1B/DH - Mike Sweeney
Season Statistics: .263/.320/.419, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 236 AB, 66 G
Strengths: Our captain still has what it takes to be a productive Major League player in some respect.
Weaknesses: Plenty. Inability to stay healthy, lack of defensive versatility (mixed with declining range and athleticism). He's not the power threat he was during his prime.
'08 Status: I've written plenty about Mike Sweeney during his albatross 5-year contract, but Sweeney could be retained in 2008 for a near or at league-minimum salary, likely (of course) with incentives. Sweeney could still provide a decent platoon bat off the bench, but a team simply cannot count on him as an everyday option, as he's physically ill-equipped to handle an entire season playing baseball. His OPS, as of September 13, is roughly .740 and rising, which is adequate. If he is retained and used a similar role next season as he is this season, I fail to see how our ballclub will improve. Barring a torrid late September, the Royals are probably best off not re-signing Sweeney. If he is brought back, it must be in a limited role. Our new manager likely will refuse to use him in that role, come May.
2B - Mark Grudzielanek
Season Statistics: .300/.345/.424, 5 HR, 46 RBI, 103 G, 410 AB
Strengths: Grudzie had a strong year in 2007 as our "everyday" second baseman. He's valuable at that position both offensively and defensively.
Weaknesses: If one wants to nitpick, one could say a lack of speed and lack of patience at the plate/getting on base. Also, 2008 will be his age 38 season.
'08 Status: Grudz has signed an extension through 2008 to likely be our everyday second baseman. He will have to work himself out of the role. If he does, Esteban German is his most likely replacement. Through roughly Sept. 1, Grudz had the highest VORP among any Royals regulars. Retaining him was a good idea. We're a better team with him AND German as a utilityman.
2B - Esteban German
Season Statistics: .267/.360/.375, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 111 G, 315 AB
Strengths: German provides an excellent utility bat off the bench, and in limited duty at second base, third base, and occasionally in the outfield. Every team needs a super-sub like German. His almost uncanny ability to get on base (notice the near-100 pt. spread between BA and OBP in 2007) keeps him a solid Major League threat.
Weaknesses: As a result of his inability to play any position particularly adequately, the organization simply does not view the OBP-king German as an everyday player. He only slugged .375 and hit 13 doubles in 315 AB's, so the fact that he's not a power threat either may factor into the decision.
'08 Status: German is arbitration eligible for the first time, and will likely return to the 2008 Royals next year in a similar role to 2007.
IF Jason Smith
Season Statistics: .198/.242/.353, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 116 AB
Strengths: Ability to play four infield positions adequately. There's supposedly some power there, although he has yet to show that consistently in 2007, other than hitting the 5 HR's.
Weaknesses: Many. Absolutely no patience at the plate, the fact that he's 30, and a Buddy Bell man-crush earned him more playing time than he was worth in '07.
'08 Status: He replaced Fernando Cortez mid-season as the official "25th man", and that's likely what he'll be for the next couple seasons. The Royals will be smart not to bring him back in '08.