The Royals finally made a splash this off season, announcing the signing of four players on Friday:
• Doug Mientkiewicz, a light hitting but strong defensive first baseman who will presumably play first most of the season allowing Mike Sweeney to concentrate on DH’ing so he can stay in the lineup.
• Mark Grudzielanek, a second baseman with played with the Cardinals last season. Grudz will likely keep second warm until somebody like Ruben Gotay or Andres Blanco is ready to take over full time.
• Paul Bako, a veteran catcher who’s been around. He’ll provide solid veteran backup to John Buck.
• Scott Elarton, the prototypical “innings eater.”
While none of these four is stunning, it is somewhat encouraging to see the Royals try to stabilize their club with some veterans who have major league experience including post season experience. Also, revamping the infield with Grudz and Mink on the right side should help improve the pitching as the Royals sported the worst defense in the league last season.
These moves compliment the earlier acquisistion of Mark Redman, another innings eating lefty. The Royals’ rotation will include Redman and Elarton, veterans, along with Runelvys Hernandez, Zack Greinke, and another possible lefty in JP Howell or Jeremy Affeldt. (My contention is that Affeldt should have been in the rotation this entire time – but don’t get me started on that).
GM Allard Baird didn’t mention defense when he announced these signings, but it is pretty obvious that defense was a priority this off season. They are still working on signing a corner outfielder – likely Jacque Jones.
No, the Royals won’t content for the division title this year. The offense is still anemic at best. But what these move do is take some pressure off the kids as they continue their development. They likely won’t have to suffer through another 19 game losing streak this season, and can be comfortable in their development as they play near .500 ball, without the stress and pressure of losing at a record setting pace.
I’m looking forward to March when I can get my first look at this new Royals team when we travel to Arizona for our annual Spring Training Trek.