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Better days ahead for the Royals

7/24/2010

Friday was not a good day for the Kansas City Royals, who learned that David DeJesus will miss the rest of the season because of a thumb injury, which means that the Royals will miss out on opportunity -- for now, anyway -- to trade him for a couple of good prospects from the Red Sox or the Giants or the Padres or some other interested team. The Giants were well along in their trade talks for DeJesus, writes Henry Schulman.

Then, hours after the Royals learned about the severity of the DeJesus injury, they were overwhelmed by the Yankees. It has not been a good year for the Royals, who for the 25th consecutive October will not appear in the playoffs.

But if rival evaluators are right, there are really good days coming for the Royals. Other teams have been combing through the minor league systems of other clubs, including the Royals, as they prepare for possible midseason deals, and time and again, scouts and GMs and assistant GMs have come away raving about the Kansas City prospects. "I wish we had what they have coming down the road," said one scout.

Dayton Moore, the Royals' general manager, was more circumspect, knowing through experience that there are always unseen pitfalls; after all, on Friday morning, he was still awaiting word on whether DeJesus would be out for two weeks or the last two months.

But Moore sees the progress. "We've had three drafts and we're encouraged by the young pitching that we have, especially from the left side," he said. "We've got some catching, we've got some speed and we've got two really young power hitters who can hit and play defense."

In that last reference, Moore was referring specifically to Mike Moustakas, the third baseman who was recently promoted to Triple-A, in what has been an excellent season: Moustakas is hitting .330 this year, with 23 homers and a 1.048 OPS. Moore was also talking about first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has racked up a .424 on-base percentage in a summer in which he has moved up to Double-A.

And the Royals are starting to see the results of their recent investments in Latin American talent. From 1996 to 2006, Kansas City spent a total of $228,000 on players in Latin America, or about 1/32 of what the Red Sox spent on shortstop Jose Iglesias. "We have to get to the point where we have homegrown guys [in the big leagues], and then have another wave behind it," Moore said. "Our goal is by 2012 and 2013 to have as many homegrown guys playing as we can."

In other words, the Royals would like to get to where the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays have been in recent seasons. They're getting closer, by the day.

The Royals have players to market other than DeJesus, including Jose Guillen, who was being watched by rival scouts in New York this week. I heard specifically that the Giants were looking at him with a serious eye, which makes sense, because he's a good hitter and would strengthen the San Francisco lineup for the stretch drive.

Squabbling in Seattle

Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu had a dugout confrontation with Chone Figgins after Figgins failed to pick up a throw coming in from the outfield, and this merely underscores Wakamatsu's fragile relationship -- or maybe it's broken altogether -- with some members of the Mariners, a situation stemming back to Ken Griffey Jr.'s last month with Seattle.

It's too early to know whether Wakamatsu will come back as the Mariners' manager in 2011, but one scout noted the other day that we will probably see more movement among managers this offseason than in any winter before.

Some of the jobs that may be up for grabs this offseason: Baltimore (which hasn't hired Buck Showalter yet), Florida, the Chicago Cubs, Toronto, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta, New York Mets, Seattle, Milwaukee, Kansas City (which has not committed to Ned Yost beyond 2010), Arizona and Pittsburgh. And remember that Tony La Russa, Joe Girardi and Dusty Baker all have contracts that expire after this season, so there may be more openings than expected.

The Figgins-Wakamatsu scrap represents a new season low for the Mariners, writes Greg Bell.

Dunn deal?

The Nationals are on the fence about what to do with Adam Dunn, who has 23 homers, 61 RBIs and an OPS of .935. Sources say they could offer him a contract before the deadline, and if they can't reach an agreement, they might trade him.

The view from here: The Nationals should put a competitive, three-year offer on the table and be prepared to go to four years in their proposal, because the alternative for them is something they should avoid -- a lineup without Dunn, or someone like him, in it. Look, Dunn is a subpar defensive player, but the Nationals' lineup without Dunn is woefully thin, and the Nationals are not even close to the point where free agents want to play for them.

The Nationals are concerned about whether Dunn's body would hold up through the duration of a three- or four-year deal. But an astute American League talent evaluator made this point: What Dunn does well -- hit homers -- is gaining more value as time goes on, and the two skills that last the longest in aging players like Dunn are the ability to generate on-base percentage and power. In other words, even if Dunn regresses defensively to the point that the Nationals feel compelled to trade him after a couple of years, he'll probably still be hitting homers and drawing walks in 2013, and will remain attractive to AL teams at age 33 and 34. He'll maintain some level of value.

And you can bet that if the Nationals let him hit the free-agent market, somebody -- the Yankees, or the White Sox, or the Red Sox, or some other team -- is going to offer him a three-year deal. "Can you imagine him in Yankee Stadium?" one high-ranking executive asked Friday. "He'd put up big numbers in that place."

Dunn is the Nationals' top priority, writes Adam Kilgore.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Heard this: The Yankees could make a deal for Dan Haren, but it has to be at their price, and that means that Jesus Montero, the organization's best prospect, is almost certainly not going to be a part of any offer.

If the Tigers are going to trade for someone, it has to be a difference-maker, says Jim Leyland -- and Haren certainly qualifies.

The pitcher has a limited no-trade list of 12 teams, but that is not expected to be a major obstacle for those listed teams, such as the Tigers. The losing has gone on in Arizona for a long, long time, and for Haren a fresh start with a pennant contender could be a very good thing.

By the way: Within five days of the end of the World Series, Haren's no-trade list will be reduced to eight teams, from its current 12. But the perception of other teams is that Arizona wants to move Haren right now. "I think they're in a money crunch and they want to make sure they want to get out from under the contract," said one executive, who likened the situation to the Padres' effort to dump Jake Peavy's contract in 2009.

If the Diamondbacks free themselves of Haren's contract, they could spend that available money on a closer, writes Nick Piecoro. If the D-backs are actually making the acquisition of a closer a priority -- which would explain why they asked the Yankees for Joba Chamberlain, as Jayson Stark reported -- that thinking runs completely counter to the mindset of the Spawn of Moneyball around front offices, who do not place a high value on closers.

Teammates cleaned out Haren's locker, as detailed within this notebook. Nothing is close to happening, despite reports that the Yankees are the leaders for the pitcher, writes George King.

2. Roy Oswalt confirmed what ESPN's Amy Nelson first reported, that he's willing to restructure his deal in order to facilitate a trade. What he is talking about is deferring money, not walking away from it; teams interested in him are being told that he does want his 2012 option for $16 million picked up. And for a lot of teams, that represents a problem. The story linked also mentions that the Cardinals are offering Brendan Ryan to the Astros -- a consistent stance for St. Louis, which has made it clear that Ryan is available.

Oswalt says the 2012 option is not a big deal. It will be if he wants it exercised in order to approve a trade. Some rival executives are beginning to wonder if the Astros can create any deal that would satisfy them, Oswalt and another team.

3. Corey Hart, like David DeJesus, was injured; we'll see if this takes him out of play in the trade market.

4. Lance Berkman says he would be inclined to test free agency. Unless his current numbers improve -- he's hitting .242, with 12 homers and a .366 on-base percentage -- he would probably have difficulty generating any multiyear offers at age 34. He would be a good fit for the Tampa Bay Rays, who may need to replace Carlos Pena for 2011.

5. The White Sox players are not letting the trade talk consume them, writes Joe Cowley.

6. Ted Lilly could be traded by the time the weekend is over, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

7. The Athletics' Kurt Suzuki got a four-year deal. It's a good deal, writes Tim Kawakami, but nothing is guaranteed other than the money.

8. Ty Wigginton was suspended and challenged the decision.

9. The Dodgers are serious buyers, Ned Colletti tells Helene Elliott. The Dodgers are in the conversation on Oswalt, but you wonder how the ownership chaos and the impending departure of Joe Torre would factor into Oswalt's decision on whether to accept a trade to Los Angeles.

10. The acquisition of Alberto Callaspo makes for a crowded infield for the Angels, and the odd man out appears to be Kevin Frandsen. It's hard to see what the Angels' plans are for Brandon Wood.

11. The Braves are getting a lot of calls about their pitchers.

12. The Jays are open for business, writes Mike Rutsey.

Dings and dents

1. The Indians activated Shin-Soo Choo.

2. The Twins suffered a tough loss -- Orlando Hudson strained an oblique. Alexi Casilla replaced him in the lineup.

3. Texas reliever Dustin Nippert isn't sure when he'll be back on the mound.

4. Matt Treanor got hurt. The best catcher on the trade market is the Jays' John Buck, and the Rangers certainly have the prospects to get a deal done, if Texas needs a catcher.

Human growth hormone

The players want a level playing field, says the Twins' Kevin Slowey. Heath Bell doesn't want blood testing. Frank Coonelly, who used to work in the commissioner's office, believes that the union and Major League Baseball will eventually work out a deal on the HGH testing.

Andy Tracy has a beef with the Players Association.

Bud Selig hit a homer with the blood test implementation, writes old pal Nick Canepa.

Friday's games

1. The Cardinals were shut out, again.

2. The Indians beat the rain, and the Rays, Dennis Manoloff writes. Watched a lot of this game, and Fausto Carmona was excellent.

3. The Reds got a badly needed victory in Houston. It's worth saying again: Cincinnati and St. Louis have an enormous scheduling advantage over the teams in the NL East and the NL West, and it would be a stunner if both the Reds and Cardinals aren't in the playoffs.

4. The Cubs had a very good day.

5. Mark Buehrle was The Man for the White Sox.

6. The Padres got a lot of help from Kevin Correia.

7. Buster Posey got a night off and the Giants still won, Henry Schulman writes.

8. Trevor Cahill was good, but the other guy was better.

9. Jose Tabata had a tough game, Dejan Kovacevic writes.

10. The Orioles pulled out a feel-good victory, Jeff Zrebiec writes.

11. Kelly Johnson hit for the cycle, but the D-backs lost.

12. The Dodgers were shut down, Dylan Hernandez writes.

How Johan Santana beat the Dodgers, from Puneet Nanda of ESPN Stats & Information: He got ahead of hitters (80.8 percent first-pitch strikes is second most this season) and did so mostly with his fastball (20 of 27 first-pitch fastballs). This allowed him to keep hitters off balance with off-speed stuff: 84.8 off-speed strike percentage and 72.2 off-speed chase percentage were season highs by far (previous highs were 76.1 and 59.3, respectively). He was efficient: averaged 3.63 pitches per plate appearance (3.51 in five July starts; 3.85 entering).

13. The Angels were shut down again, and are now seven games out of first place.

14. C.J. Wilson completely shut down the Angels. How Wilson shut down the Angels, from Mr. Nanda: He pitched to contact, issued zero walks (for the first time this year) and recorded only three strikeouts. The Angels put 64.9 percent of their swings in play, a season high for Wilson's opponents, and recorded only nine foul balls (a season low). He pounded the strike zone with fastballs (91 of his 104 total pitches, or 87.5 percent), throwing the pitch at by far his highest rate since becoming a starter (previous high 78 percent). Has not allowed a hit on an off-speed pitch in his past three starts. He held the Angels to 0-for-6 with runners on base, and 0-for-7 when hitters were ahead in the count. Anaheim failed to get a runner into scoring position the entire game.

15. The Rockies were manhandled by Roy Halladay.

In their past two games, the Phillies have gotten great starts from Cole Hamels and Halladay largely due to the starters' success with their cutters. The results were a combined one hit and eight strikeouts in 14 at-bats ending in a cutter:

PHILLIES STARTING PITCHING

When throwing a cutter, past two games: