Kansas City Royals Sign Rick Ankiel To Man Right-Center Field

Josh DugganCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2010

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 26:  (L-R) Skip Schumaker, Rick Ankiel and Mark DeRosa of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate in the clubhouse after clinching the National League Central Division by defeating the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 26, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Cardinals defeated the Rockies 6-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Having confused softball and baseball rules, Dayton Moore signed Rick Ankiel to man right-center field.  Under this new alignment, Jose Guillen will stand five feet from the right field foul line while Ankiel is expected to shift roughly five feet toward center field from where a right fielder would typically be stationed. 

This outside-the-box thinking will still leave the Royals wanting in terms of the ground they'll be covering in the outfield, but Moore guesstimates that "the Royals outfielders will get to somewhere between five to eight more fly balls in 2010 than they would have in 2009.  That should equate to ten more wins."  He then spoke of URZ/150 and assist-to-turnover ratio before espousing the value of trusting processes.

All kidding aside...

As far as Dayton Moore signings are concerned, there have been worse than the reported one-year, $3.25 million deal with a mutual option for a second year at $6 million that the club reached with Rick Ankiel yesterday.  What that says about the tenure of Dayton Moore as the designer of the Major League roster for the Kansas City Royals is up to you to decide.   

In all, it's not an insane amount of money to commit to Ankiel, who at the very least has a plus arm with decent range for a corner outfielder.  And while he certainly has some holes in his swing, he does have prodigious power. 

Of course, all of that last sentence could be ascribed to the nightmare that was Mike Jacobs, with whom we are all unfortunately very familiar.

Now, since Rick Ankiel's return to the Majors as a retooled position player, he has been hampered by injuries.  This does make it nearly impossible to predict what we Royals fans can come to expect from him in 2010.  Since I have been playing the part of the pessimist for quite some time, I am going to switch gears for just a moment.

For a good chunk of the 2008 season, Rick Ankiel was healthy.  Then following the Cardinals game at Shea Stadium on July 26, 2008, Ankiel was pulled from regular duty with what was at first deemed an abdominal strain. 

As time passed, and his numbers dropped, it became known that it was in fact a sports hernia that had been afflicting Ankiel.  The injury was thought to have occurred in the Cards' series with the Brewers just before their trip to Shea, but for our purposes, I'll look at Ankiel's stats up until the point at which his injury began limiting him to pinch-hitting duty for the two weeks that followed.

On July 26, 2008, Rick Ankiel was hitting .282/.347/.543/.890 through 92 games (84 of those were starts).  He had collected 22 homers, 21 doubles, two triples, 57 runs, and 59 RBI, with a 33:80 BB:K ratio in roughly half a season.  His BABIP was a reasonably sustainable .309, and his ISO was a robust .261.

Obviously, he had been putting together a very nice season in 2008 before everything ran off the tracks.  An abdominal strain became a sports hernia, and Ankiel ended up getting shut down for the remainder of the season after the Cardinals played on September 9. 

There is the shortcoming here in that the sample size is likely too small to make any substantive extrapolation that could be applied to this season.  We are also talking about numbers from the 2008 season in the National League. 

Ankiel's 2009 season was largely affected by injuries.  He had already made his way to the DL with a shoulder injury on May 7.  Whether it was neck, shoulder, or groin injuries that landed him on the team injury report, it seemed as though Ankiel was dealing with injuries all season.

This propensity toward injury is certainly cause for concern.  That being said, a healthy Rick Ankiel is a player I could get behind having on the roster. 

Do I think the Royals will end up getting that Rick Ankiel, the one who produced an enticing line while healthy in 2008? 

Honestly, no. 

Do I mind that the Royals spent $3.25 million in 2010 on Ankiel in the hopes that he can stay healthy and produce?  No. 

Now, what this means for the other 87 outfielders the Royals currently have on the 40-man roster is nearly impossible to determine. 

I have spent the last year trying to make sense of how newly acquired players fit into Dayton Moore's plan for the roster, and each time the logical path that my train of thought took me down was nowhere near where I thought the Royals would end up. 

I thought going into Spring Training with three catchers last season meant that Moore would ship either Olivo or Buck off, as they broke from Arizona and the 25-man rosters were set, but no such thing happened. 

I assumed Ron Mahay would be traded when his value was at an all-time high at the 2008 non-waiver trade deadline, but Moore failed to ship off the then-effective left-handed setup man to a contender, and Mahay tanked from then on.  

I rationalized the Mike Jacobs signing by making the assumption that the Royals would be trading either Billy Butler, Kila Ka'aihue, or Ryan Shealy to fill one of the other roster holes, but no moves were made regarding any of them.

I figured the signing of the Other Brian Anderson would rule out the acquisition of Scott Podsednik.  No such luck. 

It is long past the point at which I can reasonably expect to decipher what Moore's plan is regarding the construction of this roster.  With the exceptions of Mitch Maier or Brian Anderson—neither of whom is likely to garner much playing time, with the way the roster seems to be shaking out—there is not a center fielder on this team.

David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik would both seem to profile as similarly equipped left fielders, leading a rational person to assume that perhaps Moore is planning on shipping off David DeJesus. 

Unfortunately (and most of all, unfortunately for DeJesus himself), similar thinking struck us all heading into the 2008 and 2009 seasons, when DeJesus' club-favorable contract would seem to have yielded the most in terms of returns, but no move was made. 

At this point, I would have to say that shift in philosophy leading to the aforementioned four-outfielder alignment with the "rangy" Yuniesky Betancourt manning a simple middle infield spot (shading to the right or left depending on the hitters' tendencies, of course) is just as likely as the sensible DeJesus move being made. 

Moreover, any trade of DeJesus then means that the Royals' fanbase has to welcome in dead weight from either Atlanta, Bavasi's Mariners, or the South Side of Chicago. 

I, for one, do not want that frosted-tip bastard A.J. Pierzynski anywhere near this club, but with the Jason Kendall signing, adding Pierzynski makes the least sense for the Royals, so that is surely what will happen. 

So, while I have learned that speculation as to what roster fallout will follow the Rick Ankiel signing is futile, I can for once say that I don't hate a Dayton Moore signing.

Maybe trotting four outfielders out on defense won't be all bad...


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