RC today concludes our Top 50 prospect list with reports on the top ten prospects in the Royals'…
Royals acquire Jason LaRue
Assuming the PTBNL isn't anybody of much consequence, the deal will work out pretty nicely for the Royals. LaRue is without question coming off the worst season of his career; in 191 at-bats spanning 72 games in 2006, he hit only .194/.317/.346. However, his struggles were undoubtedly affected a great deal by preseason arthroscopic surgery that cleared out some torn cartilage in his right knee. By the time he returned to the lineup on April 19, David Ross had begun to establish himself as the Reds' everyday catcher, and LaRue never got his job back. He received only sporadic playing time the rest of the way, and desired a trade to a team that would give him more assignments behind the plate.
Enter the Royals, who were in the market for a veteran catcher to work with – and perhaps push – incumbent John Buck, who hasn't made many strides offensively since becoming the starter in 2004. Kansas City made it known in the early parts of the free agent season that they were interested in former Royal Gregg Zaun to fill that role, but Zaun's demands of a multi-year contract at $3 to $4 million a season probably pushed them away, making LaRue and his short-term deal the more sensible option. Without question, Moore looked to upgrade the position, as Paul Bako's anemic .490 OPS was unacceptable, even by backup catching standards.
The Royals are aware of the upgrade LaRue brings at the plate. A guy with good power when he gets his arms extended, he hit .260/.355/.452 in 110 games just two seasons ago and is a career .239/.325/.415 hitter. However, it was probably his lauded skills as a defender that made him a target acquisition. Committing only two errors in 414 chances in 2006, LaRue's strong and accurate arm threw out 13 of 36 attempted basestealers (a 36 percent rate), and for his career, he's pegged 156 out of 401, an outstanding 39 percent.
According to Moore, LaRue and Buck will compete for the starting job in spring training, but the runner-up in that competition will see plenty of playing time regardless. Paul Phillips survived yesterday's cutdown on the 40-man roster, but this move for him signals another season in the minor leagues for Omaha or, perhaps, another organization in 2007.
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