The other day, Joe Posnanski (I think) was discussing alternative strategies to make a team like the Royals competitive. His idea was to go out and get the best defensive player possible at as many positions as possible, and try to win that way. The Royals aren't going to get rid of Betancourt (even though guys like Scutaro and J.J. Hardy will be available in the off-season) and there are other roster realities that must be considered. But they could conceivably field a MUCH better defensive team in 2010 without taking away any offense (how could you possibly take away any more offense from this team?). Here are some guys with nice defensive repuations that will or might be available: Bengie Molina (catcher), Chone Figgins (3B/2B), Adrian Beltre (3B), Carlos Gomez (CF), Nick Swisher (RF), Scutaro, Hardy...
Molina is 35, so he's not the best option. Only at catcher, he probably is the best option. He has power and can catch. He doesn't have OBP skills, but, unlike Olivo, he's not a complete knuckle-head. He will be expensive, but we're already paying Olivo and Buck something like $6.5 million combined. If anybody's got a better catcher idea (I can live with Bryan Pena as the No. 2 catcher), I'd love to hear it. I just don't want Olivo and/or Buck on this team anymore.
For this defensive approach to work, the Royals would have to get rid of Callaspo, who can hit but is the worst fielder I've ever seen. So maybe sign Figgins. He's been playing a good 3B, but he should be a defensive upgrade at 2B as well. Figgins hits and gets on base. He might be expensive. Of course, Scutaro or Hardy would work too!
The Twins don't seem to be in love with Gomez, for good reason. He doesn't get on base, but, for a change, we're only worried about defense here. Gomez is fast and young. He would seem like a much better option in CF than somebody like Josh Anderson or Willy Taveras.
I've always liked Nick Swisher. He's still fairly young, he hits with power and gets on base, and he's versatile in the field. Plus, he's a switch hitter. I'd try to swing a deal for a guy like him and put him in RF.
To make room for these guys, non-tender or trade Jacobs, Teahen, Buck, Olivo and Callaspo. We've also got a couple of relief pitchers coming off the books.
The defense would look something like this:
C - Molina
3B - Gordon
SS - Betancourt
2B - Figgins
1B - Butler/Kila
LF - Dejesus
RF - Swisher
On the bench you'd probably have one or two defensive liabilities and another good fielder. These reserves would come from a group of Guillen (could platoon at DH), Bloomquist, Bryan Pena, Maier, and Aviles, assuming he comes back. (On some days you could have Gordon at 1B, Figgins at 3B, Aviles at 2B and Butler at DH.)
Yeah, I don't see this as a terribly uncoventional or unreasonable or expensive way to try to fix the Royals. The offensive would be better, the defense would be much better (though SS and 1B would still be weak), and it wouldn't cost THAT much.
You've still got a really nice collection of starting pitchers, and surely some of the farm hands (like Disco!) can come up and bolster the bullpen.
Maybe Dayton Moore has a similarly brilliant plan in mind. That's probably why he just got that big extension.
P.S. Didn't Mitch Maier start out as a catcher?