Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why there is hope in the signing of Kevin Kouzmanoff

The Royals' latest player deal is a step in the right direction.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 6:00 AM

The Royals are Kevin Kouzmanoff's fifth major league team.
  • The Church of Baseball
  • The Royals are Kevin Kouzmanoff's fifth major league team.
I have to confess that the signing of third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff might end up being the most exciting part, for me, of the Kansas City Royals' offseason. You probably don't share my excitement that the Royals have inked a career .255 hitter, who will turn 31 next summer, to a minor league deal. But you should.

This deal is exciting, not for Kouzmanoff's glove or bat but because of how his deal is structured and what it signals about the Royals. Kouzmanoff has an invitation to spring training along with the promise of $1 million if he can make the major league roster. It's why we may remember that 2011 was the first year in many years that the Royals stopped giving out starting infielder slots like wedding-card placeholders.

This is not about acquiring Chris Getz to be your opening-day second baseman or trying to revive the careers of Rick Ankiel or Scott Posednik. This is not about watching Willie Bloomquist watching strike three or signing Jason Kendall years after he lost his power to hit doubles.

This is about bringing back Yuni Betancourt for a second tour of duty. Only this time, Betancourt will back up Alcides Escobar and serve as a utility infielder rather than infuriating Joe Posnanski as the starting shortstop. He'll potentially be sitting alongside Mike Moustakas' backup, someone like Kouzmanoff.

This is how a baseball team with some talent operates. You bring in low-price veterans to compete and potentially fill out your roster. You make people earn a spot on the team, rather than simply holding a place for the future. Kansas City no longer has to hear about the next veteran over 30 years old who will be reinventing his career, despite several clear years of decline, amid the fountains of Kauffman Stadium. Kevin Kouzmanoff may not make this team, but his deal is exactly the kind of contract that makes a team successful.

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