"It's like teams are expecting us to just give away our players."
By now, a lot of you have probably seen or heard that comment attributed to an unnamed source in the Royals' front office. I am sure that statement was related with a good deal of disgust in the source's voice and certainly understand why.
However, let's get real, shall we? The Royals are 40-61 right now, 3-10 since the All-Star Break. Should anyone in the front office really be surprised that other teams are undervaluing their players? Or, as may actually be the case, that the Royals' front office is overvaluing their own?
Regardless of which, the Royals' front office should not spend the last six hours before the trading deadline under the impression that "giveaway" is a dirty word. Quite frankly, the one thing that Kansas City GM Dayton Moore has actually shown an ability to do is get something for nothing.
At the end of last season, southpaw Tyler Lumsden posted a 7.21 ERA in AAA, walking 18 more batters than he struck out. That came on the heels of a previous season ERA of 5.88 in which Lumsden allowed 141 hits in just 119 innings, plus 59 walks. Folks, that's the kind of pitching that gets you a job at Home Depot.
Despite that track record, Moore was able to ship Lumsden to Houston for outfielder Jordan Parraz, a 24-year-old with some decent numbers, but who had never seen a pitch above A ball. All Parraz has done this season is post an OPS of 1.005 at the AA level and earn a promotion—albeit after missing a month with an injury—to AAA.
I don't know if Parraz will ever translate those AA numbers into any sort of major league value. He may flame out in Omaha or linger on the fringes of the majors as a fourth/fifth outfielder (does anyone carry a fifth outfielder anymore?). It does not matter: Parraz has a better chance than Lumsden did at contributing in the majors.
Here's another case in point: Horacio Ramirez for Paulo Orlando.
In 2007, Ramirez posted a 7.16 ERA in 20 starts for Seattle, walking more than he struck out and allowing 139 hits in just 98 innings. The Royals picked him off the scrap heap and got 24 usable relief innings out of Horacio, which included an 11/1 strikeout to walk ratio, and smartly shipped him off to Chicago before the law of averages caught up with him. They did, by the way, as Ramirez allowed 24 hits and 11 runs in 13 innings for the Sox (8 walks vs. 2 strikeouts, by the way).
In return, Kansas City got an athletic 22-year-old outfielder who hit 20 doubles, 14 triples and 12 home runs, plus he stole 29 bases in 2008 at High A ball. Of course, Orlando struck out 116 times, too, and got off to a horrible start at the same level this season. Still, who would you rather have in the organization, Horacio Ramirez or Paulo Orlando?
Nevermind the fact that Moore obliterated his good move by resigning Ramirez to a ridiculous contract in the off-season. The initial move was a classic something for nothing.
That brings us to today and Ron Mahay. Now, I advocated trading Mahay at last year's trading deadline. At that point in time, the Royals had gotten an excellent half-season out of a 37-year-old pitcher. Of course, the lament at the time was that the value in return was not enough.
Well, here we are again, and Mahay's value is considerably lower than it was one year ago. He is 38-years-old, pitching on a team that is going nowhere, and likely will be out of baseball by the time the Royals are truly in contention. So what if you "give him away?"
Would you trade Mahay for a player with Jordan Parraz's track record as it stood at the end of 2008? How about Orlando's? Is it really a giveaway to make such a trade on the one in 10 chance that the non-prospect you get might end up being a major leaguer? Remember, in May of last year, Mike Aviles was a non-prospect and the year before that, so was Kila Kaahuie.
Where the Royals stand today, it seems logical to trade the likes of Mahay, John Bale and just about any reliever not named Soria for just about any minor leaguer other organizations might have given up on or maybe never believe in.
What's the point, you might ask? Well, what exactly is the point of having Mahay or Bale on this roster at this point in time?
Now, the something for nothing principal does not apply to many of the Royals mentioned in various rumors. If the organization cannot get some actual prospects for a Mark Teahen or a David DeJesus, then they might as well hang onto those two for now. If they cannot get a near major league ready position player for Brian Bannister, then keep him.
When it comes to aging middle relievers and, to some extent, hacking catchers (I'm looking at you Olivo and Buck), then making a move for something is not a trade just to be trading, but instead a decent gamble worth taking.