Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mike Aviles to Boston

For the second time in the past week and a half the Royals have traded a utility infielder to a contending team. For the second time the Royals didn't receive a game changing prospect, but in this instance the Royals haul does make since for the team as it pushes itself into contention in the coming years.

Those of us that extensively follow the Royals Minor League system have begun to keep an eye out for guys that could be utility options for the Big League club. This will be an important role to fill. What happens is that often times the big name prospects stick to one position in the minors not allowing them the defensive flexibility it takes to be a strong bench piece should they not nab a starting job.

Enter Mike Aviles who despite being under team control through 2014, he was set to be arbitration eligible for the first time next season and is already 30 years old. Given his age it is safe to assume that he is already on the downside of his career offensively, and given how he is unhappy being a bench player he doesn't strike me as being the bench guy the Royals will want for the future.

Yesterday Aviles told the Kansas City Star that he hasn't handled his move to the bench great. He also said “I feel I’ve been an everyday player my whole career. And every time I play on an everyday basis, I’ve been able to produce when healthy."

Well I'm sorry Mike but let's not be dumb. Virtually every Major Leaguer was an everyday player their whole careers in the Minor Leagues. Unfortunately some guys wind up as utility players. Aviles has good versatility, but the sooner he can accept his role and career as a utility man the better off he'll be. I imagine playing for a contender might help this transition for him.

For Aviles the Royals received twenty-three year old utility man Yamaico Navarro and
twenty-three year old righty Kendal Volz. Navarro entered the season ranked 12th in the Red Sox organization according to Baseball America and was considered a C+ prospect as judged by John Sickels. Volz didn't crack Baseball America's top 30, but was also considered a C+ in John Sickels eyes.

Navarro will join the Royals tonight in Cleveland and becomes the utility man we have been looking for. Here are the highlights from what had to say on Navarro: "above average power for a middle infielder...a little too aggressive at the plate...average to be above average defender at shortstop and third base...sure glove, above average arm" It also says that he has gotten reps in the outfield to improve his versatility.

Entering the season Baseball America also said that Navarro possessed the power potential to hit 15-20 home runs a year. BA went on to say that he could be an everyday second or third baseman, but would probably be a quality utilityman for a contending team.

The Royals will likely control Navarro's rights through the 2017 season. As a utility man he could play a big role in the Royals success through those seasons. With the power potential he also should have value as a pinch hitter. Just another bonus stacked on top of his defensive versatility.

The Royals also obtained Kendal Volz. I like the numbers on Volz this season in High-A Salem. He has been moved to the pen full time and through 51 innings has a 10.8 K rate to just 2.1 walks per 9 innings. Volz has a low 90s fastball, with a decent slider and change.

Entering the year some viewed Volz as a guy with backend rotation potential, but I envision the Royals leaving him in the pen and assigning him to Wilmington. If he pitches well there he could be called up for a title run in Northwest Arkansas.

I'll admit that I was never a huge Mike Aviles fan. He hit well in his rookie campaign, but other than the last few weeks of last season never displayed the same hitting prowess. He was always a frustrating guy to watch for me.

It is natural for a guy to want to play every day and I would hope that every player wants to perform well enough to warrant that opportunity. However, Aviles struck me as a guy that used his role as an excuse for his numbers rather than using his opportunity to warrant a starting spot.

Like I said Navarro isn't a game changer. But if all goes well he could be an extremely useful bench piece for the next six seasons and this is something that would really help the Royals get over the hump. Volz represents the old Braves philosophy of nabbing an interesting arm in every trade. Nonetheless he could turn himself iinto a decent relief prospect.

Of course both could flop and Aviles could use Fenway's hitter friendly dimensions to his advantage and pepper the Green Monster with doubles. On paper though this is a good move for both the Royals and Red Sox and that is how trades are supposed to work.

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