Jose Guillen came off the disabled list today, and the Royals decided not to send down Mitch Maier, the outfielder who was called up to replace Guillen on the roster. I don't mind that so much; Maier is a good young player with a lot of potential, a former first-round pick, and my guess is he'll be a starter for somebody someday.
What bothers me is that they decided to send down Brayan Pena instead.
It seems like the right thing to do if you just give it a cursory glance; Pena was the team's third catcher, and nobody in the big leagues carries three catchers on their big-league rosters anymore.
But the Royals sent down the wrong Pena. Despite Lofflin's semi-kind words for him a month ago, the Royals should have sent down Tony Pena, Jr.
Brayan Pena, a promising young catcher with pop in his bat, is going to be picked up on waivers almost immediately (if he hasn't been already). Tony Pena, Jr., would have cleared waivers without any problem. Nobody wants him.
You might be saying, "They kept Tony Pena, Jr., because he's an important late-inning defensive replacement at shortstop and second base."
I understand that. But here's the thing:
THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WILLIE BLOOMQUIST IS FOR!
And Bloomquist can play in the outfield. So can Brayan Pena. Tony Pena, Jr.? Not so much.
(Oh yeah- Brayan Pena can also play third base. And first base. And he's a switch hitter. None of those qualities apply to Tony Jr.)
And on top of that, defensive-minded middle infielders are a dime a dozen. If they somehow lost TPJ on waivers, he's easily replaceable. High-upside young catchers are not.
If I had been Royals GM this spring, I probably would have aggressively tried to trade either John Buck or Miguel Olivo to make Brayan Pena the full-time backup catcher. I may not have gotten much for Buck or Olivo, but I would have settled for a player to be named later, or maybe even just another team picking up the salary. Buck is off to a hot start, but you know exactly what's gonna happen: he's going to end the season with a .220 average and a handful of home runs. Olivo will do slightly better.
It's just painful to watch talent slip away. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe Brayan Pena will clear waivers. But I seriously doubt it.