Nothing makes me chuckle quite like when Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore plays a free agent signing so close to his chest that we know nothing of it until it is almost official. This was none more true than on Sunday when he signed OF/DH Brandon Moss to a 2-year deal:
There had been some light littering of rumors floating about DH types, like Chris Carter, but no specific mention of Moss being on the Kansas City radar. The deal actually breaks down very favorable for the Royals this year, as like most contracts Dayton works on, as it is backloaded for the second year of the deal:
So, close to $4 million is added to the payroll with this move, which is actually not much and still gives Moore room to go after another starting pitcher and/or reliever. In regards to the financial aspect of this signing, very shrewd move from Moore and one that could pay off if Moss produces like he has in the past. So what should be expected of Moss production-wise?
Last season Moss produced a line of .225/.300/.484 with 28 home runs, 67 RBI’s, an OPS+ of 105 and 0.8 bWAR. The biggest aspect of Moss’ game is his power and the power numbers were impressive in 2016: 2nd best home run total, 3rd best slugging percentage of his career, 3rd best extra base hit percentage, the highest percentage of hits for extra bases, 2nd best at bats per home run and 3rd highest isolated power average. You also get strike outs with Moss (he sat at 30% last year), but that is normal for someone with his kind of power. He will get the occasional walk, but throughout his career he has been league average to slightly above average (9.3% over ten years). In other words, don’t expect a high batting average from Moss, which is good since he could care less about that stat:
It’s very apparent that Moss understands the value of a walk and the flaws within batting average. This also tells me that he is probably walking up to the dish with a plan already in place, which is a good thing. Also, while Moss does have flaws in his game, there is a way to optimize some of the negatives. Moss’ splits over his career have not been kind, with a drop in his slugging percentage against lefties (.395 compared to .472 against righties) and an even bigger drop last year (.375 compared to .525 against righthanders). If manager Ned Yost was smart, he would almost primarily have Moss face right-handed pitching; he doesn’t have to lock him into a platoon, but I wouldn’t have him face many lefties this upcoming season. The good thing for Kansas City is they have a number of good options (Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier, Paulo Orlando, possibly even putting a regular position player in the DH spot) and could work around some of the lesser aspects of his game.
What about his defense? Honestly, while Moss can man the outfield corners and first base, he is well below average defender at first (-16.1 UZR, -22 Defensive Runs Saved) and most capable in right field (6.6 UZR, 5 defensive runs saved). This tells me he is probably average to slightly below average defender in the outfield and his defensive metrics are still better than new Royals right fielder Jorge Soler (-8.2 UZR, -7 Defensive Runs Saved). Many like myself felt that Soler would end up being the primary DH by mid-season this year, but if we go by the numbers (and yes, defensive metrics are still a work in progress, so they shouldn’t be taken solely by the end numbers) Moss could be better suited for right field than Soler. The curious part of my brain wonders how the Royals will attack that, since one of the big aspects of the Kansas City team’s these past few years has been the greatness of the outfield defense. Obviously, putting Moss or Soler out there lowers the bar quite a bit, which makes me wonder how that will be addressed (although coach Rusty Kuntz plans on working with Soler this spring, so we’ll see how that plays out). I think this also shows that Moss was acquired to get most of his plate appearances in 2017 at DH, which is what most assumed.
There is one aspect of the signing that didn’t sit well with me and that was that the signing meant the end (once again) of the rotating DH plan that Kansas City has tried to implement for years:
I’m sure I am in the minority, but I actually thought this would be a good idea for Kansas City in 2017. Rather than be tied down to one guy playing the majority of the games in this slot, you could rotate players in and out of the role. This would give at bats to a Cuthbert or Dozier, while also allowing a Gordon, Perez or Cain to rest their bodies (and all three have taken quite a beating these last few years). If the Royals are serious about contending this year, having those guys rested and as close to 100% as possible headed into September-October is a must. The rotating DH plan would have given Yost more options and given these guys a defensive day off, which will be needed. Now, there is still a chance that happens (as we mentioned Moss’ numbers against southpaws) but the other concern is Yost’s use of his backups. Even if you have just followed his tenure in Kansas City, you have figured out that Ned is not big on using his bench a ton. He is notorious for riding guys for as long as he can and with the three names mentioned above, that worries me. Maybe I am worrying about nothing and like in years past, Yost has learned to ebb and flow with what his team needs. But there is also a chance that “Rigid Ned” continues to play his guys into the ground and injuries pile up because of it. I like the addition of Moss, but one does have to wonder if it strengthens or weakens this team in the long run.
So which is it, a plus or a negative acquisition? I have to admit to really liking this signing by Dayton and although I have my concerns, they don’t bother me to the extent that I wish they could take it all back. Home runs were up throughout baseball in 2016 and year after year the Royals are near the basement (if not in the cellar) in home runs hit throughout the league. Adding Moss’ bat to Moose, Hos, Soler and Salvy just accentuates one more threat in the Kansas City lineup. If optimized correctly, he could be a steal for the low price he is signed for in 2017. The signing also gives them just a smidge more room for another starting pitcher (Jason Hammel?) or reliever (the return of Luke Hochevar?) if the Royals are looking. Don’t be surprised to see a number of bombs hit into the fountains this year; I mean, it’s not like Moss isn’t familiar with Kauffman Stadium!