On Rick Ankiel and Dayton Moore

Rick Ankiel‘s an odd duck, and not in the Long Island sort of way. While it wouldn’t surprise me if he eventually latched on with the famed Atlantic League outfit, Ankiel can thank Scott Boras for finding him an even zanier huckleberry: Dayton Moore. Coming off a 0.1 WAR age-29 season, Ankiel will earn $3.25 million to play center field for the Kansas City Royals next season. And in a brilliant negotiating ploy, Moore secured a mutual $6 million option for the 2011 season. Setting aside the obvious silliness of a mutual option–every single free agent contract signed could be termed a “mutual option,” right?–Ankiel’s just another punchline in the legendary stand-up routine that is Dayton Moore’s tenure.

I can’t beat up Moore with Rany Jazayerli’s unflappable passion or Joe Posnanski’s surgical precision, but I can tell you that signing this particular mediocre defensive center fielder coming off a .285 OBP season doesn’t even make a top ten list of Moore blunders. The fact is that it could be worse. Rick Ankiel, for his considerable warts, does have his attractive traits. As a 28-year old with fewer than 300 career plate appearances, Ankiel posted a .264/.337/.506 line. To put that in perspective, the 2009 Royals whiffed, tapped, and popped their way to .259/.318/.405. Though what many will latch on to this morning is his dismal, injury-riddled 2009, Ankiel seems a decent gamble for a team with absolutely nothing to lose.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. As the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World‘s Jesse Newell notes on a message board, Ankiel’s signing wreaks havoc on roster flexibility. David DeJesus and Ankiel will surely flank newly-acquired Scott Podsednik in the outfield, and Royals brass is already pumping up Chris Getz at second. He’s the next David Eckstein, you see. This leaves Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo battling for the DH spot. Their 2009 wOBA’s were .304 and .352 respectively. Callaspo’s seven years younger. Easy, right? But Guillen will make $12 million in 2010–thanks, Dayton!–and Callaspo a fraction of that. So, to recap, the much better player is now extraordinarily devalued trade bait.

I think the real question at this point has to be “Why do we even care?” Why do fans care what Moore does at this point? A tiger doesn’t change its stripes. Moore’s never going to be any good, and neither will be the Royals under his leadership. And why does the baseball community care? Dayton Moore is baseball’s Lindsay Lohan. A young star incapable of handling a bigger role whose drastic errors are so routine as to be barely newsworthy. At some point, his entire general managership becomes an episode of 24–explosions everywhere, but, you know what, that’s the show.

Rick Ankiel is a classic Dayton Moore signing, and not in the way you might think. While his .285 OBP fits right in with this dismal squad, he’s well worth a few million bucks. 2008 Rick Ankiel was worth two or three times what the Royals will pay him in 2010. Even a bargain, though, can be quintessentially Moore. A good signing makes the Royals worse, thanks to the laughably-constructed roster. Only Dayton Moore.

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  1. Why am I being tortured this way? said...

    When Moore signed Podsednik and the outfield became overcrowded I thought, well, maybe this means he really will suck it up and release the sunk cost that is Jose Guillen.  Now he has to.  If that happens, then Rick Ankiel does improve the Royals.

  2. D Leaberry said...

    Although the Nats could use a rightfielder with some pop to hit behind Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham, please don’t send Guillen back to Washington.

  3. BRS said...

    Mediocre center fielder? I disagree. Maybe an overly streaky bat (who strikes out a lot), but he’s got range, a good glove, and a cannon for an arm. I don’t think you actually watched this guy play…

  4. Nick Steiner said...

    BRS – I’m a Cardinals fan, and has watched ~120 games per year over the past 3 seasons.  Ankiel has a strong, but inaccurate arm and crappy range – for a center fielder.

  5. Max said...

    Not only did they sign Ankiel, but they are supposedly going to go with the worst possible defensive alignment possible: Podsednik in LF, Ankiel in CF, DeJesus in RF. The range of Ankiel in center combined with the arm of DJ in right. Genius.

  6. ecp said...

    “…they are supposedly going to go with the worst possible defensive alignment possible: Podsednik in LF, Ankiel in CF, DeJesus in RF.”

    Max, they haven’t said that at all.  Some people have suggested it, but that’s not from the team or anybody connected to the team.

  7. Brian H said...

    Well said Josh.  The signing itself isn’t that bad, but its the surrounding pieces that make this move so perplexing.  The outfield is now VERY overcrowded with average to below average 30+ year old players.  Youth movement be damned!

    You hardly mentioned the log jam in the infield.  Callaspo, Getz, Betancourt, Aviles, not to mention Fields and Bloomquist (who will surely be on the roster, he’s versatile!).

    Has there ever been a more boring cast of survivor than this year’s edition of who will make the Royals roster?

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