And the winner is....
What? Talk about coming out of left field. The normally frugal Royals are actually spending quite a bit of money this offseason...what a concept.
I did not see this one coming. The Royals were not even mentioned in "The Market for Juan Cruz" column a few weeks back! But you know what, I like it.
Here's why: after trading away two of their best relief pitchers for Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp respectively, the Royals needed help in the bullpen bridging the gap to Joakim Soria. My apologies to all the Kyle Farnsworth lovers out there-he's not going to get the job done. Cruz gives manager Trey Hillman a real weapon out of the bullpen besides Soria. Cruz will strikeout lots of hitters (71 in 51 IP in 2008) and can work multiple innings, both of which are major pluses for the Royals.
As for the draft picks, the Royals will only have to surrender their second round pick (#55) because their first round pick is protected. Giving up a first round pick for Cruz would have made no sense for the Royals, and I'm sure there are those who oppose giving up a second round choice for Cruz, but more than likely Cruz will do more for the Royals in two years than a second round draft pick ever will.
We have to ask: do the Royals plan on competing in 2009? It sure seems like GM Dayton Moore thinks they can compete. They have now acquired veterans Kyle Farnsworth, Cruz, Coco Crisp, and Mike Jacobs...a major sign to their fanbase that they are serious about competing. The Royals won 75 games in 2008...does anyone think that these four players will push the Royals over .500 or even towards 85 wins? Very debatable.
The real question is this: does anyone outside of Dayton Moore think that the Royals are good enough to win in 2009? I still don't think so. The Royals play in an awfully tough division and still need another quality starter and impact bat (maybe Jacobs) before I can even consider them to be legitimate contenders. In addition, the Royals lineup needs to collectively produce a respectable OBP for me to take them seriously!
It's encouraging to see the Royals being aggressive. For the fans, it's nice to know that the Royals are not just going to remain inactive and not spend on free agents while the rest of the league laps around them year after year (cough...Pirates). I'm just not sure that the Royals have spent their money in the best way this offseason, but we'll have to wait and see.
The real winner in this deal is the Diamondbacks. By offering Cruz arbitration, the secured themselves and additional two draft picks in the 2010 draft and did not have to give in to a stupid sign and trade. Kudos to Josh Byrnes on this one.
UPDATE (4:41 PM): Here are the contract terms: (2 years/$6 million with an option)
Wow. Kyle Farnsworth got more loot than Cruz! Unbelievable! Cruz's type A status killed his market to such a degree that a mediocre relief pitcher like Farnsworth got a better contract. Memo to Bud Selig: the system needs fixin'!
And finally, it's hard to believe that a team like the Tigers did not make a run for Cruz. Considering the modest price tag, giving up only a second round pick would have been pretty good for the Tigers, and would have made them a much stronger ball club. Now instead, they have to face Cruz 19 times a season...