Most teams have one all-purpose, no-hit utility man in a backup role, but after acquiring Ryan Freel from the Cubs yesterday the Royals now have four banjo-hitting infielders among their 13 position players.
Freel was once a very valuable player, offering strong on-base skills, great speed, and defensive versatility, but of course general manager Dayton Moore and the Royals are only getting him now that he's an oft-injured, 33-year-old shell of his former self. "Historically, he's been a tough out," Moore explained. "He's a high-energy guy with a reputation for playing hard. He's versatile and athletic."
Freel has hit just .251/.314/.330 over the past three seasons, yet he looks like Babe Ruth compared to the other utility men on the strangely built roster full of guys with lots of energy, versatility, and athleticism, but very little actual hitting ability. Tony Pena Jr. is a 28-year-old career .229/.249/.302 hitter. Luis Hernandez is 25-year-old a career .249/.282/.279 hitter. Willie Bloomquist is a 31-year-old career .266/.323/.332 hitter.
Now, in fairness the Royals are left short-handed by season-ending injuries to Mike Aviles and Coco Crisp, plus Alex Gordon's lengthy recovery from hip surgery. On the other hand, acquiring a bunch of guys who can't really hit seems to be emerging as Moore's thing since taking over the job in 2006 after previously serving as Braves assistant general manager.
He handed Bloomquist a two-year, $3.1 million deal for no apparent reason. Jose Guillen's three-year, $35 million contract is the second-biggest commitment made under Moore and Guillen had a modest .274/.325/.447 line at the time. And this offseason the big addition to the lineup was Mike Jacobs, a poor defensive first baseman with a .318 career on-base percentage that Moore repeated brushed aside to talk about his power.
So far what we know for sure about Moore is that he likes fast guys, former Braves prospects, swing-at-anything power hitters, and utility men. And what's starting to become clear is that those fetishes plus some questionable decision-making in other areas have him showing no signs of being able to build a quality offense. Kansas City is dead last in scoring after finishing third-to-last in 2008 and second-to-last in 2007.