“Another great move from the Royals. They were able to procure an outfielder with some upside, athletic and for the most part on a solid contract. Good work by Dayton”
“The Royals went the unexpected DH route but brought in a slugger with some power coming off a solid season”
These are quotes I wanted to say during this winter, hoping that maybe the great postseason run the Royals accomplished this year might have changed Moore’s mind on some things. More than anything I wanted to like what GMDM has done this winter and feel confident(or at least moderately confident) headed into the 2015 season. Instead he has made two offensive signings that made me shake my head so violently that even more is loose upstairs then before and a rotation acquisition that I don’t hate.
It all started last week with the signing of Kendrys Morales. I didn’t like the move on many fronts, but also took the stance of hoping that his awful 2014 season was more a byproduct of missing Spring Training and the first two months of the season than him beginning to regress(which is my belief). Then Moore went out and acquired long coveted outfielder Alex Rios to a one year, $11mm contract. I’ve never been a big fan of Rios, mainly for the fact that he is the ultimate streaky player, a player who has the talent but basically decides from year to year just how much of said talent he will actually use. Rios lacks consistency and his 2014 season was probably the sign of a player who’s best days are in the rearview mirror. Rios did hit lefties pretty solid in 2014, but there was very little power (4 home runs total, only 1 in the bandbox known as Globe Life Park in Arlington)to speak of. Add in that Rios will turn 34 in February and was a below average defender last season(although he might be a tad better defensively than Nori Aoki). All this made me not even want to write about Rios and left me with more questions about the Royals going into next year than answers. Yes, these guys will be complimentary players to the Hosmer’s and Gordon’s, but I felt the whole point to this offseason was to improve the offense and I wasn’t for sure that had been accomplished. Then it hit me.
The reason I don’t like most of Dayton’s moves on the offensive front, and why I seem to always be at conflict with his game plan is simple; I value different strengths in batters than Moore. I have known this for a long time, but these signings really glared the light at the differences between what I value compared to him. I prefer hitters that tend to walk more, are more patient and don’t strikeout much. Moore prefers free-swingers who make lots of contact. Rios and Morales fit this mold, although not quite to the extreme as some of the current Royals batters. Since this is the case, more times than not I am not going to like the players he is on the hunt for. It’s a bitter conflict, as I can’t quit being a Royals fan(hey, 30 years later isn’t the time to jump ship) but I also am just not on the same page with the thinking of this Kansas City front office. Yes, I am just a fan and they have major league baseball jobs(no jokes please), but I would like to think I am not a complete dummy when it comes to evaluating talent and noticing player patterns that don’t just change overnight.
I am smart enough to know that Kansas City isn’t going to be able to go out and match dollars with the likes of a Boston or Los Angeles, but I also think the Royals could be smarter about how they evaluate talent. There is nothing wrong with creativity by a front office; it has helped Billy Beane in Oakland for years now. The Rios and Morales signings felt like the opposite of creative; it felt like two signings that were taken by an old, tattered 1983 book that felt outdated 20 years ago. The Royals are hoping(counting) on these two to have bounce back seasons, when both are at an age where regression has begun to creep in. I wouldn’t expect either guy to put up career best numbers, but at this point in their careers I’m not even for sure they can accumulate average numbers. I would have preferred the Royals gone after an outfielder like Corey Hart or Colby Rasmus than the likes of Rios and Morales. Hell, I was more on the bandwagon of Kansas City going out and making a trade. The Royals are a team that has to spend wisely on the free agent market and it just seems that spending $17.5mm on two bounce back candidates wasn’t the best direction for a team hoping to make it back to the playoffs in 2015.
That leads to Wednesday’s announcement that Kansas City had signed Edinson Volquez to a 2 year, $20mm contract. Volquez is essentially James Shields replacement in the rotation and is coming off a solid 2014 campaign for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are some concerns when it comes to Volquez, most notably his penchant to giving up the walk and a declining strikeout rate. The strikeout rate doesn’t worry me as much, as he has worked on pitching more to contact and relying on the defense, which will be a plus in Kansas City. Sure, Volquez isn’t at the level of a James Shields(although I personally feel that decline is right on Big Game James’ doorsteps) but if a Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura bump up in the rotation then all Volquez has to do is throw 6 innings and give up an average of 2-3 runs on a consistent basis. I personally like this move and feel with the way the market was this was one of Dayton’s better bets. This goes to show that as much as my thinking clashes with Moore when it comes to hitting, I tend to value a lot of the same strengths in pitchers, especially those that are middle rotation starters.
So out of the three big offseason acquisitions the Royals have made this winter(this week?) I am on board with at least one of them. In a perfect world every move is a positive and elevates this team even more in 2015. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and just as I don’t trust anyone who hates every move a general manager makes, I also don’t trust the person who loves every move that is made. Free agency is a gamble and Dayton has rolled the dice with the Royals for this upcoming season. Hopefully he was more right than wrong and we can experience another magical October. My skepticism does remind me though that I felt this same way in September and we know what happened after that. So was it luck or a careful, drawn out plan? Only time will tell us.