Royals Rumors: Ryan Howard, Jon Lester, and Yasmany Tomas

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Man. If this Royals offseason ends up half as wild as things are trending, it’s going to be one to remember. Rumors have been kinda nutty so far.

Just in the past week, we’ve been linked to three different players who – for those of us who are used to small market baseball – feel completely out of our financial league. Royals fans have no idea whether to believe the reports that we are pursuing Ryan Howard, Jon Lester and Yasmany Tomas. The news breaks and we feel ecstatic, yet leery. We know it’s not smart to get our hopes up. There’s no way we’ll outbid the Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Marlins, or [Insert Almost Any Team Name Here]. It’s unrealistic. Don’t tease us, Dayton.

And yet, this offseason is different. We’re contenders. We’re defending American League Champions. For the first time in my lifetime, our hope is not false hope.

So, let’s talk about how realistic it is that we sign Ryan Howard, Jon Lester and/or Yasmany Tomas.

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2005. In 2006, he won the NL MVP, Silver Slugger and went to his first All Star Game. He finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting over each of the next 5 years and added two more All Star Games. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008. They lost the World Series in 2009. Howard was the NLCS MVP in 2009.

In 2011, the last of those MVP voted seasons, the Phillies were the best team in the National League. They went 102-60. Ryan Howard somehow managed to get some MVP votes that year after posting a .253/.346/.488 with 33 HR and 1.2 WAR.

The final out of the Phillies 2011 season was a Ryan Howard ground out in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardainals. On that play, Howard stumbled out of the batters box after rupturing his Achilles tendon. He hasn’t been the same player since – he played 71 games in 2012 and 80 games in 2012. His combined WAR over the last three seasons is -1.5.

These days, Ryan Howard isn’t very good. His defense has never been where his value lies (if he came to KC he would be strictly a DH) – his value is in his power bat. He hit 23 HRs in 153 games in 2014, but he averages 41 HRs per 162 games over his career. However, Howard also struck out 190 times in 2014 and he strikes out 194 times per 162 game average.

So he’s not very good anymore, and the Phillies know it. He’s under contract to make $60M over the next three years – $25M/year with a $10M buy out in 2017. The Phillies are terrible, and are looking to get rid of his contract however they can. They might even eat the bulk of it if they happened to find some sucker franchise that would be interested in Howard’s feast-or-famine slugging.

So would Howard be a good fit with the Royals?

No way. First of all, his declining power would certainly decline more in the large confines of Kauffman Stadium. As @BHIndepMO points out, of his 23 HRs, 5 of them wouldn’t have gone out at Kauffman Stadium, potentially another 4. So probably 14-18 HRs in KC…or on pace with a Salvador Perez or Mike Moustakas.

Maybe a better way to look at this is by Bill James’s Productive/Unproductive Outs measurement. Productive Outs are outs that advance baserunners. A infield groundout doesn’t look good in the statistics, but if it advances a baserunner from second to third base, it at least helped the team by 90 feet. That’s a productive out.

Manufacturing runs and making productive outs was the Royals’ primary gameplan in 2014. They put the ball in play a ton and led the majors in stolen bases. Kansas City was the best team in baseball at manufacturing runs – 204 in total – and they were best in the AL with 291 Productive Outs in 2014. In contrast, Ryan Howard made 79 Unproductive Outs just on his own. Obviously, Howard doesn’t fit into KC’s game plan.

If Ryan Howard doesn’t fit into the Royals ballpark or game plan, why would we want him? No clue. To me, he is the antithesis of what we want on our team. His only real benefit would be as a pinch hitter, and he’s not going to be worth what we would have to pay him to have that minor roll.

In the end, the Royals interest in Howard seems to have been overblown. The Royals probably called Philly just to check the price then the Phillies probably leaked it to make it seem like Howard was in high demand to lure other suitors.

Jon Lester

I exchanged tweets with Mayor Sly James yesterday about the Royals’ interest in Lester. He asked, “What do you think about the rumor that the Royals are pursuing Jon Lester?” I responded that I’m pretty sure “pursuing” is a stretch.

Jon Lester is one of the top two free agents this year along with Max Scherzer, but he’s arguably the best option for a team to sign because he doesn’t have the draft pick compensation attached to signing him because he has no qualifying offer. Scherzer and James Shields both require that the signing team give up a draft pick. Lester doesn’t.

Lester started last year with the Boston Red Sox and was traded at the deadline to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes. He was awesome for the A’s down the stretch but the rest of the team stunk and the offense fizzled. He was particularly tough against the Royals themselves – that is, until they finally got to him in the 8th inning of the American League Wild Card game: 7.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER.

The Royals have apparently been in preliminary discussions with Lester’s agents, which basically means nothing at all. The Cubs and the Red Sox are considered the primary suitors for Lester (and the other will probably sign Shields/Scherzer), but Peter Gammons just tweeted this afternoon that the Yankees are involved too. (Shocker.)

To me, this is either just a smoke screen or a non-story. Every team has conversations with every major free agent who could fill their need. You never know. Preliminary discussions could go something like this…

**RINGING**

Lester Camp: “Hello?”

Royals: “Hi. Can we afford your client?”

Lester Camp: “Nope. We want at least $160M over 6 years.”

Royals: “Okay then.”

**CLICK**

I mean, if David Glass is willing to open up the checkbook and go crazy for Lester, I’m not going to stop him, but this feels alike a massive stretch.

Yasmany Tomas

Here’s the intriguing option. Yasmany Tomas is a 24-year old power hitting outfielder who defected from Cuba over the summer. I wrote last week that Melky Cabrera and Torii Hunter are likely our best options to fill the RF/DH positions left vacant by Nori Aoki and Billy Butler. Well, Tomas is a better option than either of those guys. I just never thought we would be willing to afford him.

He would probably require around a 7 year, $75M contract, which the Royals might actually be able to afford with the money made on postseason revenue along with cash freed up by Butler and Shields. If the Royals signed Tomas, they could keep Dyson in his same fourth outfielder/pinch runner role while adding significant power to the core of our lineup.

Other Cuban defects have made massive contributions to their teams –  Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu in particular.

When I first heard the news about Tomas, I thought if sounded too good to be true, but it sounds like this actually has some traction. He has been linked to a lot of teams, so it’s important to keep our emotions in check. However, he had a work out for the Royals in the Dominican Republic yesterday, and this showed up on Twitter along with this photo…

Happy Birthday Yasmany!!! All he wanted for his birthday was to play in a ball game!…
@JAloujr Happy Birthday Yasmany!!! All he wanted for his birthday was to play in a ball game!…

Yes, that’s Yasmany Tomas in a Royals uniform. Looks good on him despite #40 already belonging to Kelvin Herrera. It’s got me dreaming too much. I should probably keep my hopes in check before I get carried away.

Tomas – along with the signing of a second-tier starter (probably Ervin Santana) – would be the perfect piece for this roster going into 2015. Don’t con me here, Dayton. Make it happen.

So of the three players – Lester, Howard and Tomas – only one of them seems to be a real possibility from where I’m sitting. Which is in a seminary class, actually. Shhhhhh.

-apc.

Photo: From Section 215. Accessed 11/14/14.

Game 16: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

For a Midwest guy like me, taking a 1 hour train ride to a completely different city is bafflingly wonderful.

We got to Philadelphia around 11:00 AM ET and spent the afternoon exploring the sites: the Liberty Bell, the “Love” statue in JFK Park*, and Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution was created.

* – The Philly level in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.

I felt like I was living the movie National Treasure. I kept imagining myself uncovering some 300 year old Free Mason secret and running around like Nicholas Cage on rooftops. Anything that makes places like that a little more action packed is a good thing.

But before we did any of that site seeing, we had to do the most American thing anyone did yesterday: watch the USA/Germany World Cup match.

We lost, but advanced anyway. To quote Adam Schefter of ESPN: “So this is soccer for the USA: ties feel like losses, and losses feel like wins.”

I’m not a huge soccer guy, but the World Cup is a different animal. The entire nation is following the same event at the same time rooting the same way. It’s infectious.

Soccer – like football and basketball – relies on a clock. Whoever has more goals after 90 minutes wins. Whoever has more points after 4 quarters wins. And the last 5 minutes of nearly every game is spent the same way: running down the clock.

Kick the ball out of bounds.

Kneel the ball three times.

Dribble the ball at the top of the key until the shot clock runs out.

It turns into a game of survival. Instead of working to win the game, teams are trying to survive and not lose the game.

But not baseball.

Baseball is 9 innings. It’s 27 outs.

You can’t kneel to a victory or kill time. You can’t run around with the ball or stall the game.

Also – and this is the big one – there are no ties. If you go 9 innings and there isn’t a winner, you play 10, or 11, or 12. Or – like last night in Philadelphia – 14. As long as it takes for a team to win the game.* Baseball has a different concept of time than soccer.

* – The same can be said for tennis, golf, volleyball…any sport without a countdown clock.

The ancient Greeks had words for this differentiation in time: chronos versus kairos.

Chronos: literal minutes and seconds. A set, determinate amount of time. Quantitative.

Kairos: an indefinite timeframe in which everything happens. An appointed time, an opportune moment. Pregnant time. Qualitative.

Baseball occurs in Kairos time. It’s pregnant. Everything happens and you have no idea how long it will take. Soccer, football, basketball, hockey – anything with a counting timer – is in Chronos time. It’s dependent on the clock.

In 1984, the Brewers and the White Sox played a 25 inning game that lasted 8 hours and 6 minutes. In the 1940s, games would consistently last less than 2 hours.

When I go to games, I expect to stay for the entire game, no matter how long it lasts. I don’t make plans after games. It’s the last thing I’m going to do that day. I plan to settle in for the long haul.

Last night, as the game progressed, I could feel myself becoming more and more chronos time conscious. We had a 12:13am train to catch out of 30th Street Station downtown. This game was going deep into the night, and by the 10th or 11th inning I had to start calculating how much time it would take to get back and how late I could stay. Which isn’t the right mindset for ballgames for me.

My kairos moment was conflicting with my chronos schedule.

We live in constant tension between kairos and chronos time.

We want to be present and live in the moment, but we can’t because we are so conscious of our schedules. Our calendars dictate our actions more than the moments themselves.

Ephesians 5:16 – Be careful how you walk, not unwise but wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

The word “time” is referenced in the New Testament over 130 times. Fifty of them are “chronos.” Eighty of them are “kairos.”

The use of “time” here in Ephesians is not chronos. It’s kairos. It’s being present to the moment in front of you. Allowing what is pregnant to be birthed rather than forcing your agenda instead.

What moments are potentially kairos moments that we miss because we’re so enamored by chronos time. We love to focus on the “being good stewards of our time (chronos)” part of Scripture. Productivity. Maximizing our 24 hr day.

It’s a difficult perspective to adopt – especially in places like New York City. It’s extremely countercultural. Chronos time rules in our world today.

Ultimately, I had to let chronos dictate my night. I was not happy with the decision, but I had no choice. We missed a walkoff homerun by Chase Utley in the 14th inning. Plus there was a fireworks show after the game and we missed it too.

It ended up being a terrible choice to leave early anyway. I-76 was gridlocked. We missed our train and had to take a cab 2 hours back to NYC instead. Hilarious.

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Game Notes:

This one was a division battle that no one really expects to mean anything when the season is over. Going into the game, the Marlins were 39-39 and the Phillies were 35-42. The Nationals and Braves are the contenders in the NL East this year in my opinion. I don’t see there being space for anybody else.

Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies. He’s been great this season but hasn’t gotten any run support: 2.84 ERA with only a 2-4 record. He pitched well again last night but managed gave up 3 leadoff HRs. He went 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER and got a no decision.

The Phillies responded with three runs of their own. Utley scored on a Carlos Ruiz sac fly in the 4th to make it 2-1; In the 5th, Ben Revere singled, stole second, and scored on an Utley single to make it 2-2.

Then in the 7th, with the score 3-2, John Mayberry Jr. singled and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Jimmy Rollins hit a slow grounder to the right of first baseman Jeff Baker who attempted a few times to pick it up but couldn’t put a fork in it. Mayberry scored on the error to knot the game at 3-3.

In a questionable move, Phillies manager and former Cubs second baseman, Ryne Sandberg, decided to use Tony Gwynn Jr. off the bench to bunt in the pitchers spot to advance Mayberry. He did his job well, but one wonders if Hamels couldn’t’ve dropped his own bunt and the Phillies saved a pinch hitter for a game that looked destined to go extras. Ultimately, it didn’t come back to bite them.

In extras, the Phillies had their chances in nearly every inning but couldn’t plate anyone. They stranded 7 baserunners from the 10th-13th innings before Utley got tired of the lack of hitting with RISP and deposited one over the left field wall.

The Phillies kept it tied too by stellar defense by Cody Asche at 3B. A barehanded play in the 8th, a diving stop and throw in the 10th, started a double play in the 11th and made a leaping catch in the 14th. He was a human highlight reel in the field.

Utley played the hero in the end. The Phillies broke my home team losing streak. Here’s to hoping the Yankees start a new streak tonight in the Bronx.

Sixteen down. Fourteen to go.

Up next: New York Yankees.

-apc.

East Coast Tour

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First of all, I need to apologize for the blog silence over the past couple weeks. I spent a week in Colorado running a youth ministry trip and the wheels came off for a bit there. It’s amazing how difficult it is to write when you aren’t doing it on a daily basis. Gotta get back into the routine though, because this upcoming week is going to demand a ton of it.

Because I leave tomorrow afternoon for the east coast.

Eight days. Six ballparks.

And when I get home I’ll be 2/3 of the way through the tour before the All Star Break.

Tomorrow night, I’ll be in Queens to see the Mets. Then on Thursday, a quick train ride to Philly will have me there in time for the USA/Germany match and a trip to Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies game. Then it’s back to NYC for a Red Sox/Yankees rivalry matchup on Friday night.

I’ll follow the Red Sox back to Boston, switch caps, and head to Fenway on Monday evening. Finally, Tuesday morning I fly south for games in D.C. and Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Then I’ll fly home and spend the next 48 hours sleeping, watching Independence Day, and tweeting about how Jeff Goldblum is the greatest actor not named Tom Hanks.

Here’s a look at the pitching match ups currently lined up for this week…

  • 6/25 – Oakland @ New York Mets (Mills vs Wheeler)
  • 6/26 – Miami @ Philadelphia (Koehler vs Hamels)
  • 6/27 – Boston @ New York Yankees (??? vs Nuno)
  • 6/30 – Chicago Cubs @ Boston (Arrieta vs Peavy)
  • 7/1 – Colorado @ Washington (Friedrich vs Strasburg)
  • 7/2 – Texas @ Baltimore (Martinez vs Norris)

Immediate takeaway: I wish I’d bought tickets to Saturday’s game in the Bronx instead of Friday: Lester vs Tanaka. Not that it will matter. Yankee Stadium will take my breath away regardless. The legacy of this team is wild. The theme going into Friday night: Empire, and it’s retiring Captain, Derek Jeter.

Same with Fenway. I loved seeing this game fall into place on the schedule. The two “cursed” teams in baseball, the Cubs and Red Sox, in an interleague battle. Of course, Boston’s curse has been well lifted while the Cubs are well on their way to 106 years without a World Series title. The theme of blessings/curses is going to be really fun to write about.

Finally, I can’t wait to see Stephen Strasburg pitch. In 2009, when he was a pitching prodigy coming out of San Diego State, my buddies and I were on the prowl for every box of Bowman baseball cards we could find. His rookie card was the most coveted baseball card since Ken Griffey Jr.’s in 1989. His injuries (and being shut down in the playoffs two years ago) have wrecked his potential coming into the league. When he’s on, there’s no one better. Can’t wait to finally see him in person.

Lastly, Camden Yards in Baltimore is a ballpark that I am extremely excited to visit. Man that place is majestic with the B&O building in right field. It set the standard for ballpark creations for the future. I’ve got a tour lined up for that one already (along with NYY and BOS, obviously).

It’s fun to see spiritual themes already unfolding as I get ready to depart. Here comes another adventure in pursuit of discovering the Story the God is telling in the game of baseball across the United States! Can’t wait to share these experiences with you all!

I’ll be listening to a lot of Jay-Z and The Roots to prepare. Maybe with some Ryan Adams in the mix. See you tomorrow, New York.

-apc.

Photo Cred: Flickr: leecullivan