It's Time for the Kansas City Royals to Clean House
“In a small way, I feel like we’ve won the World Series.”
Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore said the quote above. As some of you might know, Dayton Moore hasn't won the World Series with the Royals. When, might you ask, did he say this? After finishing 86-76 and missing the playoffs.
After taking over on June 8, 2006, one day after the MLB Draft that year, Moore recognized that the Royals weren’t ready to contend. He began a rebuilding process that really hasn’t finished in its ninth year, but he claims that the Royals are true playoff contenders.
On paper, the Royals look to be on the cusp of the playoff race, but their roster just isn’t that good. Moore is ready to deal prospects for deadline help, but the Royals should instead trade Moore for a GM who knows what to do and replace certain members of the old regime.
Since Moore became general manager in the middle of the 2006 season, he’s excused for the Royals’ 62-100 record that landed them in last place. Here’s how the Royals have fared under his direction.
|Year||Record||Win Percentage||Place in AL Central||Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||Pythagorean Record|
The good news is that the Royals look to be trending upward. They are on pace for their second consecutive season above .500, and figure to be in the playoff race once again. However, the driving force behind the 2013 run was pitching, and the Royals currently have the seventh-highest xFIP in the Majors at 3.99. Even though we’re seeing a pitcher-dominant era, the Royals still place below the league average for most hitting stats.
Essentially, the best thing going for them is defense, where the team Ultimate Zone Rating is 45.9, well ahead of the second-place Reds, who rate at 32.6. Interestingly enough, most of the Royals are mediocre in that respect, except for the amazing Alex Gordon and Jarrod Dyson. However, Lorenzo Cain completes an outfield with a whole lot of range, and allows the Royals to build around flyball pitchers, especially at Kauffman Stadium.
Rebuilding, But Not the Best Way
Moore continued to actively rebuild until 2011, when Baseball America and many others dubbed the Royals’ farm system the best in baseball. We can give Moore credit for acquiring prospects, but he did it inefficiently.
Look at what the Cubs just did, unloading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for elite prospect Addison Russell and more. Yes, the Royals traded Zack Greinke for an impressive package, but Moore failed to do this with lesser pitchers.
Last year, the Royals unearthed a gem in Ervin Santana, who had previously been dumped by the Angels. Moore kept Santana around, since the Royals were technically contenders, and took a compensatory draft pick from the Atlanta Braves in the offseason. We don’t know how things will work out, but Russell certainly has a higher chance of success at this point than high school pitcher Foster Griffin, whom the Royals selected.
The Rays hired Andrew Friedman before the 2006 season, so a little before Moore, and he simply built a team that Joe Maddon lead to the 2008 AL Pennant and trip to the World Series. Two years! Yes, the Rays are smarter than most clubs and Moore inherited a disaster of a farm system, but it’s incredulous that it took Moore eight years to post a winning record whereas it took Friedman only two.
Performance of Top Prospects
Prior to the 2011 season, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America compiled a list of the top 10 Royals prospects. Let’s see what they’ve done to this point.
|Name||Position||MLB Plate Appearances||MLB Innings||fWAR||Still with Royals?|
Please note that Dyson, Salvador Perez, and Yordano Ventura were mentioned elsewhere in the report but not regarded as the best prospects. They have combined for 19.1 fWAR. Think about that. Eric Hosmer and Moustakas were “sure things”, and they have been out-produced by three guys who profile as a platoon outfielder, above-average catcher, and mid-rotation starter.
So the top prospects haven’t done much to this point, and only five are currently on the Major League roster. Myers and Montgomery were sent to the Rays in the James Shields trade, so they have given the Royals some indirect value. Lamb, Dwyer, Eibner, and to a certain extent, Colon had struggled in the high minors, so it’s doubtful that they will be difference-makers at the major league level without a dramatic change.
For the most part, Moore was not responsible for the development of those prospects. But he did have the power to select those who did. In one of the articles linked above, Rany Jazayerli mentioned the case of Bubba Starling. The fifth overall pick in 2011, Starling has struggled to advance past High-A ball, where he is currently batting .206/.290/.332. After a 15-game hitting streak, Starling told the Kansas City Star that he had reverted to what he did in high school.
Hosmer and Moustakas also come to mind. Both had success at the plate early in their careers, as Hosmer won Rookie of the Year and Moustakas hit 20 homers in 2012. Yet, Hosmer has a career Isolated Power of .142 and wRC+ of 102, suggesting he is really a league-average hitter with limited power. Meanwhile, Moustakas has been unable to hit for average, and has struggled to hit fastballs. He can hit 20 home runs per season, but his career slugging percentage of .383 shows he’s no true slugger.
So where did Hosmer and Moustakas go wrong? For one thing, the Royals have cycled through hitting coaches in recent years. Continuity has its benefits, and it’s something Hosmer and Moustakas didn’t see. Prospects benefit from a well-thought-out development plan that fixes flaws, not a revolving door of coaches with different philosophies.
Ned Yost, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you. Yost’s claim to fame came during the 2008 season, when he was fired in September, only to see interim manager Dale Sveum lead the Brewers into the playoffs. It’s hard to measure a manager’s skill, but Yost’s career record falls well below .500 in stints with the Brewers and Royals. He also has a faction of players in the locker room who are acting pretty immaturely. Yost is okay when it comes to filling out a lineup, but he does nothing to improve his players.
Free Agency and Trades
In his tenure, Moore has been somewhat inactive in free agency. But both of his big deals were flops. First, Gil Meche signed for five years and $55 million prior to the 2007 season. He didn’t finish the deal, and although SIERA pegged him at 4.23 and 4.01 in his first two years as a Royals, he was worth 9.1 fWAR over that span.
The next season, Moore signed Jose Guillen to a three-year, $36 million contract. In 2008 and 2009, Guillen combined for -2.6 fWAR. He played around replacement level in 2010 before an August DFA and trade to the Giants.
As with free agency, Moore preferred to make many small deals instead of a few big ones. So far, the two biggest deals he’s made were in the winter, one trading way Zack Greinke and the other acquiring James Shields.
Even though no player the Royals received turned into a star, the haul of Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress remains decent. The Royals got two starting position players, a piece that would go into the Shields deal, and a relief prospect that busted.
The Shields deal is where we run into problems. Unlike the trade where Moore gave away Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez (so for free), the Royals knew Wil Myers’ ceiling. They traded Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard to the Rays for Shields and Wade Davis.
That’s a fair price for the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, etc. Shields is one of the game’s better pitchers, and it should have taken a lot to acquire him. The problem is, the Royals weren’t one player away. That was a trade one makes if they’re loading up for a playoff run, and while it certainly sent a message that the Royals intended to compete, the message also said the Royals were somewhat delusional about the makeup of their squad.
What the Royals Should Do
If I’m in charge, I admit that I’m after a World Series, not just a playoff appearance. We at numberFire have the playoff odds for the Royals at 21.4%, with just a 0.6% chance of winning it all. Dayton Moore has announced that the Royals will be buyers, but the best thing to do would be to sell.
A few years ago, Joakim Soria was closing games for the Royals, and Moore never traded him for prospects at the deadline. With the short shelf life on closers, it’s not a bad idea. Soria got hurt, and left the Royals in free agency. Greg Holland and even Wade Davis are considered elite relievers, and with a somewhat weak supply of top relivers available, Moore should at least dangle them this month.
The Royals don’t need a total rebuild, but they aren’t really ready to compete in the playoffs. Billy Butler’s bat has gone cold without a known cause, leaving Gordon, Perez, and Cain as the only above-average bats in the lineup. In the rotation, Ventura and Shields are the only two players who could actually start in October.
Grantland Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons once said the best way for a general manager to keep his job for a long time was to bottom out and start a long rebuild. That way, whenever the owner would question the lack of success, the GM would just point to the rebuild as an excuse to stay in power. Sound familiar, Royals fans? Fire him now, before he further mortgages the future.