The Royals piece is a solo Notebook, my first since the old Prospectus Triple Plays. It's all about the Royals' spending on place-fillers like Mark Grudzielanek, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Redman, Scott Elarton, and Paul Bako. Here's a sample:
That’s the big theme of [the Royals' free agent] acquisitions, one that reportedly will continue with the signing of outfielder Reggie Sanders. The Royals are on a two-year plan, matching the time remaining on Mike Sweeney’s contract, in which they intend to use veteran placeholders to support their youngsters. Like cedar chips in a closet, having a bunch of mildly above-average thirtysomethings around the clubhouse could keep the club from stinking while the Royals await the arrival of prospects like Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Justin Huber, and Chris Lubanski. In 2008, all those players could be in the show, along with $15 million which will come off the payroll in veteran players. In comparison, if the Royals had signed A.J. Burnett to the same five years, $55 million he received from the Toronto Blue Jays, they’d have a good, but not great, pitcher on a bad team now, and probably a 31 year-old innings-eater making $11 million in 2008.
The Yankees piece (you have to scroll down, since it's the second segment in this Notebook) is a rundown of the Yanks' tradition of offering the fans "Christmas present" acquisitions over the past ten or so years. Here's a sample:
The Gift: Johnny Damon, CF
They Left a Price Tag on This One: Four years, $52 million
Naughty or Nice: Some years, what you receive for Christmas is something new and extravagant, the equivalent of an XBox 360. Some years, it's something commonplace and practical, like a nice pair of woolen socks. Rarely do you come across a present that combines both the spark of novelty and the adult virtue of practicality--such as a slinky new cell phone to replace the one you've dropped a thousand times. For a team whose incumbent center fielders posted EqAs of .242 (Bernie Williams) and .227 (Bubba Crosby) in 2005, and one long in need of outfield defense, Damon was close to a necessity. Add in the fun of ticking off the entire fan base of the Yankees' closest rivals, and Damon is clearly a toy that's both fun and educational. We have to hope that the Yanks got the extended warranty, here--last season's PECOTA projections featured a couple of players comparable to Damon who fell off the face of the earth in their early 30s, most notably Lloyd Moseby and Andy Van Slyke.
It's a fun topic, and one I'd love to take on, much more in-depth, in the future. Enjoy!