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.