Chicken or egg?
Do the Royals make the deals they make because they don't expect to win or do they not expect to win because of the deals they make?
I-70 Baseball's Adam Shupe took the challenge and performed some slick saber-magician work on my question about the David DeJesus trade. I wanted someone to run the numbers on Mr. DeJesus and give me a quantitative reason why Billy Beane thinks he is a bargain for his Oakland A's but the Royals' braintrust thinks he's too expensive to keep. Billy Beane, I maintained, doesn't make off the cuff, gut level (or gut wrenching) trades. For more on this and other Royals discussion, see Adam's blog bareknucklebaseball.mlblogs.com.
(By the way, if you need a reporter/writer, hire this man. Baseball is not his only dimension -- I've seen him write with grace about everything. )
Here's Shupe's response.
As for David DeJesus, I can only offer three reasons.
1. For some reason Billy Beane thinks the A's are good enough to make a run at the World Series and DeJesus can be a role player in that process. DeJesus has always been a Billy Beane style player, solid defense and base running with an affinity to get on base.
Bill James' 2011 projections are up and have DeJesus going .289/.360/.427, 11 HR, 86 R, 68 RBI, 6 SB. This matches up similarly to his 2009 output, considering he plays as well defensively as he did in 2009 his WAR would be around 3-3.5, which considering his $5.5 million salary would be a worthwhile investment.
2. Beane thinks he can deal DeJesus at the trade deadline to a contender for more than he gave up to the Royals. This is vintage Billy Beane, think Matt Holliday on a smaller level.
3. Beane believes DeJesus will perform well enough to be a Type B or possibly Type A outfielder. So when he leaves after the season, they will have gotten a good return on a MLB outfielder for a season and possibly a first round draft pick for two guys who may or may not make a major league impact.
SO WHY IS THIS A GOOD DEAL FOR BILLY BEANE AND NOT A GOOD DEAL FOR DAYTON MOORE?
This is where you see the fundamental differences between the mentalities of GMs. This deal makes sense for Billy Beane because he always wants to compete. He constantly has the playoffs as the first priority. You will never see an A's team play 20 games under .500 like the Royals have. They always compete. It's how he fielded a team in 2002 that won 103 games on a payroll of just under $40 million, third lowest in the league. He's known for bring major talent in through trades, but also dealt Andre Either for Milton Bradley (Dodgers), Nelson Cruz for Keith Ginter, and Carlos Gonzalez with Houston Street for Matt Holliday (Rockies).
Can you imagine a staring out field of Andre Either in left, Carlos Gonzalez in center, and Nelson Cruz in right?
But he makes moves like those to roll the dice in the playoffs. Bradley raked down the 2006 playoff stretch.
A few bounces their way and maybe if Jermey Giambi slid, their fate might have been altered.
Dayton Moore, on the other hand, is waiting for one big push. He was bred differently, under a regime like the Braves. He understands a fundamental way to win the game, prospects from within. This is why 2011 is basically already mortgaged in Kansas City. Everyone has accepted the Royals aren't going to win anything this season. It's basically a premier tryout for guys like Kila Ka'aihue, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and a stable of young arms. Who's good enough to play, so we can take them with us when the farm begins to cultivate?
Moore was quoted as saying you need about 20 good pitching prospects to expect 4 or 5 guys who will stick. His philosophies are based firmly upon comments like those. That's the difference.
The deal makes sense for Beane because DeJesus gives any team a better chance to win. There's no question in that. Worst case scenario, come trade deadline he still has value. You keep him then maybe you get a draft pick. Does the difference between 87 and 90 wins matter? Hell yeah.
If he was a Royal he might be the difference between a 64 and 67 loss team, is it worth it? No way. Of course everyone would like to see DeJesus roaming Kauffman again, but the young arms are what's important. He's piling up arms seeing which are the four or five who can make it.
The casual fans see Moore giving up one of their favorite players for two guys they've never heard of. They think Vin Mazzaro will just be another Brian Bannister or Kyle Davies. Fillers. The difference is this: Vin Mazzaro is 23 and had a WAR of -0.1, he got paid $450,000. A young pitcher establishing himself playing just below replacement level for the league minimum. Bannister and Davies combined played at a WAR of -0.7 at a price of $4.1 million. Seems like good business to me.
It's no coincidence this trade came right after they released Bannister, while questioning Davies return, all while trade rumors swirl about Greinke. So Moore goes outs and gets a young arm under team control for near league minimum for the next five years. This guy would have had the second lowest ERA on the team behind Greinke.
The other kid they got looks like a clone of Will Smith, the southpaw they got from the Angels for Callaspo. That makes about ten lefties I could rattle off who will be in the top 25 prospects in the best minors system in the league. He's playing the odds he can find a couple Tom Glavine's out of a group like that.
We have some other great baseball minds working on this and as soon as they get their ideas to us, we'll put them on the screen. These quantitative discussions are interesting because they get us out of the same old rut -- you know -- the rut that begins with "the Royals have been on full suck since..."