...I could use it right now.
(From "Brownsville Girl," Knocked Out Loaded)
Another outfielder. With the addition of Rick Ankiel, the Royals have now signed or traded for three new outfielders this offseason, and a fourth if you think Josh Fields will end up playing more outfield than infield.
By itself, the Ankiel move seems OK, as well as intriguing. Ankiel's numbers fell off last year, but that may have been due to a horrific crash into an outfield wall he suffered in early May. Giving him $3.25 million for only one year seems like an acceptable gamble--not much money to see if he can return to his 2008 form. The mutual option for 2011 means either side can walk away--if Ankiel doesn't produce, he probably won't be a Royal in 2011. If he does, it's likely he'll exercise his option and be a free agent again. So the contract doesn't seem to be a problem for either side, and I don't mind the Royals taking a small gamble like that.
It's true that Ankiel is now 30, and theoretically in the decline phase of his career. However, his famous switch from pitcher to outfielder means he's only had two full big-league season's worth of everyday hitting. Those factors probably don't offset each other, but I suppose the possibility exists that Ankiel's career arc could be different from a "normal" player.
However, given the other moves the Royals have made this offseason, I cannot figure out what the overall plan is. The Royals now have Ankiel, Brian Anderson, David DeJesus, Jose Guillen, Mitch Maier, and Scott Podsednik as outfield candidates. And that doesn't include Fields or, possibly, Alberto Callaspo, who apparently has been supplanted at second base by Chris Getz but is one of the few Royals who can hit.
Of course, this is a pattern for the Royals, and it's a disturbing one. There doesn't seem to be a master plan for the major league level--if there were one, why would they ever sign Podsednik only to sign Ankiel two weeks later? This follows last offseason, when it seemed like the goal was to sign any available relief pitcher. I guess the hope is that quantity will somehow equal quality.
Also, this seems like an indictment of the farm system. Dayton Moore has had almost four years to provide the franchise with some quality minor-league options to fill holes at the major-league level. Yes, the cupboard was pretty bare when Moore took over. But it seems like the Royals are trying to patch up both AAA Omaha and the big-league club now, while all the hot prospects are still in AA or A ball. This is rather depressing.
Well, at the risk of repeating myself, it will be interesting to see if another move or two (trade-wise) springs out of this signing. The outfield situation may not sort itself out until the end of spring training. For now, though, this is another head-scratcher, even though, as I said, I don't think this move by itself is bad.