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Too Good to be Truby

Someday, we're going to find this as a baseball trivia question, and nobody will know the answer. Allard’s quest to find The Guy Who’s Going to Keep the Seat Warm for Mark Teahen ended on Thursday when he signed Chris Truby.

--Crickets chirping--

Like the Terrence Long trade that preceded it, nobody outside the Kansas City community and Chris Truby’s immediate relatives are impacted in any way by this, but the pickup is interesting on at least a couple of levels.

Before delving into any numbers or analysis, it’s important to understand why Truby was chosen to, barring injury, be the third baseman on opening day. While meandering around several of my daily Royals message board stops, I’ve noticed a lot of fans upset that Baird & Co. didn’t pick up a better player. In a way, I can understand their frustration because no Royals fan wants to see extremely sub-par players (Truby’s one) on the field, being marketed as a key component. As Allard noted however, the team had to find the "right guy." He detailed what he meant in a November 10 article in the Kansas City Star:
"I'm not going to go out and get an every-day guy and offer a three-year deal. That doesn't make any sense."

[ . . . ]

"So how do you sell it? I can't go to an every-day guy and say, ‘I want you to come here, but I'm going to have Teahen ready at some point.' This guy has to be the right guy."

The "right guy" is someone good enough to play regularly for an extended period — maybe half the season or more — but not so good that he can't be moved aside once Teahen is judged ready.


In short, Allard had to present his third baseman possibilities with this outline of what was going to happen to them:

1) Play every day until Allard’s Boy is ready to go.
2) Subsequently be kicked to the curb with nothing more than a thank you.

No decent player is going to accept that lemming of a role. Although I doubt that Truby is "good enough to play regularly for an extended period" because of his .231/.269/.388 career hitting line, what he is going to provide is Joe Randa-esque defensive ability (which is to say decent) and the chance of hitting like Randa. He showed major improvement in the plate discipline department while playing for the Pirates’ Triple-A team in 2004, posting a .367 on-base percentage and a .558 slugging percentage. The improvements probably aren’t real, because Truby was extremely old for the league, but it at least provides Royals fans with a glimmer of hope that he won’t be a complete drain on the offense. I could certainly deal with a .730ish OPS from him, which might be a reasonably-likely possibility if he can replicate the plate discipline he showed at Nashville.

Truby’s real value to the team is his inexpensiveness. I haven’t found any stories that detail what his contract is worth, so if any of you have that information, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d e-mail it to me. I’m assuming he isn’t getting any more than $500,000 to be Teahen’s placeholder which is the most Baird should’ve given him, so I don’t have any sort of a beef with the money. The only curious thing about Truby’s contract is that it’s being reported as a guaranteed, major-league deal. As rotoworld.com put it, it’s hard to imagine there being such competition for Truby’s services that a major-league deal was necessary, so I think there has to be some sort of a back story here.

I say that because Allard Baird is one of baseball’s best GMs when it comes to recognizing and signing freely-available talent, a skill that’s especially important for a man running a small-market team. Over the years, he’s found Jason Grimsley, Shawn Camp, Raul Ibanez, Aaron Guiel, Calvin Pickering, Nathan Field, Rudy Seanez, and others who’ve made significant contributions to the team either through their play or through a trade. For that reason, it’s hard to understand why Baird would give Truby – an inferior player to all of those I just mentioned – guaranteed money, even if it’s just on a one-year contract. If I had to guess, I’d say that Truby wanted some sort of compensation for agreeing to be a sitting duck, a desire I can understand.

Ultimately, that isn’t really a big deal except that the Royals must use a 40-man roster spot on the guy. That might create problems in terms of picking up or losing players in the Rule 5 draft, but that’ll have to play itself out. If the Royals lose a prospect over Chris Truby, disaster will have struck.

Like it or not Royals fans, your third baseman is some 30-year-old hack who’ll be ditched as soon as possible. Things are going to get very messy in 2005. Allard knows it.
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