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With Ankiel, KC looking more athletic

With Ankiel, KC looking more athletic

KANSAS CITY -- Maybe the signing of center fielder Rick Ankiel, which was finalized after his physical exam on Monday, will soften some of the hammering the Royals have taken this offseason.

Mainstream commentators, bloggers and just plain Joe Fan have rained blows on the Royals for their perceived tepid approach this winter.

"Worst team in baseball" was one of the kinder observations.

The most excitement seemed to be caused by general manager Dayton Moore's earliest move, a trade that brought second baseman Chris Getz and third baseman Josh Fields from the White Sox for infielder-outfielder Mark Teahen.

The free-agent signings of catcher Jason Kendall and outfielders Scott Podsednik and Brian Anderson caused hardly a ripple.

Along the way, though, Moore signaled the club's commitment to mine international talent by signing Cuban left-hander Noel Arguelles to a five-year deal. He won't help this year, of course, but he's a future investment.

Then, just when everyone was yawning over Podsednik as the new center fielder -- bam, the Royals came up with Ankiel, who promises punch, power and defensive dynamite.

Ankiel, a left-handed bat, can help make up for the home runs lost when Miguel Olivo (23), Mike Jacobs (19) and Teahen (12) departed. Or that's the thought, anyway.

And, over in the Royals' front office they're saying, in the words of one exec, "We're much more athletic than we were last year."

Maybe so. And, if they also turn out to be better, the Royals have done it at much less cost than last year when their re-signing of Olivo ($2.8 million, including buyout) and adding Coco Crisp ($6.25 million, including buyout), Jacobs ($3.275 million), Kyle Farnsworth ($4.25 million) and Juan Cruz ($2.25 million) was close to a total of $20 million invested. OK, $18.825 million if you're adding it up.

In return for Crisp and Jacobs, two guys who were counted on to amp up the offense, they traded away relievers Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nunez. Seemed pretty reasonable at the time.

"Everybody thought we had the greatest offseason in the history of whatever and people in the game were saying we did as good as anybody in improving the team," a Royals official said.

It didn't work out that way, did it? The club won 65 games and tied for last place.

This year's new crop has added a mere $8.7 million to the 2010 payroll.

The numbers are Ankiel, $2.75 million; Kendall, $2.25 million; Podsednik, $1.65 million; Anderson, $700,000; Arguelles, $500,000, and, for Fields and Getz, an estimated total of $850,000. That's not including anything beyond this year, including potential buyouts for Ankiel and Podsednik. Arguelles, of course, will be pitching in the lower Minors somewhere.

Last year's investments were pretty disappointing, except in Olivo's case. And because Olivo settled with the Rockies for $2 million plus incentives and an option for 2011, the Royals can expect some criticism for not exercising their option on him for $3.3 million this year. That would have seemed reasonable for a catcher who popped 23 homers and caught Zack Greinke's Cy Young Award pitching.

After all, they gave Kendall a two-year deal for $6 million.

All of the outfield movement might mean that David DeJesus and Podsednik would be at the corners and that Jose Guillen, the $12-million right fielder, would become the $12-million designated hitter. That's likely to make Guillen very grumpy.

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see if the popular game of "Hammer the Royals" continues.

The Royals think they're constructing a team that, compared to 2009, is more athletic, more versatile and has more depth.

But can it win?

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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