The Royals search for a back up infielder has been their most obvious pursuit this off season outside of acquiring starters for the rotation. The club was specific in looking for a right handed hitter that could back up third and short. You also have to believe that the guy that would be signed would provide both competition and an insurance policy at second base with Johnny Giavotella.
Naturally the Royals filled this void by signing Yuniesky Betancourt this afternoon. Betancourt will return to Kansas City just 366 days after the Royals dealt him to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade. Just a couple of months after starting at short stop for a division champion baseball club, Betancourt appears to have accepted a bench role with the Kansas City Royals- we can only hope.
Of course my initial reaction along with everyone else that closely follows the Royals was one of psychological horror. Rationally I knew that there were surely pros to this acquisition and that getting worked up over a back up infielder was a little over the top. But let me ask you this Royals Nation: Do you think our initial reaction to the Betancourt acquisition was over the top? That's what I thought.
So finally I have reached a point where I can discuss how Betancourt is a good fit for your 2012 Kansas City Royals. Well first off he clears fits the profile that the Royals were looking for in their back up infielder. Right Handed? Yep, Betancourt is right handed. But why did the Royals target a righty? Well, because they wanted to find a guy that could occasionally spell Mike Moustakas against the tough lefty.
So Kansas City needed a hitter that could pound lefties. Naturally the Royals landed on on Betancourt who blistered lefties in 2011 to a .229/.241/.331/.576 line. To be fair Betancourt has been much better against lefties for his career and boasts .275/.308/.421/.729 line. Not terrible numbers there, but does that line really justify hitting Betancourt over Moustakas against a left hander? Not in my opinion. Not only would Betancourt be stealing at bats from Mous but based off of the numbers I expect Mous to be at least the hitter Betanourt is against lefties and likely even better.
So Kansas City needed a guy that could back up both short and third. Naturally they chose Betancourt that hasn't played an inning of third as professional. (Not to mention we already know he can't play shortstop.) It isn't ridiculous to suggest that Betancourt could be a decent fielder at second or third, but at this point we just don't know. For now though the Royals back up third baseman hasn't played an inning at the position since he became a professional.
Finally, the Royals needed to find and insurance policy should Johnny Giavotella fail. This it where it gets scary, because for all the assurance that Dayton Moore has given that Alcides Escobar will start 150+ games at short, there hasn't been much said on the subject of Johnny Giavotella. It's no secret that I'm a big Johnny G fan, but even I think it would be wise to have some quality competition should he falter. I'm just no sure Betancourt is quality competition. If you are a Johnny Giavotella fan like myself you better hope that Gio gets off to a fast start in 2012, or else the organization may be tempted to allow Betancourt's tools on the field on a regular basis.
Betancourt is without a doubt a better fit for the 25 man roster than Chris Getz, but that isn't saying much. There are positives to signing Betancourt, but I'm not sure there are any that wouldn't have been met had the Royals signed any of the other available crop of veteran infielders. Ultimately this is a frustrating move. Yes, it adds competition. Yes, it is only a back up infielder. Yes, Betancourt is a body that can reasonably back up several positions.
The Royals didn't hurt themselves with this move. But given the obviousness that a back up infielder would be signed, they didn't do themselves in favors either. I don't know the terms of the deal, so obviously that will affect my stance a little. For example if it is a minor league deal I would actually be a fan of the move. But if the Royals wind up paying more to Betancourt in 2012 than Edgar Renteria, or Orlando Cabrera wind up making I'll be disappointed.