The Fly Route
Royals fans, and more importantly Royals nay-sayers, mark these days down.
Come the dark days of July when the Royals will likely be 35 games out of first place, remember these cold days of December, because these are the days that will answer all of your questions.
Yes, the Royals are destined to struggle again in 2006, and no, it isn't because they aren't willing to spend money. The problem now is that there isn't anyone worthy of spending money on.
In six months everyone will again be cursing Royals' owner David Glass and Allard Baird for always going on the cheap end and for passing up quality free agents. But don't be confused. A glance around the free agent market reveals that spending money to satisfy fans would be foolish.
Consider some of the free agents that have been snapped up this winter already. AJ Burnett just signed a monster deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Burnett would no doubt look good in a Royals uniform, but he's a sub-.500 pitcher who is most noted for his bad attitude and his injuries. The Royals need pitching, but a dollar spent on Burnett is a dollar wasted.
Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Giles and Rafael Furcal marked the cream of the fielders free agent crop, and just like Burnett, they all can't provide the bang KC needs for its buck.
Instead, this winter the Royals need to seek lucrative trades rather than load up on washed up free agents (Adios Jose Lima, by the way).
Rumors have the New York Mets dealing Kris Benson to Kansas City.
There's a deal I do like. With a career earned run average of 4.25 and 10 wins last season, Benson's never been spectacular. But he'd probably come relatively cheap from the Mets who seem to be upgrading throughout their team.
A guy like Benson is exactly what the Royals are looking for. The Mets traded for him during the stretch run in 2004 more because he was the best available pitcher than because he was really worthy of such a trade.
It seemed every contending team in baseball wanted him, and his trade came at a high price. Now that he's yesterday's hot item, he could be perfect for the Royals.
Another such player is the Dodgers' Milton Bradley. An idiot constantly in trouble, Bradley is a very good centerfielder. He was hitting .290 before he had season-ending knee surgery.
It would take more to pry him away from Los Angeles than it would Benson from New York, but Bradley has a whole lot of up-side and his antics mean he could be somewhat of a steal.
A yesterdays-news pitcher and a malcontent centerfielder -- am I really arguing these are the answers for the Royals? Maybe. Both are certainly better than the over-hyped and soon to be overpaid free agents available on the market and both represent exactly what the Royals should be looking for.
Kansas City needs to find talent where others have grown weary and taking on problem players and pitchers who haven't yet fulfilled their potential is how they can do it.
Come July, it will seem a lot smarter than spending $55 million on AJ Burnett.