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What The Royals Know

Over at SportsWorld, I asked Dayton Moore to go over five moves he thought were important in the Royals climb from awful to World Series champs. It was pretty enlightening — at least I thought so — and showed me that there might be some things that the Royals know that other teams might just be missing.

But I wanted to save for you a sixth move that Dayton talked about because you, as a Brilliant Reader, should get a kick out of it. Dayton wanted me to include it in the Top 5, but I think he was saying that because he was busting my chops.

Move No. 6: Royals trade Danny Cortes to Seattle for Yuniesky Betancourt.

Oh yeah, Moore went there. For you new readers, we here at the blog have had, well, a little bit of fun at the expense of Yuni Betancourt. I don’t know exactly how many Yuni articles I wrote over the years but I suspect I’ll have to answer for it at the Pearly Gates, assuming I get past the angel asking about the Jack Morris Hall of Fame articles. It’s fair to say I wasn’t always a fan of the way Yuni played baseball or the back-to-back negative WAR years. He did seem like a nice enough fellow.

In any case, when the Royals traded for Betancourt, they gave away Cortes, a hard-thrower with a wicked curve who was, according to Baseball America, the Royals top pitching prospect. This did not seem prudent.

But here’s what Moore figured: The Royals shortstop at the time was Tony Pena Jr., and while a very nice kid, he couldn’t hit at all. I mean: AT ALL. In the last 135 games of his career, Pena SLUGGED .192. I’ll repeat that in case you missed it: He slugged .192.

I’ll repeat that in case you missed it: He slugged .192. Yuni, for all his failings, wasn’t going to do that. He was a placeholder until the Royals could find someone better. And — irony alert — it turned out that Yuni played a huge role in getting his own replacement.

Yuni, for all his failings, wasn’t going to do that. He was a placeholder until the Royals could find someone better. And — irony alert — it turned out that Yuni played a huge role in getting his own replacement.

At the end of 2010, the Royals were openly shopping around Zack Greinke. They had no choice: They were not going to re-sign him, and they needed to flip him to get some talent. There were a lot of rumors about teams making impressive offers to the Royals. Moore says those rumors do not tell the full story. He said names were thrown out there, but when it came to putting together an actual package, it was very tricky.

Finally, the Royals settled on the players they wanted from Milwaukee. First and foremost, they wanted Milwaukee’s young shortstop Alcides Escobar. Moore and Co. loved the way he played defense and while they did not expect him to become a great offensive player, they figured he would hold his own. To Moore and his merry men, Escobar seemed a shortstop you could build a championship team around.

The Royals also wanted Lorenzo Cain, a late-blooming prospect that some scouts did not see as more than fourth outfielder but other scouts compared favorably to Torii Hunter. The Royals likes his aggressiveness. The Brewers threw in a couple of pitching prospects, including Jake Odorizi, who just had a nice year in Tampa (he helped the cause in his own way; he was a key figure in the Wade Davis trade). It all looked good.

And then Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin made a point: He was suddenly without a shortstop. The Brewers expected to compete in 2011 (that’s the only reason they were trading for Greinke) but the couldn’t do it without a ready-to-play shortstop.

And so, voila, the Royals included Yuniesky Betancourt in the deal. And Yuni played 152 games for the Brewers as they won 96 games and made it all the way to the sixth game of the NLCS against St. Louis.

“Yuni was the key to that deal,” Moore says, and he tries awfully hard not to smile like he often does when he’s really just ripping me.

“Really?” I ask.

“I’ve talked with guys over there, Poz. They do not make that deal without Yuni in it.”

So there you have it. The trade for Yuniesky Betancourt was one of the keys to the Royals World Series parade. I eat my crow with a nice red wine.

What the Royals Know

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28 Responses to What The Royals Know

  1. kcoracle says:

    Cannot be true. Plenty of shortstops available who were equal or better than Yuni. This also might not be true, but I always assume the Royals made the Brewers take Yuni as part of the deal. What happened to Tony Pena Jr as a pitcher?

  2. NevadaMark says:

    I knew Yuni was going to show up eventually on this blog. Joe could not resist…

  3. kcoracle says:

    Regardless, it did turn out to be a great trade. I did not think so at time, but to get a SS and CF, plus two good pitchers for Greinke and Yuni was brilliant. The Royals scouting was good on all four players.

    I know there is no reason to criticize Moore about anything now, but sending Myers, Odorizzi, and the others and taking on $32 Million [about?] in payroll over two years for starter Shields and Starter Davis was a bad trade at the time. Davis turned into a great RF (which Moore did not envision) and the trade turned out okay.

  4. Frank Hardy says:

    Great article. I also mentioned you in a blog post that I did on Steve Dalkowski and put a link to your article on him – as usual a fantastic piece of sports writing. I enjoyed seeing you in FASTBALL also. Keep up the great work …

  5. As a Brewers fan this may be the most disheartening post ever. Yuni…

    Note: I still make the trade or we never go back to the playoffs. I just swap in pretty much anyone else for Yuni. It put off our tiny market rebuilding decade by a couple years.

    • kcoracle says:

      How did the Brewers get to the playoffs playing Yuni at SS for 152 games. I remember he looked like he covered no virtually ground in playoffs.

      Joe was kind enough not to mention that Moore brought Yuni back in 2012 for $2 Million and then the Brewers brought him bac in 2013 (albeit only $900,000) for over 400 PA’s. There was obviously something about Yuni, although he was I think about the only player whom Yost has had a problem with during all his years in KC. The Royals released him in August 2012, because he thought he should be starting (which presumably means he was causing trouble).

      He did manage to hit 80 MLB Home Runs.

  6. MikeN says:

    Can we just call him Dayton Morgan?(From the last episode of The Walking Dead).

  7. MikeN says:

    I hate this article you wrote Joe.
    Nothing wrong with it, but Dayton Moore should not be revealing any secrets. He should be saying the dumbest things possible so people will continue to laugh at him and think the Royals were lucky.

    Things like I fire anyone that uses a computer. I want my scouts to be at the field with a notebook and drawing the range of fielders.

  8. invitro says:

    I’m just curious, but do the Royals have a winning record under Moore yet?

    • MikeN says:

      No. If you add all winning seasons in their history, you get 321 games over .500.
      Since 2000, they are 346 games under 500 in losing seasons.

    • mrh says:

      I think you know the answer. I’m not sure it matters. Probably all but about 5 franchises would be happy with a .473 winning percentage (from 2007 on, didn’t try to figure out Royals record after Moore’s mid-season hiring in 2006, almost certainly that would drop the pct a few points) and 2 league titles and 1 WS win every 9 years. All Royals fans would like to see a better W-L record over the next nine years than the past nine but I know I’d be happy if 2 of every 9 years were like the last two.

  9. Hoffman Mark A. says:

    Love this article! Love Dayton Moore and his approach to… life! He looks for the guys he likes… he looks for the “good guys”. As much as I like Leo, Dayton proves him wrong!

  10. Brett Patrick says:

    I have four moves that are better than this and number 5.

    1. Billy Butler goes to Oakland, Royals sign Kendrys Morales to replace him.
    2. Ned Yost is hired as a Special Assistant to the GM and eventually replaces Trey Hillman.
    3. Alex Gordon is moved to Left Field becomes All- Star outfielder
    4. Trades for Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, key additions to World Series run.

    Moves 1 – 4 are great but 5 and 6 are a stretch.

  11. Mark Garbowski says:

    “And then Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin made a point: He was suddenly without a shortstop. The Brewers expected to compete in 2011 (that’s the only reason they were trading for Greinke) but the couldn’t do it without a ready-to-play shortstop.”
    I follow a soccer team with a goalkeeper of disputed merit. His fans often say that without him, we’d be even worse, because he made a lot of saves last season. I always think, yes, but only if by “without him” you mean we would have played without anyone in goal at all. That would have been worse. Because he is replacement level for the league.
    Betancourt is the definition of Replacement Level Player. If the Royals didn’t have him they would have had, at worse, someone exactly as good as him at shortstop when the Greinke deal happened, and could have included him in the deal offering exactly the same value. It’s not like their roster would have been left to fester with no shortstop of even replacement level on it.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      As Casey Stengel once said, “you need a catcher or otherwise you will have a lot of passed balls.”

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      Betancourt was worse than that. He actually posted negative WAR six years in a row. Just a truly awful player

    • MikeN says:

      I think this was the same thinking that got the Red Sox Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb.

    • Scott P. says:

      “Replacement Level Player” is a theoretical construct. It does NOT mean that if you have a replacement level player, and you lose him, you can expect to replace him with someone of equal ability.

  12. So, some context. Yuni hit .259 with 16 HRs in 2010, the year before he was traded. Yeah, he didn’t walk and his advanced metrics were horrible. But, his traditional stats looked good. Also, in 2010 Yuni was rated the 26th best shortstop in the league by advanced metrics. Ironically Escobar was 27th. Of course Escobar was much younger and had room to grow, but I still couldn’t resist putting it out there.

  13. Cowboy22 says:

    As anyone at Royals Review will gladly tell you, an anagram for Yuniesky Betancourt is “Batter Nine You Sucky”

  14. Brent says:

    Joe, does this count as your “Royals will win the WS this year” article, because you still have to write one, even if they did win it all last year. 🙂

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