The Royals will not compete in 2010.
The talking-heads and sports writing powers-that-be will have you believe this is already a foregone conclusion.
Does this statement derive from abundant research and insightful analysis, or lazy regurgitation?
First of all, it is hardly a prediction when looking at the past 20 years of Royals baseball; failure is near certain for this franchise year after year.
But there is a reason they actually play out the season. How many of these "professionals" predicted the teams emergence in 2003? Baseball is a sport where any team can beat any other on any given day.
The Royals have the best pitcher in baseball pitching once every fifth day.
Who's to say the Royals don't add another big left arm and/or a couple sticks? Who's to say Josh Fields doesn't turn back into Mark Reynolds? Who's to say that doesn't push along Alex Gordon's development?
* I'm looking at you, incentive-laden contract for Eric Bedard
The Royals' minor league system is still a couple years away from disseminating players around the diamond, but the addition of fill-in talent like Scott Podsednik can make the team considerably better than they were a year ago—especially given the state of the American League Central division.
While much has been made of Podsednik's poor defensive statistics - he is no worse than any other Royal OF option, and better than most - there is no doubt his speed and ability to bat lead off will improve upon what the Royals had in 2009. He may not be the most proficient base stealer, but he will draw much attention when on the base paths—attention that will be diverted away from pitching to David DeJesus.
Podsednik, DeJesus, Butler.
That's not a bad 1-2-3. Other teams have done more with less, and if a couple breaks go the Royals way this year—as they did in 2003—it could be an interesting season.
Another perk of the Podsednik deal is—barring a trade or major injury—it could make Jose Guillen a full-time DH.
The Royals brass have stated that they are open to playing DeJesus in left or right field, they signed Brian Anderson, they traded for Josh Fields, they have demonstrated a commitment to playing Mitch Maier* and they like throwing a few starts Willie Bloomquist's way; there is little room for Guillen's weak defense.
* Once Kevin Seitzer got through to Maier late last year and he spread his legs apart in his stance , he began to hit much better and for more power.
This upgrade in right will greatly assist the defensively-challenged Royals, and the fact Guillen will only be swinging a bat will likely keep him in the lineup and off the disabled list.
The right side of the Royals defense—first base, second base and right field—must improve greatly, and if Billy Butler is going to be the starting first baseman, as manager Trey Hillman has indicated, second base and right field must be upgraded*.
* Butler, Callaspo and Guillen may be the worst Bermuda triangle in baseball history. I have no statistics to back that up, but a slow first baseman, injured right fielder and second baseman that cannot catch a pop-up makes for a disastrous combination.
Chris Getz—obtained in the Mark Teahen trade along with Josh Fields—can provide a defensive upgrade at second; however, general manager Dayton Moore needs to trade Alberto Callaspo to make that happen. I have confidence in Moore's competence. Callaspo will not be in Royal Blue in 2010.
That improvement plus any one of the aforementioned right field options will enhance defensive range and accuracy, and assist the team in winning a higher percentage of low scoring affairs.
Though I am painting a very pretty picture of the Royals current status, I realize they are limited in many manners. They still need a high impact bat, a left handed starting pitcher, bullpen help and more overall talent.
However, there is a lot that can happen in 162 games. The next Angel Berroa/Mike Aviles season could emerge at the right time and propel this ball club into the upper echelons of a weak division.
Declaring any team dead in January is counterproductive and impedes progression.
Negativity tends to lead to self-fulfilled prophecy, and the amount of negativity currently aimed at the Royals will only succeed in alienating fans further and driving down attendance which will further hinder the ball club due to a lack available funds.
Instead, I choose to look forward to spring training while I scan the sports page hoping to see more personnel upgrades.