Joey and Jacque
Have I ever mentioned how much it sucks that FOX gave the heave-ho to Arrested Development?
Oh well. We all have to move on, and what better way to do that than by discussing some Royals news?
Aside from Rondell White, Jacque Jones, and perhaps Richard Hidalgo, the second-tier of outfield free agents isn’t very attractive from either affordability or ability standpoints, so again, Royals GM Allard Baird would be wise to explore the trade market and try to spend his available resources there. Baird has made it known that he’d prefer to acquire a power-hitting corner with good on-base skills to fit in with Mark Teahen, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Justin Huber, and the rest of the offensive core as the organization goes forward. However, that search has been going on for more than a year now, and the odds of such a deal getting done don’t look good at this point.
As a result, the Royals are willing to be creative and look in other directions, like trying to get a speed-and-defense guy instead of a homers-and-walks player. Apparently, Royals fans agree; the long quest has given Royals fans sufficient time to express their opinions on which players the team should be targeting, and one name I see all over the message boards is that of Tampa Bay Devil Rays speedster Joey Gathright.
Gathright is reportedly available because of the Rays’ crowded outfield situation, although I have my suspicions that he might be dangled on a hook for another reason. At least seven teams have expressed interest in the 24-year-old, whose career so far can only be described as slapping-and-running at its finest:
LVL AB AVG OBP SLG SB/ATT
MLB 255 .271 .316 .322 26/32
AAA 462 .316 .386 .390 64/85
AA 211 .355 .407 .393 22/31
A 548 .301 .388 .325 79/99
Check out that stolen base column. Needless to say, Gathright’s greatest asset is his speed, and he’s been called the fastest man in baseball by various scouts and publications. He’s also shown passable plate discipline, but with that said, it’s surprising that he’s collected only 53 extra-base hits in his career; a player with Gathright’s speed should be legging out two or even three bases on anything hit near an outfield gap. However, it’s here where we see his biggest hurdle towards becoming a solid everyday player: He has absolutely NO power. None.
How big of a hurdle is it? Well, let’s just say that Rafael Belliard probably thinks Gathright is going to have a difficult time hitting the ball out of the infield, at least until he bulks up with age. To be fair, his track record is reminiscent of a young Luis Castillo, the poster boy of the slap-and-run club who’s carved a very nice career for himself despite slugging .356.
However, Castillo’s success as an on-base fiend has to be considered the exception, not the rule. Spindly hitters with poor bat speed can survive in minor-league environments where the stuff belonging to the pitchers is, more often than not, sub-standard. But put a Joey Gathright in the batter’s box against anybody with a good fastball and a solid secondary pitch, and he’ll be lucky to make contact.
We’re talking about a player who’s going to struggle to hit for average, struggle to get on base, and struggle greatly to hit anything but singles. Guys like this have their place in baseball as pinch-runners and defensive replacements for all-bat, no-field types, but expecting them to be everyday players is foolish at best.
A little birdie says the Kansas City Royals have offered Twins free-agent outfielder Jacque Jones a $24 million, four-year contract.
Jones, 30, was paid $5 million last season, when he hit .249 with 23 home runs and 73 runs batted in. The last-place Royals have $25 million to spend on free agents this winter.
Additionally, Bob Nigtengale of USA TODAY reported that the Royals have made an offer to Jones, only that the deal was for three years and $15 million.
I've long hated Jones and his bat toss when he knows he's hit a home run, but I'll probably learn to love it if he becomes a Royal. I don't think either deal will be considered an albatross by the time the third or fourth year of it rolls around, but Jones is now 30, so while he'd massively upgrade KC's outfield defense, he'll likely see his lauded defensive abilities begin to slowly deteriorate. And while he'd be an improvement over Matt Diaz, Aaron Guiel, and maybe even Emil Brown, the fact remains that Jones should never start against left-handed pitching. He's proven as much over his career:
AVG OBP SLG OPS
vs LHP .227 .277 .339 .616
vs RHP .294 .341 .488 .829
I can't imagine how difficult it would be for a small-market team to platoon their big free-agent signee from the winter, but given Jones' total inability to hit the ball with any authority against southpaws, the Royals would be well-served to find a lefty masher to spell Jones every few days.
That player could very well be Brown, who completely demolished lefties last season to the tune of .313/.368/.538 in 182 at-bats. Jones hit .268/.348/.466 against right-handers last year, so assuming both reasonably maintain their production from a season ago and are strictly platooned, the Royals could have something like a .290/.360/.502 line of production from one outfield corner, which I think is far more than Kevin Mench could dream of providing in Kauffman Stadium.
All told, giving Jones a three- or four-year deal for $15 to $24 million makes some sense, especially considering the ridiculous market management teams are fighting right now. But if he's signed, it'll be up to the Royals to correctly utilize their new personnel.
Update: The Kansas City Star reported this morning that the Royals have made a two-year offer to Jones and refuted the Pioneer Press article stating they'd offered four years and $24 million.