Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All in for 2014 - Going to WAR with the lineup you have

So, the World Series is over and the boys in blue didn't make it. I will say, this was one of the more enjoyable seasons to follow the Royals, and it will be great if they can ever get through a season sometime soon without a gut-punch of a month that drags the whole year down.

Think about it: if Kansas City managed to play .500 baseball in May, they would have been in the wild card game, and anything could have happened.

Of course, that didn't work out so hot for Cleveland, but I digress.

Looking ahead to 2014, there are some clear issues that need to be addressed if KC is going to get those six more wins they desperately missed. On the pitching side, there is the matter of replacing Ervin Santana, who accounted for 2.8 WAR on his own. Losing his contributions alone makes it nine wins the Royals will need to add to the roster in order to dream of the post season in 2014.

There are already rumors (or, perhaps just wishful thinking) about the team looking at Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson to fill the void if Ervin doesn't take the qualifying offer from Kansas City.

It takes a certain level of optimism to think the Royals can repeat their performance as the best run-preventing team in the American League, but I'm going to look at that later. For now, let's talk runs and what Kansas City can do to score more of them.

Most of the discussion is focusing on two positions: Right Field and Second Base. There's good reason for this, as both spots would have been enormous sinkholes if David Lough hadn't proven to be a decent major leaguer and Miguel Tejada didn't have the attention span of a toddler.

The bad news is Miggy isn't coming back and Lough is probably more like the player he was in July/August (266/288/351) than when he came up in May/June (314/336\471).

Time for some bad math.

Here is a look at some key players currently under club control in 2014. (Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference)

I've included Escobar and Moustakas because I think the Royals should look beyond a fix at second base, if the opportunity arises.

Both players saw large drop-offs in productivity this year from last, and while they are too young to jettison completely, I would think a little competition going into the Spring couldn't hurt.

Maxwell did well for the Royals after they brought him over, and a platoon between him and Lough might maximize their potential in Right Field. They certainly can't be much worse than Jeff Francouer was last season.

All in, using these (admittedly) rough calculations and expecting repeat performances from the rest of the team (a fool's dream, to be sure), I project the Royals still falling about 6 wins short of the playoffs. Even resigning Santana and getting a repeat performance will leave them on the outside looking in unless the league regresses next year.

The most prominent name out there for a quick upgrade has been Howie Kendrick of the Angels. Plugging Kendrick's 3.3 WAR from 2013 in place of the 1.27 we might realistically expect from Bonifacio helps the cause, but it doesn't quite guarantee champagne showers in October.

Would it be nice if the Royals dropped $30 million on Robinson Cano and his 5-6 WAR of the last few years? Ha!

A look at the other available free agents is less than appealing. (Yuni at 3rd base? Put down the phone, Dayton. Put it down now!)

Fleeting thoughts about #cheercano aside, there is no way the Royals are going to be able to responsibly spend their way into the playoffs this off season. Getting creative with trades, lucky with some lower tier signings and praying that the coaches in Venezuela can put Moose back on track are going to be the best we can hope for.

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