The Sunday Ramble
The Tigers make a trade, the White Sox hit the eject button on a regular and we lost a member of the inaugural Royals team.
I decided to be productive with the extra hour gained overnight so welcome to the first offseason edition of The Sunday Ramble. For those of you new around these parts, while this newsletter centers on the Royals, I occasionally use Sundays to write about things that caught my eye around the game during the previous week. Sort of a notes column, if you will.
Despite the last month of inactivity, there have been a healthy number of new subscribers, most of them coming via Preston Farr’s new Substack, Farm to Fountains. I’d like to return the favor and say that if you find yourself jonesing for minor league info, you can’t do much better than Preston’s newsletter. Treat yourself and hit that subscribe button over there. And for any new readers, welcome!
And don’t forget to subscribe here if you haven’t! It’s free to read and I won’t spam your inbox.*
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Here are a few things that caught my eye since the Rangers popped the champagne in the desert this week.
The Detroit Tigers broke the seal on The Hot Stove—Trade Edition, with a deal that sent minor league pitcher Blake Holub to the Brewers in exchange for Mark Canha.
Adding Canha is a savvy move by a Central Division rival, bringing a little right-handed balance to a lineup that skewed lefty-heavy at times last summer. Turning 35 in February, he’s not a threat to reach 20 home runs (a total he bested just once in his career, back in 2019 when he was with Oakland), but he remains a potent on-base guy. He hit .245/.343/.381 with the Mets to open the year before he was shipped out at the trade deadline to Milwaukee. With the Brewers pushing for the NL Central title, Canha hit .287/.373/.427 in 204 plate appearances.
Canha has an option for 2024 at $11.5 million which was clearly too heavy for the Brewers, but just right for the Tigers. Especially with Miguel Cabrera’s contract off the books now that Detroit declined his option for the next season, Detroit finds themselves with some payroll flexibility they were previously lacking. What better way to spend than getting a proven on-base guy?
With Spencer Torkelson at first for Detroit, Canha will presumably find ABs as a corner outfielder—most likely in left—and at designated hitter. Adding Canha isn’t exactly a statement of intent when it comes to contention, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction for the Tigers. As the also-rans in the Central jockey for position this winter, they’re certainly a team to keep an eye on.
In something of a less than savvy move, the White Sox declined their $14 million club option on shortstop Tim Anderson.
Anderson—like most of his teammates on the South Side—had a miserable summer, hitting .245/.286/.296 while playing subpar defense at short. His final tally of -0.5 fWAR was by far the worst of his career. The White Sox had a miserable season and Anderson looked just all kinds of out of sorts.
This season was just two years removed from the best season of his career where he hit .309/.338/.469 to post a 4.6 fWAR.
From The Athletic:
In truth, both sides need a fresh start. Anderson was once the spirit of the team’s marketing campaign meant to celebrate individuality and a particular kind of South Side vibe.
But last year, Anderson’s free-swinging swagger was replaced with brooding groundouts. The Sox were so bad that the tenured front office of Ken Williams and Rick Hahn were defenestrated by Reinsdorf during the season. (And yet, manager Pedro Grifol, who refused to move Anderson down in the order when it was painfully obvious it was hurting both him and the team, is still here.)
The rebuild ended not in multiple championships and parades, but in the rubble of failed promises and broken dreams.
I think a dystopian vision of the White Sox starring a disgruntled and ineffective Anderson is something we can all get behind in Kansas City.
Anderson has had a bit of an issue staying on the field, topping out at 123 games played in three of the last five seasons, including last year. He missed time in 2023 with a knee sprain and recently said that he never felt 100 percent after returning from the injury.
The potential $14 million price tag for Anderson’s services for 2024 may have been elevated, but I’m left wondering what exactly the plan is in Chicago. FanGraphs Depth Charts lists Lenyn Sosa at second base and Romy Gonzalez at short, a double-play combo that is charitably uninspiring. But! Noted good guy Jerry Reinsdorf will only be on the hook for that pair for about the same amount of cash that he will give Anderson not to play for the Sox after he receives his $1 million buyout on the club option. Reinsorf’s team may lose on the field, but he’ll win on the balance sheet.
I’m not sure what’s going on with the White Sox. The funny thing is, I don’t think some members of their front office know what’s going on, either. If the Sox are going to contend next year (I know, stay with me here), they will need a player of Anderson’s (potential) caliber. It’s not like there’s a shortstop tree, you know. Colson Montgomery, the top prospect in the White Sox organization, is presumably their shortstop in waiting, but he’s played just 33 games at Double-A. In other words, there seems to be a good reason to keep Anderson around for another year. Plus, if he bounces back and the team is struggling, they could ship him out at the deadline and at least get something in return. I mean, $14 million isn’t an unsubstantial amount coin, but in Chicago, it’s apparently a dealbreaker.
Are you wondering how things are proceeding on the South Side?
I don’t know about you, but this makes me exceptionally happy.
An original member of the 1969 Royals, and rotation stalwart for the first five years of the franchise’s existence, Dick Drago passed away recently.
Drago was the Royals’ 31st pick in the expansion draft ahead of the ’69 season. He topped 200 innings in each of his seasons in Kansas City and made 33 to 34 starts from 1970 to 1973. He is still on a few franchise leaderboards, with a 3.52 ERA with the Royals, ranking eighth all-time and his 160 games started in Kansas City is the 10th most in club history. Drago threw 53 complete games for the Royals and his 10 shutouts for the team are tied for seventh-most in team history with Kevin Appier and Charlie Leibrandt.
Roughly a league-average starter during his time with the Royals, Drago’s best season in Kansas City was in 1971 when he won 17 games with a 2.98 ERA with an 86 ERA-. That season, he finished tied for fifth in the AL Cy Young award voting as the Royals won 85 games. (Yes, he received just one third-place vote, but still! It’s on his Baseball-Reference page forever.) It took the Royals just three seasons to have their first winning record and Drago was a huge part of that.
Drago struggled in 1973 and rookie manager Jack McKeon never seemed to take to the starter. At the end of the year, the Royals shipped Drago to Boston in exchange for Marty Pattin. Drago moved to the bullpen with the Red Sox and was a member of Boston’s ’75 American League pennant winners. He later pitched for the Angels, the Orioles and the Red Sox (again) before closing out his career with the Mariners in 1981.
I found a radio recording of a Drago start for the Royals from June 3, 1970, in New York against the Yankees. Not the best start to highlight for Drago, but a fun listen if you like to jump in the wayback machine from time to time. It’s a good way to spend a Sunday in November if you ask me.
Thanks for reading.
Photo on the main page is courtesy Minda Haas Kuhlmann on Flickr.