Here's A Thought: The Royals Didn't Need A Shortstop

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJanuary 15, 2017

My reaction to yesterday's Yuniesky Betancourt trade was pretty similar to the reaction most people had.

"Wow, Dayton Moore is a terrible GM. Thank God I'm not a Royals fan."

There are just so many things wrong with the trade.

The first error in judgment, the one most often pointed out by others, is that Betancourt is a bad player offensively and defensively. He's just another bad shortstop to add to Willie Bloomquist and Tony Pena Jr. While he may be an upgrade, he's certainly not a starter. He may not even be a big-league-caliber player at this point.

Another problem, one that most people have ignored, is that Mike Aviles will be coming back next season, and he should get the job back. Don't start telling me about his bad 2009: he was injured and unlucky, so I'm giving Aviles a pass.

It's silly to trade for a guy to start for three months in a year where you aren't contending. If I was a Royals fan, I'd rather see Pena Jr. out there than Betancourt, because then at least you didn't give up any prospects for your inept shortstop.

The real kicker in the whole Betancourt mess, however, is that the Royals, even without Aviles, don't need a shortstop.

They already have one.

He just happens to be playing second base.

Alberto Callaspo has a carrer +9.8 UZR in 31 games (21 starts) at shortstop, suggesting he can at least do a decent job at the position. Callaspo, a .301/.354/.462 hitter, clearly is a monumental offensive upgrade over Betancourt, Bloomquist, and Pena Jr. He's also a better defender than Betancourt and Bloomquist (and possibly even Pena Jr. at this point).

Now, I know what you're thinking.

"Okay, so you move Callaspo to shortstop. You still don't have a second baseman!"

Well, there's two things you could do, and, on a positive note, none of them involve Betancourt, Bloomquist, or Pena Jr. doing anything but warming the bench.

The first second base solution can't take effect for a week or so. Basically, when Alex Gordon (currently on a rehab assignment) comes back next week, he'll slide in at third, the Royals move Mark Teahen to second, and Teahen pushes Callaspo to short.

Now, I know Teahen was brutal defensively at second early in the year, but the guy can hit, and he does have a history of rapid improvement at positions once he settles in. The Royals have nothing to lose by seeing if Teahen can adapt to second, and it would eliminate the need to play a punchless middle infielder.

Teahen's defense too cringeworthy for you? Fine, there's one other easy way to fix the problem.

Tug Hulett is hitting .291/.372/.444 in Triple-A. Yes, he went 1-for-14 with the Royals earlier in the year, but that was a.) a small sample and b.) in a bench role, where it's difficult to hit.

A plus defender at second in very limited big-leasgue action (+2.5 UZR), Hulett has a chance to be a .275/.350/.400 hitter at second with average-plus defense. That's certainly more than Betancourt, Bloomquist, or Pena Jr. provides, especially in terms of walks and doubles power.

Hulett has a strong minor league track record, and handing him the second base job for three months would finally determine if he's a big league starter, good utility player, or just Triple-A filler. I feel pretty strongly that Hulett is one of the first two.

So not only was the Betancourt trade a bad move, it was an unnecessary move, as a Teahen/Callaspo or Hulett/Callaspo 2B/SS combination would provide far better results than Callaspo/Betancourt, and the Royals would still have Daniel Cortes and Derrick Saito in their minor league system.