Last season the Royals were incredibly fortunate on the injury front all season long. Sure several players hit the disabled list for short periods of time, but overall the Royals were perhaps, the most fortunate team in all of baseball in terms of the injury bug. Several weeks into Spring Training 2012, the Royals have effectively regressed to the mean.
First, back up catcher hopeful Manny Pina went down with a knee injury that would sideline him up to two months. Not long after starting catcher and recipient of an eight year contract that still hasn't had the ink dry, Salvador Perez went down with a torn meniscus. The injury will likely keep Perez out until mid-June, or July and then see him only catch four times a week for the remainder to the week.
Then in just the last couple of days, Blake Wood was shut down due to some elbow inflammation and today word comes that there is a good chance Joakim Soria will require his second Tommy John surgery. If Soria is done for the season, it seems extremely unlikely that he'll pitch again for the Royals. Next season the club owns an $8 million option and even if Soria were healthy it would be hard to justify paying a closer that kind of coin with so much bullpen depth on the roster.
For a team that needed everything to go right to have a shot at contention, they are having one of the worst Springs in all of baseball. The upcoming catcher out for the year. The closer gone (Denny Matthews voice). Giavotella, whom the organization clearly hoped would grab the second base job, has been a disappointment.
The Joakim Soria injury two years ago would have been catastrophic to the bullpen. Today it could almost be spun as a positive. The depth of this bullpen is outstanding and there are multiple guys that should be able to nail down the 9th. They may not be as dominate as Soria was in the "Mexicutioner" days, but they should be more than capable of getting the job done. Johnathan Broxton has been an elite closer before, Greg Holland was one of the dirtiest pitchers in baseball last season, Aaron Crow was an All-Star in relief, and Kelvin Herrera could have the best stuff of the bunch. It is possible, that instead of having to suffer through a month of Soria struggles the Royals will now be able to cut straight to the chase and find their closer for the future.
Of course that isn't the frustration among Royals fans. The frustration is that once again the Royals failed to cash out on an asset while value still existed or while the value was at its highest point. This off season Soria wouldn't have brought back much in the way of a trade, but just a couple of offseasons ago the Royals supposedly could have had Jesus Montero. Sure the Royals wouldn't have a spot for Montero in the lineup and obviously history wouldn't have shaken out in the same manner had he been a Royal, but this offseason showed he could have been a much more valuable trade asset than Joakim Soria.
The Perez loss is much more painful. Entering 2012, the excitement finally existed because even if it wasn't our time to win the division, it was our time in the sense that the vaunted farm system had finally over taken the Major League roster in full. Instead we are looking at the possibility of another season of Chris Getz or Yuniesky Betancourt playing everyday and of a journeyman catcher leading the young pitching staff.
The Royals aren't going to find anyone near the quality of Salvador Perez, but let's hope a viable, reliable option exists. I hope Opening Day can get here soon, because I'm not sure how much more Mission 2012 can take this Spring.