The Royals have announced that they have claimed catcher George Kottaras off of waivers from the Oakland A’s, who had designated him for assignment last week after the received catcher John Jaso from the Mariners as a part of the Michael Morse trade.
Kottaras, 29, played in 58 games last season for the Brewers before being dealt to Oakland in exchange for reliever Fautino De Los Santos. While with Oakland, he took part in 27 regular season games, as well as four playoff games.
He didn’t fare too well offensively last season, posting just a .211 batting average. But George does possess the ability to take a walk (.351 OBP in ’12) and has enough power to be a threat (36 doubles and 24 HR in 592 career AB).
In order to make room for Kottaras on the 40-man roster, the Royals opted to designate utility infielder Tony Abreu for assignment.
In 2012, Abreu hit .257/.284/.357 in 22 games; splitting time at second, third, short, and DH.
As it stands right now, Kottaras and Brett Hayes figure to be the primary options for backing up Salvador Perez, with Max Ramirez and Manny Pina figuring to get a few looks as well in spring training.
Sorry for being a few days behind on this post, but I figure these roster moves are still worth noting.
Yuniesky Betancourt was DFA’d and Jose Mijares was claimed off the waiver wire by the Giants.
In turn, IF Tony Abreu and LHP Francisely Bueno were both promoted from Omaha to Kansas City. In a correspondence, SS Christian Colon was promoted from NW Arkansas to Omaha to take Abreu’s spot.
The two subtractions from the big league roster are a little odd. Let’s start with the Yuni move.
Coming into the season, Yuniseky Betancourt was signed to a one-year deal knowing that he would serve as the team’s utility infielder. A decent spring, Gio’s demotion, and the fact that Chris Getz is a left-handed hitter lead to Yuni becoming the right-handed half of the second base platoon. He was even the starter at second on Opening Day. Over the season, Yuni has had his ups and downs. On the plus side, he had a little bit of pop (7 HR in 215 AB) and seemed to come through in clutch situations. He also played passable defense at both second and third base (5 E, .975 Fld%) for a role-player. But that’s about it.
Yuni didn’t strikeout a ton (25 K), but his ability to take a walk was laughable (9 BB in 228 PA). His slash line of .228/.256/.400 was worthy of demotion, he had little-to-no speed, and continually ran into outs on the basepaths. But even with all of these fireable offenses, Yuni felt that he deserved more playing time – and that’s why the Royals opted to part ways with him.
“…and Yuni did a great job for us, but he was a guy that wanted more playing time. He would get upset when he didn’t, but Getz was playing good. There were just situations. We’re trying to win the ballgame, and we’re going to put the best team on the field every day.” “…We’ve got to make sure that if we’re going to change our culture, we have 25 guys who are invested in what we’re trying to do.” – Yost on Yuni
Thus, the team designated Betancourt for assignment after Sunday’s win over Cleveland. The Royals have 10 days to trade (if another team claims him), release, or demote him. I could see a team that has suffered an injury or needs a right-handed hitting platoon partner at either 2B, SS, or 3B take a chance on claiming Yuni.
The next day, a puzzling roster move took place when the Royals let Jose Mijares go to the Giants on a waiver claim. There are a lot of confusing pieces to this one:
- Why would KC want to part with a relatively young (27), productive (51 G, 38.2 IP, 2-2, 2.56 ERA, 11 holds in 51 appearances), and affordable/controllable (arbitration eligible through 2014) lefty from the ‘pen?
- More importantly, why would they let him go for virtually nothing?
The real answer lies in Mijares’ future earning potential. The Royals signed Mijares to a one-year, $925K deal this past offseason after he was non-tendered by the Twins. Expectations were relatively low coming into the season for Jose, even after he made the team out of spring training, mostly due to his 2011 numbers: 58 G, 49 IP, 0-2, 4.59 ERA, 1.694 WHIP, and a 1:1 K:BB ratio. But given his success thus far in 2012, he’s likely to command a sizable raise next season (club officials reportedly believe he could earn up to $2.5 million in arbitration for 2013).
The team reportedly couldn’t find any takers for Mijares before the July 31st trade deadline and didn’t believe that he would be a part of this team moving forward.
“If we could have (traded him), we would have. We just need to see some other guys. We have multiple people in our organization who think Bueno can be just as effective against left-handers and get right-handers out as well.” – Dayton Moore on Jose Mijares
Now on the additions: Utility infielder Tony Abreu and LHP Francisely Bueno.
With Yuni out of the picture, the Royals were in need of a utility infielder who could fill in at second, third, and short any given day. Instead of recalling Irving Falu, the Royals opted to give 27 year old career minor leaguer Tony Abreu a chance. Abreu has seen time in the big leagues before (65 combined games for the Dodgers in ’07 and ’09, and 81 games for the Diamondbacks in ’10), so he won’t be seeing big league pitching for the first time.
Abreu, a switch-hitting utility infielder, has been hitting extremely well in Omaha while primarily playing shortstop. In 103 games, he hit .322/.347/.839 with 50 XBH (36 2B, 5 3B, 9 HR), 60 R, 73 RBI, and 7 SB (although he did have 69 K to 14 BB). His OBP is definitely aided by his high batting average, but his 50 extra-base hits through 103 games is definitely noteworthy.
Tony saw action in the first three games after his promotion, going 3-for-10 with 2 doubles, a run scored and a run batted in while both third and short.
Francisley Bueno was recalled from Omaha after Mijares was claimed by San Francisco. Bueno has already seen time in Kansas City this season, allowing 5 hits and 2 runs in 4.2 IP (3 appearances), good for a 3.86 ERA and a 1.071 WHIP. He’s been better for Omaha in 2012; in 35 games (55.2 IP), Bueno has a 2.75 ERA, 54 K to 15 BB, and a 1.042 WHIP with 6 saves.
At 31, Bueno isn’t a young prospect who needs to get his feet wet at the big league level. But he’s performed well for the Royals’ organization this year and deserves as much of a chance as anybody. if it weren’t for his left-handedness, I’m not sure he gets the call here. But given that he is a lefty, as is Mijares, Bueno will get a shot to stick on the roster.
Lastly, even though it wasn’t a big league promotion, SS Christian Colon – the no. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft – was promoted from Double-A NW Arkansas to Triple-A Omaha after the Storm Chaser’s everyday SS (Abreu) was called up to Kansas City.
Colon, who many see as a second basemen/utility player in the future, was hitting .289/.364/.392 with 5 HR, 27 RBI, and 12 SB in 73 games for the Naturals this season. Given he’s 23 years old, most feel that Colon should have been at Omaha to start the season since the Royals selected him with the intention that he would be on the fast track to Kansas City. Colon will serve as the everyday SS in Omaha given the fact that Johnny Giavotella (who is raking, by the way) is holding his own at second base.
Personally, I would like to see Colon in Kansas City sometime this season, and he’ll likely be a September call-up.
Second base is without a doubt the position the Royals have the most unanswered questions about. Johnny Giavotella, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Chris Getz all have very legitimate shots at making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. One will win the starting job, one will be the back up, and one will be sent to Omaha or released. It’s not particularly a deep position within the organization, but it contains a few names that are worth keeping an eye on.
5. Tony Abreu- (Reno – Dbacks) age 27
The Royals signed Tony Abreu, a switch-hitting IF, to a one-year minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training this past December. He spent all of last season in Reno (the Dbacks AAA affiliate), where he .292/.335/.429, though he has a career line in parts of three big league seasons with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks of .251/.279/.309. He showed a little bit of power last season (10 HR, 26 doubles), but failed to earn a big league promotion. For his career he’s hitting left-handed than right-handed, but not by much (.255 to .241), and has almost a 4:1 K/BB ratio, which doesn’t bode well for him.
His value though lies in his versatility on the defensive side of it all. In the majors, he’s played 49 games at 3B, 38 games at 2B, and 22 at SS; though in the minors he’s played 531 games at 2B, 105 at SS, and only 28 games at 3B. His defense itself leaves a lot to be desired (career dWAR of 0.03), but as a guy off the bench who can play twice a week and occasionally pinch hit, he holds some value.
Grade: C-. Tony mainly provides the Royals with organizational depth this season with the potential of playing in a handful of games in Kansas City this summer barring injuries. His value lies in his utility-ness (submit that one to Webster’s) and his ability to switch-hit. He’ll be in Omaha for sure.
4. Rey Navarro- (Northwest Arkansas) age 22
Up until this past season, Rey Navarro was a primarily a SS in the Diamondbacks organization (the Royals acquired him 2010 for Carlos Rosa). After becoming a member of the Royals, he was switched over to the other side of the bag, however. After a hot start to his season that started in Single-A Wilmington, hitting .285 with 8 HR and 7 triples in 72 games, he was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He cooled off a bit after the promotion, but maintained a decent ability to get on base (.332 OBP) and a 2:1 K:BB ratio. He is a high contact middle infielder, which is why I am fairly high on him.
Grade: C+. I see Navarro starting the season in Northwest Arkansas. Though if he starts the season off on the right foot like he did in 2011, he could quickly earn a call-up to Omaha. As far as his position, I’m not quite sure though. It all depends on if the Royals plan to keep Christian Colon at SS for another season. Rey’s ceiling may be as a Tony Abreu-type player, given the fact that he is also a switch hitter and has the ability to play all over the field.
3. Chris Getz- (Royals) age 28
More affectionally known as “Getzy”, Chris Getz will find himself this Spring competing for a spot on the 25-man roster. Last season, Getz struggled to stay consistent. He was above average in May and June, hitting .274 and .292. He cooled off quickly after that though, hitting .233, .217, and .235 in the remaining three months of the season; thus losing his job to the Royals organizational hitter of the year, Johnny Giavotella.
After Gio’s call-up, Getz was relegated to Utility duty, backing up at 2B, SS, and 3B. He would occasionally pinch run in the later innings of close games for Billy Butler due to his speed (84% career SB rate).
Grade: C. If Getzy is on the 2012 Opening Day roster, it will be as a UTIL player. His defense is sub-par (as well as his arm) and his bat is not good enough to make up for it. But a speedy, left-handed hitting utility infielder who is regarded as the best bunter on the team could be of value as Ned plans to make more in-game substitutions this year.
Christian Colon- (Northwest Arkansas) age 22
SS Christian Colon was the Royals first round pick (4th overall) out of Cal-State Fullerton in 2010. Regarded as a slight reach, but one of the safest picks in the draft, Colon signed quickly enough that he was able to get in 60 games at Wilmington where he hit .278/.326/.380 with 17 extra base hits while playing exclusively at SS.
He spent all of the 2011 season at Double-A NW Arkansas, where he was solid, but unimpressive, hitting .257 with 24 extra base hits. The most exciting thing was his nearly 1:1 K:BB ratio (51:46). His advanced plate discipline and ability to consistently make contact have put Christian on the fast track to Kansas City.
Due to his slower speed (as far as shortstops are concerned) and lack of range for the position, I see him moving to 2B full-time this season (he played 15 games at 2B in 2011).
Grade: B-. Colon has a real chance at making an appearance at the K this September if his transition to 2B goes smoothly. He has the ability to become a steady player at the big league level, but he most likely won’t be a star. He is very comparable to Orlando Cabrera.
1. Johnny Giavotella- (Kansas City) age 24
Although Gio’s debut in Kansas City left a lot to be desired, he absolutely killed it in Omaha last season, hitting .338/.390/.481, including 34 doubles, 9 HR and a 57:40 K:BB ratio. Putting up numbers like that will always get a player recognized, earning him the Royals’ George Brett Hitter of the Year award, a spot on the Topps AAA All-Star team, and a promotion to Kansas City.
Johnny’s bat is what got him here and it’s going to have to be what keeps him here, as his defense leaves a lot to be desired (-0.6 dWAR) and he’s not particularly quick on the basepaths (though Doug Sisson will probably change that). His line drive stroke though is too sweet to overlook. Some of those deep gap doubles will turn into HR’s as his pitch selection improves.
Grade: B-. To me, Giavotella is one of the most exciting young players on the roster right now. He’s a “lightning in a bottle” type of player who gives everything he’s got for all 9 innings. I’m not sold on his defensive staying power yet, but if he can come close to replicating what he did in Omaha last year, his bat will be more than enough to keep him around.
Next time – Moving our way across the diamond: Shortstops