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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Who's in right?

It's still my position that the Royals don't need to sign a free-agent outfielder. But they appear intent on doing so. Jacque Jones is the likely signing but two other names have been mentioned. Here's a thumbnail look:

PLAYER

AGE

3YR_RD_OPS

ZR**

2005 ROYALS

--

.721*

.873

Preston Wilson

31

.784

.884

Jacque Jones

31

.782

.875

Juan Encarnacion

30

.746

.890

* Royals' 2005 overall park-adjusted OPS for LF; ** projected

From this table, it doesn't look like there is a whole lot of difference between the three. All of would be upgrades with the bat and the glove. As I mentioned yesterday, you have to use the Royals' LF stats last year for comparison because, in essence, that is the lineup spot that will be replaced. Last year's right-fielder, Emil Brown, will be moving to left field. Emil posted a .809 OPS last season.

Dollars and length of contract should be the determining factor here. Jacque Jones may be similar in value to the other two but would you rather have him for three years if you can get one of the others with a two-year pact?

That aside, if you're talking strictly about on-field value, I like Encarnacion. He's the best gloveman in the bunch and has, by far, the best throwing arm. Offensively, he might be a bit below the other two, though the numbers you see here are weighed down by his subpar 2004 season.

Further, Encarnacion is a year younger, no small consideration when you're talking about 30-somethings. His right-handed bat would meld well with a corner-outfield rotation of Encarnacion, Aaron Guiel, Emil Brown and Matt Stairs, though there wouldn't be room for all of them if the Royals go with a 12-man pitching staff. That leaves Chip Ambres out of the equation, which would be semi-regrettable. (By the way, Baird said yesterday that Stairs will be getting time in the outfield during the upcoming season.)

Even though Encarnacion is my preference, there really it really doesn't matter a whole lot who the Royals bring in if the dollars and years are similar.

But, again, I think corner platoons of Stairs/Ambres, Guiel/Brown work just fine. Pocket the $5 million per annum for another season. Which reminds me - a lot of the response that I got yesterday was mildly scolding for being too negative. Perhaps my opening comments were a little harsh but, overall, I think I presented a mixed bag of opinions. Most of the moves are defensible and, in the end, the 2006 Royals will win a few more games than they would have without the moves.

However, I have to reiterate that I think it would be better to keep the payroll supressed for at least another year. I'm working on an analysis of last year's free agent class along with some other big-picture issues. That should be ready in a couple of days.

But, hey, if you're excited about the Royals' moves yesterday, more power to ya. I may be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

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