10/20/2003 10:29 AM ET
Randa's the man at third for Royals
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
Between May 28 and the end of the season, Joe Randa hit .329. (AP Photo)
Berroa finds a home at shortstop
Relaford gets second chance
Who's on first for Royals?
KANSAS CITY -- Third base was unquestionably a plus position for the Royals in 2003. Joe Randa made it that way.
In the field, Randa established himself as a Gold Glove candidate by committing just seven errors all season. At the plate, Randa flourished over the final four months by raising his average from .218 on May 28 to a season-ending .291. During that long span, he hit .329.
Then there were the intangibles. When manager Tony Pena asked Randa to hit in the No. 2 slot coming out of Spring Training, Randa accepted that challenge and helped Kansas City burst out of the gate with a 16-3 record. Randa was also a constant mentor for rookie shortstop Angel Berroa on the left side of the Royals' infield as Berroa worked to find his defensive comfort zone at the Major League level.
Joe Randa / 3B
With Randa's all-around fine performance in 2003 behind him, the question now becomes whether Kansas City fans will get more of the same in 2004. Randa is about to lapse into free agency, and there has to be a financial fit for both the player and the ballclub if Randa is to continue wearing a Kansas City uniform.
For Randa, who turns 34 in December, this may be the last big opportunity to cash in on the open market. For the Royals, who will be operating with roughly a $45 million payroll budget next year, an offer would have to be within financial boundaries that wouldn't compromise the team's ability to sign key players at several other positions. Randa made $4.5 million last season.
"It just depends on how the financial pie works out," said general manager Allard Baird.
Randa, who makes his home in the Kansas City area, has expressed strong interest in returning if it works for both parties, but he is willing to let the free agency pieces fall into place.
"You just have to be patient and let the process play itself," he said as the Royals were concluding their breakthrough season.
The Royals don't have a definitive third baseman-in-waiting, but Jarrod Patterson, who was the organization's Triple-A Player of the Year, will be one to watch in Spring Training. Though club officials think that the sweet-swinging Patterson would hit at the Major League level given a significant number of at-bats, his glove work at third is a big issue.
The Royals will have Patterson playing winter ball for Kansas City coach Luis Silverio in the Dominican Republic. There he will have the opportunity to work on his mechanics at third and also play some other positions to enhance his versatility.
Desi Relaford saw significant playing time at third base last year when Randa received periodic breathers, but the Royals will go into 2004 with Relaford cast as the everyday second baseman.
If it isn't Randa or Patterson at third, the Royals would likely have to go outside the organization to fill the void.
Kansas City can only hope it gets as much production at third in 2004 as it did in 2003. Randa did everything that was asked of him -- and more.
We either make ourselves happy or miserable.
The amount of work is the same.