Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Saying goodbye (most likely) to Mark Grudzielanek

A consummate pro like Mark Grudzielanek deserves a classy send-off, but, frankly, we're a bit weary of goodbyes. Recently there was Tyler Lumsden, and before that was Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nunez. We've said goodbye to middle infielders (then reacquired) and starting pitchers alike, not to mention a Royals legend and the best show on television. These sort of things grate on one's mind, so this will have to be quick.

First the news story and money quote: Grudzielanek was recently offered arbitration by the Royals, but the second baseman said yesterday from his San Diego home he's "95 percent, 98 percent sure" he's going to decline it and become a free agent. The reason:

"Not that I wouldn't want to come back there. It's not that I had a problem with anybody there. It just comes down to my situation and my career where it's at right now. I'm going to be a little spoiled here and try to go to somebody who has a little bit more opportunity to push to the [World] Series."

Grudzielanek came to the Royals in 2006 at the age of 36 and proceeded to have three highly average seasons (OPS+ of 90, 100 and 100). That may sound like a disparaging assessment, but we don't mean it to be. In those three years -- especially 2006, the last of the dark pre-Dayton Moore years -- very few Royals were average, and for Grudz, a vetaran, to have so quietly and unassumingly accepted his lot and performed his work to the best of his ability, day in and day out, tells you a lot about his character. He has, by all means, earned the right to explore his options and find a club that, as he so delicately put it, "has a little bit more opportunity to push to the Series."

He had some very gracious things to say about the Royals and Moore in parting:

"I hope people do understand. I enjoyed my time there and really had a lot of fun. Tell the fans I really enjoyed it and the experience there for three years was a blast, and hopefully I helped out in moving the team forward -- whether it was between the lines or in the clubhouse."

"One of the best in the business is Dayton running the show and trying to get the players that will help get that team where they want to be. I'm just not so sure how quick it will be, and I'd rather not take that kind of a chance."

All in all, this may actually be a blessing in disguise for the Royals, who'll get a sandwich draft pick (between first and second rounds) next summer as compensation for losing a Type-B free agent. But now's not the time to discuss that. Grudzielanek is moving on, and so it is we bid him adieu. We part, and probably not to meet again.

Of course, we're not going to let him off easy -- not until he's subjected to this picture once more:

Best of luck, Grudz. We hear the Cubs need a second baseman after they trade Mike Fontenot over here for Mark Teahen.

UPDATE, 12/3: From Rany:

I think – and this is only an educated guess, not predicated on any kind of insider knowledge – that Moore and Grudzielanek have reached some sort of gentlemen’s agreement, in which Moore has offered Grudzielanek arbitration with the understanding that it won’t be accepted.

Why? Well, it’s a win-win situation, or at the very least, it’s a win-no lose situation. The Royals get themselves a supplemental first round draft pick, which is a very valuable commodity. The Royals got one of those last year when David Riske left, and used it to select Mike Montgomery, a high school left-hander who was named the #1 prospect in the Arizona League and the Royals #4 prospect overall by Baseball America.

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