The Kansas City Royals have been active in adding pieces to the club this offseason. On the heels of a winning season, the team obviously feels that they will find themselves contending for the division title in 2014.
Contending for the division title did not require a complete overhaul of the roster. The Royals were able to shop intelligently for pieces that would improve the team. A backup catcher, a backup infielder, a rotation arm, a second baseman and a leadoff hitter were the shopping list items. General manager Dayton Moore effectively evaluated his ability to field each one of those needs while sacrificing as little of his current roster as possible.
For the first time in recent memory, the Royals were willing to open the coffers and spend on a free agent acquisition. They found a way to deal from a surplus of outfielders and relief pitchers to strengthen themselves elsewhere.
Here are five impact moves that Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals have pulled off this offseason, ranked in order of impact to the club.
Our first move is one that has a small impact on the roster. After signing Francisco Pena to a contract, the Royals completed the change behind the plate by releasing George Kottaras. Pena appears poised to be the backup to Salvador Perez.
The backup catcher position is a minute, yet important, part of the roster, if for no other reason than being able to ensure that Perez has the ability to rest throughout the season. Having a capable backup that the pitching staff believes in and provides your team with enough offense to justify his spot in the lineup is essential to the health of the starter.
Pena is an unproven asset going into the season, but he should work well as the understudy to Perez. By the end of the season, Royals fans will appreciate what the young backstop brings to the team.
The surplus of outfielders led to the trade that falls to No. 4 on our list. The Royals traded David Lough to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for infielder Danny Valencia. Lough put together a highly productive season for the Royals last season but was a victim of a suddenly crowded roster.
The trade lands here due largely to the impact of losing Lough. The Royals outfielder finished eighth in voting for the 2013 American League Jackie Robinson Award, given each year to the best rookie from each league. Lough is a highly regarded defensive outfielder and has proven to be an acceptable bat at the plate.
Valencia is not a slouch, however. He has hit well, shown occasional power and provides a solid fallback option to Mike Moustakas at third base. He adds depth to the bench with a powerful bat and the ability to backup third base. Consider Valencia an upgrade over Miguel Tejada from last year.
While the move is another one that impacts the bench more than it does the lineup, it shows that the Royals are thinking about the entire roster this season. The lineup will play a big part in the upcoming season, but the depth of the bench will become a key part of a division title run. The trade of a potential impact outfielder to strengthen the bench at a key position shows the desire to win is growing stronger in Kansas City.
The Royals needed to patch the rotation spot being left vacant by Ervin Santana this offseason and did so by bringing in Jason Vargas. The addition of Vargas to the rotation lands as No. 3 on our power rankings of Royals moves.
Vargas is an inning-eating hurler that provides the Royals with depth in the pitching rotation. He can be effective and has shown moments of dominance in his career. He may not live up to the season that Santana put together in 2013 for the Royals, but he shouldn't have to.
Vargas needs to be the pitcher he is capable of being going forward. Throwing a consistent amount of innings and taking the baseball every five days will go a long way in helping the club going forward. Finding a consistent approach that allows the team to find themselves in winning situations when he is on the mound will have Royals' fans warming up to him quickly.
The two moves that impact this team can almost be labeled 1a and 1b. For the sake of this ranking, however, the addition of Omar Infante as the team's every day second baseman comes in at No. 2.
Infante solves a major problem for the team going forward. Second base has long been a rotating spot for the club and having a player like Infante to plug in to that spot every day goes a long way in making this team better in 2014 and beyond. Infante's bat will also infuse power and consistency to a lineup that could use it.
The larger impact here is that a free agent that was considered to be one of the top free agents on the market chose Kansas City over other teams, including the New York Yankees. While the money is certainly a key component in drawing free agents, the fact that the team is prepared to win going forward helps tremendously. A free agent signing of this caliber shows that the Royals have turned a corner, not only in their own minds but in the minds of the rest of the baseball world.
The addition of Infante was impactful, but the acquisition of Norichika Aoki ranks No. 1 on our list of Royals' moves this offseason. Aoki's impact on the remainder of the lineup places him high on our list of moves.
Aoki brings a legitimate hitter to the top of the lineup, allowing the Royals to utilize Alex Gordon lower in the order. Aoki is known for his stellar defense in right field while also providing the team with a leadoff hitter capable of being on base on a regular basis.
Providing the team with a capable leadoff hitter allows the team flexibility lower in the lineup. Gordon's consistent bat can be used in a manner that will produce more runs. His ability to be on base will lead to run producing opportunities that were simply not there for the middle of the order in the past.
The impact that Aoki has around the lineup and the field make him an easy choice for the top of our rankings this offseason.
David Glass has opened the pocketbook and given manager Ned Yost the tools he needs to succeed in 2014. The Royals have the arms in place and a stronger lineup built to go after the division title.
The additions of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante alone make this team a formidable threat. Jason Vargas gives consistency to the rotation. Danny Valencia and Francisco Pena strengthen the bench. The Royals appear poised to be contenders this upcoming season thanks to the moves the team has made.
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