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Back to Baseball

A couple of days ago, I wrote that one of the lousiest things about the early offseason is the lack of interesting baseball subjects to discuss. And if you've read each entry since that day, you know that my writing subjects haven't been very baseball-related to say the least. That is unless you're into the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing, which can link Sarah Michelle Gellar -- a key component of yesterday's entry -- to Freddie Prinz, Jr. who played a baseball player in Summer Catch. With that said, I'm going to try to do a better job of putting together entries about baseball and, more importantly, Allard Baird's quest to collect as many six-year minor league free agents as possible.

So my goal for the remainder of the week and beyond is to get back on track and write stuff you might actually care about, and what better way to do that than with a juicy trade rumor? It's been reported by more than one source that the Royals are actively pursuing Cincinnati's Austin Kearns to be the "power-hitting left fielder" they so desire, and I think he'd would be a tremendous pickup for the right price. Here's what an mlb.com article said about the possible trade scenarios involving Kearns, who the Reds are considering moving to third base:
Early in the Hot Stove season, there has been plenty of back-fence talk involving Austin Kearns. One rumor has him being traded to the Expos for pitching. Another involves a deal with the Royals, which could possibly bring 20-year-old shortstop Andres Blanco and a couple of pitching prospects.
I don't know anything about the Expos rumors, so I'm not going to comment on that. But if Kearns ends up in Kansas City, the price of Andres Blanco and two pitching prospects sounds about right to me. While he's a flashy defensive shortstop loaded with physical ability, I have my doubts that Blanco's going to hit before he reaches his free agency years, meaning his greatest value to the Royals may be through a trade. To some, that price will seem excessive due to Kearns' injury problems that have bothered him over the years, but I'd be willing to risk Blanco and a couple of young arms to reap the potential rewards Kearns could bring not just in 2005, but down the road as well. And that's what Baird is looking for if he's going to trade prospects of any kind: A player who's going to be in Kansas City for more than just one season.

Additionally, Kearns is going to be a great hitter if he can put together an injury-free season, because he's shown an outstanding knowledge of the strike zone at a very young age (.095 isolated discipline), and has flashed amazing power at the major league level. In other words, the kid doesn't just hit home runs: He has the ability to hit what Jon Miller and Joe Morgan call "big flies," or high, towering, drives that travel well over 400 feet.

Kearns can not only hit, but is also a pretty damned good defender in right or left field with a strong and accurate throwing arm. Perhaps most importantly, he can cover some ground at either corner, which is extremely valuable in the vast expanses of the Kauffman Stadium outfield. I generally don't trust Range Factor as a fielding metric, but Kearns has a well above average RFg in 206 career games in right field (2.07) compared to the league over that time (1.69).

In addition to all that, he isn't going to be eligible for free agency for another three years, meaning the Royals would have the opportunity to build their outfield around Kearns, David DeJesus, and perhaps Justin Huber if he doesn't become a first baseman. That outfield would be a championship-caliber one, and perhaps a mini-Johnny Damon/Carlos Beltran/Jermaine Dye trio Royals fans were treated to a few years ago. This time, however, I'm going to cross my fingers that Kearns or Huber wouldn't be traded for anybody named Neifi.
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