On Tuesday, we dissected the Royals' roster in an attempt to go from the -90 run differential of 2008 to at least even, if not better, in 2009. For me at least, that column crystalized that the primary target in the off-season simply had to be a run producing outfielder to replace Mark Teahen.
To be honest, I'd probably prefer to give Teahen one more year and replace Jose Guillen (they created nearly the same number of runs in 2008), but that's not going to happen.
The two names that immediately come to mind as being available and an upgrade were Bobby Abreu and Raul Ibanez. In Ibanez, you have a player who will turn 37 in June of 2009. He'll hit you 20 to 25 homers, drive in runs, be a good clubhouse guy and get on base in the .350 range. That is an upgrade, but his age really has to start being a concern.
In Abreu, you have a player who will be 35 at the start of the 2009 campaign. He has played in 151 or more games for 11 straight years and posted an OBP of .400 or more in eight of those seasons. Now, the past two seasons have been Abreu's two lowest OBP years (.369 and .371), but after seeing his slugging percentage decline for three straight season, Bobby bumped that back up to .471 in 2008 - a 36 point improvement from 2007.
Personally, I would give Abreu three years at whatever it takes and be happy with something similar to the .296/.371/.471 line he just fashioned. Yes, he is getting older, his defense is average at best and it is likely that those 20+ steal seasons are gone forever. Still, the guy created 104 runs in 2008 - thirty-two more than Mark Teahen.
Many of you, however, may not like either the Ibanez or Abreu option and frankly, it takes two to tango, and I'm not sure either player has an interest in coming to Kansas City. Are there other options out there?
Forty-nine other outfielders created more runs than Mark Teahen last season. One of those was David DeJesus, so that makes 48 players that would be some sort of upgrade. Twenty-nine created 20 runs or more greater than Teahen, which is pretty much the minimum level of improvement that the Royals need to be looking for.
Manny leads the list with 134 runs created. Technically he will be available this off-season, but let's be realistic: ManRam may or may not know that Kansas City is an actual place. Following Manny are a slew of unavailable players: Sizemore, Beltran, Markakis, etc.
At number four is the somewhat available Matt Holliday, but it would take some major trading pieces to net him and you would be risking that his production will drop without 81 games in Denver on his schedule.
The next truly available type is probably Adam Dunn at number 11. Ignoring the fact that Dunn in the outfield makes Abreu and Ibanez look like gazelles, Adam is a proven run producer, but a questionable influence on younger players. My guess is Dunn has gotten a worse rap than he deserves, but not sure he fits what Dayton Moore is looking for.
After that, you are looking at a Pat Burrell, Brian Giles, Johnny Damon (yeah, I just snickered, too) and Xavier Nady. All marginally available guys who probably command a price not worth the return.
So frankly, what you are left with if you do not/cannot get Abreu or Ibanez are trying to project someone who had a less than great season as the player that will blossom in Kansas City. If the Royals are looking at that route, then you might as well work out a low-level deal for a Nelson Cruz or the like and just hope.
As you can see, identifying the primary need for this team was fairly easy. Solving the problem is considerably more difficult.