In mid December the Royals traded OF David Lough to the Baltimore Orioles for 3B Danny Valencia. On the surface this trade looks like two teams swapping two role players with no role. Lough played well after finally getting his shot at the major league level but when the Royals acquired Justin Maxwell during the season and Norichika Aoki in December, moving an OF’er became almost mandatory. Lough was the odd man out. For him personally he’s in a much better situation as he will get a chance to play in Baltimore and contribute. As for Valencia, he will initially provide much needed insurance and a possible platoon in the event Mike Moustakas duplicates his anemic 2013 offensive output. As the Royals roster solidifies, 3B looks to be the key to an offensive improvement over last season.
Of course Moustakas cannot have a repeat of last season if the offense looks to improve greatly. No matter how you look at it Moustakas’ 2013 season was ugly. Dayton Moore (whose night classes on general managing seem to really be paying off) recognized 3B as a pivotal position on the club and made the trade for Valencia. As we move into the 2014 season I think we will look back on this as the most important transaction Dayton Moore will make this offseason. Reason being, I don’t see Mike Moustakas improving much in 2014.
Whether you believe the rumors about Moustakas disregarding suggestions of mechanical changes by coaches or not, Moustakas has mechanical flaws. Flaws or not though it’s doubtful he starts hitting LH pitching at even an acceptable rate. His .222/275/332 (79 OPS+) career line against LH pitching doesn’t exactly instill confidence that he will get it turned around even if it is in a small sample size of 395 PA. He did manage a .690 OPS in 27 PA over the winter in Venezuela if that makes you feel any better. Moustakas has had a modicum of success against RH pitching posting a .707 OPS (108 tOPS+). That is where Valencia comes in.
Valencia 29, comes to the Royals 4 years older than Moustakas but with roughly 230 less PA’s. Having his only true full season with the Twins in 2011 while posting a .677 OPS. He’s played sparingly since then with only 315 PA’s in 2 seasons. It’s the 170 PA’s last year (SSS alert!) and .888 OPS that makes me hopeful Valencia can provide solid platoon production with Moose. Valencia’s career .879 OPS against LH’ers suggests it’s an idea worth trying. In a platoon I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect a combined .750 OPS from the duo. In the event Moustakas is injured or regresses to the point he has to be replaced entirely I believe Valencia can step in and give competent offensive production. Steamer predicts Valencia to be at .251/296/413 overall in 2014 while CAIRO is a bit more bullish at 255/296/433.
Though a platoon would seem the way to approach the 3B issue having Valencia take over full time wouldn’t be the end of the world and in fact should increase production from 3B over last year. I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that Valencia is the answer long term but in the unfortunate event Moustakas doesn’t fulfill his potential the Royals have obtained quality depth at the position which could turn out to be the difference in a playoff berth next October. That’s something this longtime Royals fan has longed to see.