I recently completed a miniature Q&A session with Tim, the administrator of Get Up & Go Sports. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend it. There is some quality MLBlog info over there, and some interesting polls.
True or False: The Royals win more than 75 games in 2008?
False, because I feel they will finish with exactly 75 wins! They've improved their hitting, starting pitching, defense, and bullpen. Their pythagorean W-L record was 74-88 last season, and I feel that because our division is no stronger (or weaker) than it was one year ago, our record will improve slightly. Our offense underachieved considerably last season, but certain pitchers - specifically, Gil Meche and Brian Bannister - overachieved. I'm still not ready to call us a league-average offense, nor am I ready to deem former first-round draft selections Billy Butler and Alex Gordon legitimate power-hitting threats. I'll predict a 75-win finish for our Boys in Blue in 2008.
True or False: The Royals made no good deals during the off-season?
False. On the contrary, at least Moore made no foolish signings this offseason. The Royals paid market-value (in the form of a 3-year/$36MM contract) to left-fielder Jose Guillen, who provides much-needed power from the heart of a lineup that finished 13th out of 14 teams in runs scored last season. Handing out a one-year/$3MM contract to starting pitcher Brett Tomko and a one-year/$2MM contract (with an option) to backup catcher Miguel Olivo is questionable, because neither of those two will likely help our ballclub above what a league-minimum earning replacement player could help, but the signing of Ron Mahay adds always necessary pitching depth (out of the bullpen). We had a surplus of #4/#5 caliber young pitchers, and we traded one (Billy Buckner) for a solid, contact-hitting second baseman in Alberto Callaspo. Because we had literally no projected starting second baseman waiting in the organization, I feel Moore made a shrewd, albeit non headline-grabbing move. I feel Moore's best acquisitions overall may come in the form of a shrewd, under the radar signing such as Chin-hui Tsao.
Best deal the Royals made during the off-season?
Deem me a homer, but signing Jose Guillen was an important and necessary step to the recovery of a once-subpar offense. Like it or not, $12MM per season, this day in age, is chump change for a veteran #5 hitter like Jose Guillen.
Worst deal the Royals made during the off-season?
Signing Brett Tomko to a one-year/$3MM contract. Such a move speaks volumes to the fact that Moore made very few "foolish" signings this offseason, as this is essentially a small-risk, one-year contract. Despite the organization's reassurance that Major League and Minor League budgets are held separate, I can't help but feel this money could be better allocated toward the first-year amateur player draft. Baseball Prospectus' annual player projection system PECOTA pegs Tomko with an EqERA of 4.84 in a pitchers' park. Such an ERA probably translates to a 5.3 ERA in a moderate hitters' park like Kauffman Stadium. Moreover, there's not much to get excited about a 35-year old righty with a 4.62 career ERA, and steadily increasing ERA's of 4.04, 4.48, 4.73, and 5.55 the last four years, respectively. With those results, he's on a one-way track to baseball oblivion.
Player your looking forward to seeing play the most?
Unquestionably, Zack Greinke. After some inconsistency in the starting rotation, he was dominant in a 1970's-style relief role from May through August, posting a 3.54 ERA and striking out 55 men in 53 innings. Often times, Greinke dialed his fastball up to 98 and 99, simply blowing away hitters. Because of his overwhelming success in the 'pen, G.M. Dayton Moore and pitching coach Bob McClure eased Greinke back into a full-fledged starting role late last season, and Greinke flourished, giving up only seven runs in his next seven games.