Monday, January 26, 2009

Teahen Thoughts

Mark Teahen moves to second base… I like it – I think.

Let’s start with this and get it out of the way: The Royals are to blame for the disaster Teahen has become in respect to the Beltran trade. If the move to second base is completed, Teahen would have played at first, second and third base, all three outfield positions and designated hitter for the Royals since Opening Day of 2008. 2008! Asking a guy to help you forget about Carlos Beltran and not give him a position is very difficult to ask of a guy.

It is clear what Dayton Moore’s plan was going into 2009. He wanted Rafel Furcal so he could move Aviles to second and have a couple guys on the bench to fill in when necessary. It is also suddenly clear why Moore saw Furcal as the “only guy I would go to ownership for to get more money” because there was literally nothing out there in terms of middle infielders. Moore was hesitant to trade prospects for a middle infielder when a projected everyday second baseman is a season or two away. Signing Furcal wasn’t an option, but the only option. Furcal not signing threw the Royals through a middle infield loop and now you can see why Teahen is “more valuable to us than he ever has been” according to Moore.


The negatives of this move are obvious: It is a completely new position for Teahen (again), his size for the position is gigantic (but not unheard of – see: Alexei Ramirez) and turning the double play is one of the more difficult things to do in baseball.

But if you look at it this way, the Royals really do not have a true “defensive second baseman” on their roster. Yeah, they have guys who play second base, but none of them with such defensive excellence that it would be utterly foolish not to play him. The Royals options outside of Teahen are as follows:

Alberto Callaspo: Has never played a full big league season, has no power and has off-field issues.
Estaban German: Cannot play a full season and maintain production (see: 2007 season).
Willie Bloomquist: Has never played a full season.
Mike Aviles: Is currently slated at short stop.
Tony Pena Jr.: Can’t hit.

Throw in that the Royals are full in the outfield and at first base and there really is nowhere for Teahen to play. The Royals have nothing to lose here.

And let’s also consider Teahen’s value as an outfielder is next to nothing on the trade market. The Royals, with all of their maneuvering, have managed to not set a value on Teahen high enough to get anything for him. If Teahen can become a steady second baseman with an above average bat for the position, he could not only establish a high value on the trade market but also keep the Royals from rushing prospects like Johnny Giavotella.


Statistically, Teahen projects as a middle of the road second baseman.* Behind the Chase Utley’s, Ian Kinsler’s, Dustin Pedroia’s and Brian Roberts’ of the OPS world, but ahead of guys like Brandon Phillips (minus the 20-plus home runs).

*Bill James’ projections were used.

Something else to consider is Teahen is not going to be asked to hit 25 to 30 home runs this year. That burden will fall on Jose Guillen, Mike Jacobs and Alex Gordon. Hopefully, the more laid back approach will see a decrease in strikeouts and more extra base hits for Teahen. This may bump him up in the statistical rankings for second basemen.

Teahen always seemed to me like he would be a great two- or seven-hole hitter. He’s a good OBP guy (minus his lousy 2008 season) and runs the bases very well. To me, the Royals have three of those types this year – guys who get on base, hit for extra bases and run the bases well – in David DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Teahen. And without even discussing the x-factors that are Mike Aviles and Billy Butler, the Royals offense could be much improved

So, looking at it through that spectrum, I’m really excited about the possible move of Teahen to second base. And more importantly, Teahen seems to be excited about it too. The last few seasons, when the Royals were shifting him around the outfield, Teahen had several of those generic, “Whatever helps the team, I’ll do it” quotes. But, even when read, those statements always seemed to have that begrudging tinge about it – the “I really don’t want to do this, but I have no choice” aura.

But reading Sam Mellinger’s article, it almost seemed like Teahen was excited about the prospects of returning to the infield.

“I like being on the infield, I like being in the action,” Teahen said. “If second base gets me there and gets me in the lineup every day, I’ll do everything I can.”

There’s an urgency there – a desperate energy mixed with excitement about being “in the action.” It is like he’s finally returning home or something. Teahen knows he has to make this work, which makes me think that it will. He doesn’t have a lot of shots left.

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