last year?
GREINKE: "Just focus on every pitch. Not really take any game for granted or any outing. Just give 100 percent mentally and physically and hopefully it will work out like that again this year."

Q: I know you live in Orlando in the offseason, can you feel any of the excitement this year around this club, or in general with things in Kansas City, with the moves Dayton Moore has made and the things you guys have done the past couple of seasons?
GREINKE: "Last year we were excited too. We just thought we were going to do better than we did after we signed Jose Guillen. It didn't work out for us throughout the whole year, but at least at the end we kind of (finished) strong. And hopefully we will do it again.....
GREINKE: "Oh, the excitement? I remember the question now...(long pause)...actually I forgot it again..."

Q: That's alright. I know you live in Orlando in the offseason can you just talk about the fans and everything...
GREINKE: Oh yeah, yeah. Um, at the FanFest, that's when I really saw (the fan support). Not really so much on the caravan trips. At FanFest all of the players are there so you get a chance to talk to them and get their viewpoint on it. Then there's probably thousands of people at FanFest just there for us, and it seemed a little more exciting than last year. Last year I just felt is was kind of just something we were doing. This year I kind of felt the buzz a little bit."

Q: Can you talk about what it's like playing for Trey Hillman?
GREINKE: Um, he's kind of in between both our managers that I've had so far. I had Tony Pena and Buddy Bell. Tony was just like a big joking guy always having a good time and Buddy was more serious and real fiery. Trey is a real happy guy like Tony, but at the same time he has a mean streak to him. He's like a real honest guy to where if you're not doing good he'll let you know your sucking and you'll be sent down, or traded, or released or whatever if you don't start doing better. Just stuff like that. If your not executing on the bunts and hit and runs, or even the signs he'll get real mad at you and let you know that you've got to do better than that."

Q: Is there more of a sense, like with a comfortability, with him this year between the players and everything knowing that second time around he'll be more comfortable this year?
GREINKE: "Well, the season hasn't started yet, so you don't know for sure. I mean, I guess it's always tough the first year for managers, but he did fine. Last year it was his first year managing (in the big leagues) so he probably learned some things and he'll be better than last year."

Q: What about the division?
GREINKE: "I think (the offseason) has worked out nice for our team. It seems like the teams that were more talented last year haven't improved, and in some instances have got a little worse - on paper. Of course, that doesn't mean a whole lot. The Indians seemed to have improved. I mean, you never really know. The Twins are the same team they always are to where you don't think they are any good but they end up winning all the time. Our team has improved. In my honest opinion I think all five teams have an equal shot of winning (the division), and all five have an equal shot at being the worst team in the division when the season starts."

Q: With the Yankees spending all of that money is that going to turn into wins?
GREINKE: "Um, it will probably turn into some wins. You get better players you're going to win more games. But when the playoffs come it's just a five game series or a seven game series. The Royals, when we were as bad as we were, we swept the Yankees in a three game series. When the playoffs start I don't think it makes much of a difference. Because I thought the Angels and Boston were the two best teams last year and obviously that didn't work out. This year if the Yankees are the best team it still does not mean that you are going to win."

Q: Can you guys see yourselves being like a Tampa Bay team last year? Maybe a team nobody expects to win a lot, but then kind of comes out of nowhere and wins a lot of games?
GREINKE: "It could definitely happen. People say Tampa came out of nowhere. For like the past three years or whatever every spring training we're like, 'Maybe this is the year Tampa breaks out.' They have so much talent on that team and you knew it was going to happen. Last year it happened for them. They were so talented. If you watch baseball you couldn't argue with the talent they had. Our team has some of that young talent, but our whole team is not full of that talent. We have some older guys mixed in and we have a little bit less than what they had. But we also don't have to play Boston and New York 18 times."

Q: Did you guys as a pitching staff feel a little bit ripped off that Trey invited the infielders to play on the ranch this year and you guys got left out?
GREINKE: (Laughs) "Naw, we get to stay home and they've got to go work in the middle of the offseason. I'm glad we're allowed to do whatever we want now. But we have to go into spring training like seven days before we're even supposed to and the hitters are like another five days after that, so they're spending their time there, but we're going to be in spring training about 12 days early just by ourselves. So we end up having to make up for it."

Q: Does he use any of his Japanese experience with you guys?
GREINKE: "It's two completely different leagues. Not even close. Triple-A and the major leagues are way closer than Japanese, especially for a manager. The Japanese way doesn't work over in the United States and there's a reason for that. If it did we'd be doing things like the Japanese. That's not how we run baseball over here. Whenever he's tried to do that it hasn't worked real long because we're stubborn. We've been playing baseball the same way our whole careers and when something changes that quick it makes it tough."

Q: Talk about some of the additions to the team this year. Is Farnsworth more of an addition to the bullpen because of his pitching ability or because he's like an extra bodyguard out there in the bullpen? Isn't he?
GREINKE: (Laughs) Yeah. Our team's a pretty tough team this year. We've got Olivo who's a pretty tough guy, Farnsworth, Jose isn't afraid to go after people and I guess Crisp's dad used to be a professional boxer so now we've got four guys who mean business out there. Not too many teams will be excited to get in a beanball war with our team."

Q: Does it give the starters any more confidence to fling it inside more often?
GREINKE: (Laughing) Well, when Olivo's catching you don't have to worry about anything. You can hit 10 guys in a row and know no one is ever going to make it out to you because Olivo is looking forward to that. When a fight starts out he just want to protect the pitcher, number one. He enjoys letting you know that he has your back no matter what."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Royals players interviews coming

Hey guys, keep an eye out for some Royals players interviews I will be conducting in the coming days. I hope to have the first of at least four interviews posted tomorrow evening. Keep checking back to see what the players have to say.

Peralta and Buck sign

On Tuesday the Royals came to terms with reliever Joel Peralta and reserve catcher John Buck. Peralta will earn $650,000 in '09 while Buck will earn a staggering $2.9 million after hitting just .224 with 48 RBI. Peralta went 1-2 with a 5.98 ERA last year.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gobble signs one year deal

On Monday, lefthanded specialist Jimmy Gobble agreed to a one year, $1.35 million contract to remain with the Royals. Gobble, who was 0-2 with an 8+ ERA last season will likely remain in the same capacity he had last season with the team.

The Royals have six remaining players eligible for arbitration.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Royals invite five

Today the Royals signed and invited to big league spring training camp catcher's John Suomi and Jeff Howell, outfielder's Derrick Robinson and Jose Duarte and infielder Cody Clark. Suomi was a Rule 5 Draft pick this season from Philadelphia while the rest of the group are 2008 members of the Royals farm system.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Davies agrees

Kyle Davies was the first player to avoid arbitration and sign with the Royals this offseason. The young righty will earn a hefty raise with a one year, $1.3 million agreement. The Royals risked paying Davies closer to the $2 million mark had they not come to terms within the coming weeks. Davies is the favorite to win the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation this spring.

Royals' plan B..loomquist

As I previously reported in my "Plan B" post (and no, there were no typos) the Royals had indeed shifted their focus to David Eckstein and Willie Bloomquist. The team came to terms with the latter today on a two year deal.
Bloomquist, a light hitter, has never proved himself as a starter in the bigs. If nothing else, Bloomquist will platoon with Alberto Callaspo this season. Sorry Otis, I know you would have loved for me to be wrong on this one. The team couldn't get a reasonable response from the Rangers regarding Young. I'm sure you'll try to say I was imagining this Bloomquist deal too.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

R's ink C Wilson

Kansas City announced today an agreement with free agent catcher Vance Wilson on a minor league contract. Wilson, 35, is trying to re-kindle his career as a backup after playing in only three games the past two years due to an elbow injury. Wilson is a career .250 hitter with 25 homers in 402 career games with the Tigers and Mets. Due to ongoing rehab the team announced Wilson will not be a spring intvite.

Just so you know

I've had people screaming at me the past couple of days that actually want to know the names of the sources I use for my stories. Just so you know they aren't imaginary and it would be stupid of me to tell you their names.
I can understand why some of you want to know who these people are, but in the journalism world you have to build trust with the insiders that give you info. In many cases these people can get fired for telling writers what they know because they aren't authorized to speak. So that is why I will not be telling you who my sources are for any story. If it would make you feel any better I will start using the stupid terms "high ranking baseball official with knowledge" or "a person close to the situation" but in all reality that tells you squat!
Newspapers and other publications use those terms freely to dummy down the situation and try to keep your panties out of a wad. If you sit down and think about it those terms really don't tell you anything. Just like this post. I just felt that I needed to explain this situation because some of you understandably aren't aware. So what I WILL tell you is that I used the same source that Ken Rosenthal used when he reported the same things I did about Michael Young. You can go knock on his door, but good luck getting Ken to tell you who the source is as well.
On a side note, I am making no money from this site. It is being done purely on my free time and sometimes my work schedule at the paper does not allow me the time to post rapidly. I do not get paid for my time on this site like most writers do nowadays. What that means is that at times I will post whatever is on my chest. I'm an open book. You may get a crappy column and you may get something real useful. Hopefully it will be the latter.
Also, understand it is the offseason and there isn't much news out there. I hate posting about rumors but some of you need the fix and so I will talk about what is being whispered around the league. Mellinger isn't posting right now and I am trying to make an effort to keep you guys in the loop. If someone asks me to write on something I'm going to do my damnedest to do it for you guys as quick as I can.
I do my best and I know I'm not going to please everyone. My intentions are to promote the Royals and all that goes on in the organization. I hope you and I have a better understanding of what this site is about now.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Royals, barring a trade, are shifting focus to Plan B

Barring a trade for a middle infielder the Royals are said to be showing interest in free agent middle infielders David Eckstein and Willie Bloomquist. Neither player is considered to be the player Mark Grudzielanek currently is, despite being several years younger than the 39 year old.

Young could be affordable option

I think I'm done wading through the pile of e-mail's I received since my last post about the Royals interest in Michael Young. Obviously, this is a hot topic and one worth going into more depth over. Here are some scenarios that the Royals will sift through should they decide to add another hefty contract.
Many of you have expressed a lot of concern as to how the Royals would fit Young into their already tight, self-imposed, salary cap of $70 million for 2009. Well, to answer your questions it wouldn't be easy to fit that contract in, but it certainly can be done.
As you may already know Young recently signed a five year extension worth $80 million with the Rangers that is set to kick in this season. What you probably didn't know is that the Rangers have prematurely ponied up some $20 million of that through his signing bonus - leaving Young realistically being owed approximately $60 million over the next five years.
While that is an expensive number to you and I, it is a pretty fair price for a player of Young's caliber out on the open market. That shakes down to him earning about $12 million per year. Still quite a bit of money, but the Royals could make it happen with one trade. I'm sure you know what's coming next.
Yep, Jose Guillen.
According to several Major League sources, the Royals have been looking for suitors interested in acquiring the temperamental Guillen and his lofty contract. It appears there has been some interest around the league, but K.C. hasn't been bowled over for any deal involving him and therefore hasn't traded him, yet.
If a situation should present itself that would allow the team to acquire a player like Michael Young the Royals may consider trading Guillen for a bag of peanut butter M&M's to free up the cap space. Also, remember team owner David Glass has, according to Moore, given his permission to spend whatever needs to be spent to put a winning team on the field in 2009. Moore has self-imposed a $70 million cap for '09 - unless "the right situation presents itself in which we can improve the club."
The Rangers could also eat some of Young's salary, but they haven't shown any interest in doing so at this time.
Perhaps this situation is the reason Mark Teahen hasn't been traded yet. Then again, all of this could blow up in our faces and never come to fruition. We just don't know right now. Dayton certainly isn't going to talk about it, which leaves us writers left to speculate on the whispers we hear from around the league.
If the Royals get rid of Guillen or a few other lofty contracts they could fit Young into the cap. At this point I don't think Glass would mind if the team exceeded $70 million so long as it drastically helped the organization. Michael Young would certainly do just that.

Rumors continue popping up at 2B

The rumors linking the Royals with Texas Rangers middle infielder Michael Young just won't go away. Also in the discussion are the Angels and Orioles, but none of those teams have a glaring need at that position like K.C.

It is likely the Royals would have to give up a pretty good young pitcher or two to land the five-time all-star. I'd have to admit it would probably be worth losing Blake Wood and Dan Cortes to get this guy.

About two weeks ago there were some hints that the team may have interest in Tadahito Iguchi, but he's 34 and probably not a good fit for this team. If you're interested in 34 year old second baseman David Eckstein is a better choice. Grudzielanek is better than both of them at 39.

I haven't been able to gather how serious talks have been between the two clubs, nor what the Rangers would be seeking from clubs who are interested, but there has to have been some recent talks. This union is being thrown about way too much for there to have been only slight talks. One thing is for certain, Dayton's lips are sealed.

Colon re-signs

Roman Colon signed what is believed to be a one year contract with the Royals on Monday with an invitation to Spring Training. In all likelihood Colon will pitch this season at AAA Omaha where he will add depth to the 'pen. He shouldn't see much action in Kansas City unless the bubonic plague wipes out the city.*
*Oops, did I say that out loud? Sorry.

Unless you're the Yankees, it's slow

Hey guys, sorry for the long stretch in between posts. I don't mean to let you down, but there is very little news to write about right now. Plus, the site was down for a few days and it wouldn't let me post anything.*
*You know, I really really hate computers. Guess that explains why I took the path of a I can sit in front of the damn things all day long cursing and shouting my frustrations. (When I'm not busy doing so between the months of April and September, that is. *wink wink*)
I will be adding some columns to the site here in the next few days to pick up the slack, and hopefully I can scrape together a few PLAYER INTERVIEWS for you guys as well. We'll see what shakes down. Keep grinding with me. Spring Training is right around the corner!!!