Dealer’s Choice

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The second half of the Major League Baseball season is now underway, and with that comes the looming trade deadline, scheduled for August 1st this year. Teams can trade players throughout August, but a player has to pass through waivers first before a deal can be done. So for the next few weeks, teams will be trading players at a greater rate, since there are no restrictions to any deal they would like to procure. With that being said, the Kansas City Royals have a few needs they would like to fill before the deadline. The Royals probably won’t be making the splash they made before last year’s deadline, as the farm system was gutted last summer and with a number of injuries to the team this year, there isn’t as much depth as in years past. So don’t look for a Ben Zobrist or Johnny Cueto to end up in their lap this year. With that being said, the two I will be looking at today is starting pitching (which needs an immediate upgrade) and right field. Now, before anyone asks, yes Paulo Orlando is having a great season for Kansas City, playing mostly right field. While Paulo has been getting on base, he hasn’t been producing as many runs as maybe the team would like and there is possibly even a worry that he won’t be able to sustain his current pace. Now…let’s look at some trade possibilities for the Royals, beginning with starting pitchers.

MLB: MAR 20 Spring Training - Astros at Phillies
20 MAR 2016

Jeremy Hellickson

I’ve long been a supporter of Hellickson since his Tampa years, and secretly hoped the Royals would swing a deal for him. Hellickson has had a bounce back year for Philadelphia this year, throwing 105 innings with a 107 ERA+,  lower FIP and WHIP and a higher SO/W ratio(3.44). Hellickson is still only 29 and will be a free agent after the season, so the Royals wouldn’t have to keep him once the season was over. Hellickson is a ground ball pitcher, which would seem to be a good fit with the Royals infield defense. With Hellickson on the upswing, this would be a good time to pick him up and toss him into the rotation.

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Rich Hill

Hill is inevitably on everyone’s list and not surprisingly so. Hill is coveted because A) He is signed only through the 2016 season B) He is only(only!!) making $6 million this year C) He’s left-handed and D) Billy Beane likes to deal his players at the deadline. Hill has dealt with a groin injury this year but that most likely won’t affect his value on the market. Hill has had a good season when healthy, posting 76 innings with an ERA+ of 184, 2.57 FIP, 3.21 SO/W ratio and 3.0 WAR. Hill resurrected his career last year but shouldn’t cost much if Kansas City decided to part with a prospect. Hill would be a good addition to the Royals rotation, but there is a long list of teams who have been scouting him over the last couple of months.

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Matt Moore

Moore is another lefty that the Royals have been linked to as an interested party. Moore was once considered a top of the rotation type pitcher but has had control and health issues during his time in Tampa. Moore has thrown 109 innings this year, compiling an ERA+ of 93, 4.59 FIP and a 2.94 SO/W ratio. Moore still has electric stuff and is signed through this year, but has team options through 2019. If the Royals wanted, they could acquire Moore and possibly keep him with the team for three more seasons. He is still only 27 years old and would be an intriguing possibility if Kansas City decided to go this route. Tampa Bay appears to be in trading mode, so I would think there is a good chance Moore is dealt before the end of July.

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(STAFF PHOTO / DENNIS MAFFEZZOLI)

Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi is possibly the most intriguing name on this list, as he came up through the minors in the Kansas City farm system after being acquired from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade. For the longest time Odorizzi was considered a future mainstay of the Royals staff, only to be dealt to Tampa in the Wade Davis deal(which is what we will refer to it moving forward). Odorizzi has seen Amodest success with the Rays the last few years, racking up 104 innings so far this year, with an ERA+ of 93, 4.39 FIP and a WAR of 1.3. There is some familiarity for Kansas City with Odorizzi and much like Moore, if Jake was acquired the Royals would have him under contract through the 2019 season. It might cost Kansas City a bit more to pick up Odorizzi because of the contract, but he also has a better recent track record than Moore and Kansas City would already have an idea of what they would be getting with Odorizzi. If I have a favorite on this list, it’s this guy.

Other names to keep an eye on: Erasmo Ramirez, Ervin Santana, Andrew Cashner, Dan Straily and Jorge De La Rosa

Now, let’s move on to the outfielders…

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Jay Bruce

Bruce might be the most coveted position player available this trade season and is a good bet to be out of Cincinnati by the end of the month. Bruce is signed through the season but has a $13 million team option for 2017. He could be someone the Royals could acquire to keep through this current contending window and then allow to leave at the end of next year. But…I tend to think Bruce is a long shot to end up in Kansas City for a few reasons. One, it will probably take a decent size haul to trade for him in the first place, possibly more than the Royals currently have to offer. Two, while Bruce has put up good power numbers this year(18 home runs, .538 slugging percentage and 171 total bases), he strikes out quite a bit(69 times so far this year, 145 last year) and defensively he is a below average defender. Throw in the fact that he is tops on a number of teams trade list, and you have the likelihood of Bruce ending up in another contenders pocket when the dust finally settles on August 1st.

MLB: JUL 12 Athletics at Indians
12 July 2015

Josh Reddick

Reddick is most contending team’s wet dream; free agent at the end of the season, reasonable salary and is putting up good numbers this season. It’s been reported that the Royals have scouted both Reddick and his teammate Rich Hill, so there is interest from Kansas City in the Oakland slugger. I would normally be gung-ho about this move, especially since Reddick is hitting .295/.369/.426 with an OPS+ of 117 and 1.4 WAR. But Reddick has been dealing with a thumb injury and it seems to have sapped his power; so far this year he has only 5 home runs and 14 total extra base hits. I think this still might be a good acquisition for Kansas City, as the numbers show no major change in his hard hit rate and is also a plus defender in the outfield. If the team was looking to upgrade in right field, they could do a lot worse than Josh Reddick.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres
(Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY)

Melvin Upton, Jr.

I’m going to be honest: I’ve never been a big fan of Upton. I would even go so far as to say I have long felt he is overrated. This goes back to his early years in Tampa Bay, where I felt he was living off his potential and occasional bursts of solid production. He seemed to me to be an athletic guy with the “5 tools” executives and scouts covet but only really making use of one or two of them. In my eyes, he seemed to strike out too much and focus his attention on the longball, turning himself into a one-dimensional hitter. All this being said, I am thoroughly shocked at his production this year and even more shocked that he is out-hitting his brother(106 OPS+ compared to Justin’s 80). Upton is putting up numbers we haven’t seen from him since 2012, posting a line of .262/.311/.454 with 16 home runs, 44 RBI’s and 2.2 WAR. These are all really good numbers and you can see why he has been mentioned in many a trade rumor. But here is the elephant in the room-Upton’s contract. Upton is in year 4 of a 5 year deal that is paying him $15.45 million this year and $16.45 million next year. That is waaaaaaay too much money for a guy who has racked up only 1.2 WAR in 3.5 years.  The only way Kansas City would acquire him is if San Diego was willing to eat a large chunk of that contract, and even then they would be hesitant. If the Padres are willing to eat most of the money, there is a chance this could happen. If not, barely a discussion will happen between the two sides.

Other names to keep an eye on:  Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Matt Joyce and Odubel Herrera

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The one thing to remember before the trade deadline is that there is probably at least a 1,000 to 1 ratio of ‘rumors’ to ‘rumors with actual legs on them’, so take many of them with a grain of salt. With that being said, it appears something will happen on the Royals front and possibly even before August 1st. Kansas City can still make a move after that, but that will require the players involved in the deal to pass through waivers unclaimed first, which is hard to do. Last year Cueto and Zobrist were the big prizes and GM Dayton Moore was able  to reel them in. This year, Dayton might have to be more creative when it comes to piecing together another team that can make a deep playoff run.

 

 

Dealer Dayton: Royals Land Zobrist, Prepare for October

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Just two days ago it felt like the Royals struck gold by picking up Johnny Cueto to help an ailing rotation. It was known even then that Royals GM Dayton Moore might not be done, as the team was looking for an outfielder/infielder to help cover Alex Gordon being injured and Omar Infante struggling. It was also well known that Kansas City was eyeing Oakland every-man Ben Zobrist. Zobrist is one of the most versatile players in the game and can play all over the infield and outfield and has over the last 6 years accumulated the fourth best WAR in all of baseball(38.1):

Dayton has seemed to turn into Kenny Rogers(the singer/fried chicken entrepreneur, not the left-handed pitcher), as he has pushed all of his chips in, acquiring Zobrist for two more pitchers, Aaron Brooks and one of the top Royals prospects, Sean Manaea. Like the Cueto trade lets digest this move and see how GMDM did.

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Let’s start with the prize for Kansas City at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box, Ben Zobrist. Zobrist was coveted by numerous teams(the Nationals seemed to be right there with the Royals for his services) and it’s easy to see why. Zobrist is the odd utility player who plays every day, so he is an everyday player just at different positions. Not only that, but he plays good defense in every spot he is thrown at and has an above average dWAR every year since 2009(although for this year he is sitting at -0.9). Zobrist has been one of the most valuable players in all of baseball during this span, getting MVP votes in 2009 and 2011-2012. To the average baseball fan Zobrist doesn’t scream ‘star’ nor does it appear as if he is the catch that many of us laud him for. But his value stretches past the versatility and defense. Zobrist has an OPS+ average of 123 in that span and offensively brings a mix of decent power and patience at the plate that is highly valued within the game. In fact Zobrist might be the oddball of this Kansas City lineup, as he has been averaging 74 walks and 51 extra base hits per season. Initially Zobrist will get the majority of the time in left field until Alex Gordon comes back, but also expect to see him play at second base and right field before the year is done:

He can also play some shortstop or third base if something would happen to Alcides Escobar or Mike Moustakas:

Zobrist has added a glove, a bat and depth that is immeasurable to this Kansas City team. It should be fun watching him play these next couple months as the Royals work toward reaching the playoffs.

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Now, onto the arms that are going to Oakland. First, Aaron Brooks is a right handed pitcher who has had a few stints in the big leagues the last two years. Okay, by that I mean he has appeared in 4 big league games. He is probably best remembered for an awful start in Toronto last year, where he only finished 2/3 of an inning, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks and 7 runs. Yes, that explains his 43.88 ERA in 2014. That being said, Brooks has been a solid starter for AAA Omaha this year. So far he has started 17 games, posting a 3.71 ERA in 106 innings and a WHIP of 1.303. Brooks was not a top prospect for the Royals and really his main use was depth, although if Brooks was starting games for Kansas City that means something drastically had gone wrong. It looks like Brooks is going to get a shot immediately for Oakland:

Brooks is an arm that Oakland GM Billy Beane likes and that the Royals really didn’t need. Hopefully the kid has some success for the A’s and is given some time to prove whether or not he belongs in the majors.

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Now to the key piece of the trade for the A’s, Sean Manaea. Manaea was one of the top prospects in the Kansas City farm system, up there with the likes of Raul Mondesi and Kyle Zimmer. Manaea is known for his mid-90’s fastball and a nasty slider but also has had some control issues in the minors. So far this year in 7 starts, Manaea has 3.1 walks per 9 innings…but also 11.1 strikeouts per 9! Obviously he has electric stuff and if he can get over his control issues would probably be a top arm in a major league rotation. The other issue is his health, which has been a problem early on in his career. Before he was drafted he had hip surgery for a torn labrum, which hurt his draft position and why the Royals were able to snatch him at the 34th slot in the 2013 draft. Manaea also didn’t make his first start this year until late June due to an abdominal injury. There is no way of knowing if the injuries are random or something that will follow him for the rest of his career, but it is something to take note of. It hurts a bit that Kansas City gave Manaea up in this trade, but Kansas City still has Zimmer, Miguel Almonte and Christian Binford, plus the new arms that were drafted in this past June’s draft. The Royals were going to have to give up someone for Zobrist and Manaea was probably a better choice than some of the other options. You must trade value to get value.

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So who won the trade? I think both teams can claim a victory on this, especially considering the two teams are at different places this season. The Royals get a quality bat and defender who can play multiple positions and fill in wherever needed. I would prefer Zobrist’s bat near the top of the order because of his high On-Base Percentage, but it looks like that won’t be happening:

So Zobrist helps fill a hole in Kansas City’s lineup that they needed. Brooks and Manaea will help Oakland now and in the future. Brooks looks to be getting a shot in the rotation this year while Manaea will be part of the future(as long as he isn’t traded; Beane likes to do that). The A’s are already looking toward the future while Kansas City has their sights on October. You have to give it to Dayton Moore; in just a few days he has acquired the top pitcher and bat on the market and have made the Royals the favorites in the American League come the playoffs. All that and Moore did not give up one piece of the main roster, keeping it intact for the rest of the season. The games still have to be played and there is still a lot of baseball to be played. But right now, we Royals fans can start dreaming of another ‘Blue October’. Even if a world championship doesn’t happen, there can be no blame laid on the doorsteps of the front office. Dayton and company have done what is needed to put the Royals in the best position to bring the World Series trophy back to Kansas City. Now it is up to the players to win the whole damn thing.

 

Royals Holiday Shopping Now Complete

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

If Not Dayton, Then Who?

Milwaukee Brewers v Kansas City Royals
Last week I took a look at five possible managerial candidates if(or when) Neddy Yost ends up fired. Many pointed out that as much as a new manager would be nice, Royals GM Dayton Moore shouldn’t be allowed to hire a third manager. I agree with that sentiment, that Moore should be fired before Yost(although both being gone would be fine for me). Rany Jazayerli has made the best argument so far for Moore’s dismissal, one that obviously I agree with. Here is the problem; I don’t see Moore getting fired soon. There is a far greater chance of Yost getting the heave-ho, which is why I took a look at possible replacements. With that said, it seems only fair that I take a look at possible replacements for Moore. But to be honest, you don’t read about possible general managers very often. There are the candidates you read about from time to time, most being assistant GM’s for other ballclubs. There are also those that are under the radar but make total sense when you think about it. I might not be up on possible replacements for GMDM, but I can tell what the Royals should be looking for. Here are some tips for Kansas City to use when perusing the classifieds for Moore’s successor.

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1)Pick Someone Who Has Worked for a Small Market Team

There are many reasons why I think Kansas City should look at other small market franchises when picking a new general manager. The most obvious is to pick from the ones who have a winning pedigree. Off the top of my head comes Tampa Bay, Oakland and Minnesota. These are teams that have worked with less and been successful in spite of it. The first two are obvious, but I have massive respect for Minnesota’s front office. You might not know it from the last few years, but there for a long time they produced player after player and when it came time for one to leave, there was another prospect to take their place. The funny thing is soon the Twins will be a force again, as they have been stockpiling talent in the minor leagues for a few years now. If the Royals bring in a candidate from one of these teams, they will already understand the restrictions placed under them and have a leg up on how they can work around it. There are some from bigger market teams that could still succeed, but they just aren’t as used to the parameters set on them as an executive from a smaller market franchise. There are a few exceptions to that rule, most notably being St. Louis and Boston. Both franchises work with a bigger budget and are able to do things the Royals realistically just can’t do. But both also focus on drafting and player development and then adding the rest of the pieces through trades and free agents. The formula is the same for Kansas City, just on a bigger scale in those two markets. No matter what, Kansas City needs to be looking for someone who isn’t conventional. Which leads us to the next thing they should be looking for…

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2) Pick a GM Who Will Be Creative

Honestly, this might be the most important thing for the Royals when hiring a new GM. Ever since Billy Beane started incorporating ‘Moneyball’, almost every team in baseball has either stolen ideas from him or tried to catch up to the way he structures a team. Beane’s biggest attribute has been to be creative and think outside the box when acquiring talent. This has allowed Oakland to be a perennial playoff contender despite the fact they have a small payroll, play in a crappy stadium and have a hard time convincing big-name talent to play for them. For the GM of a small market franchise, being creative should be an everyday staple. Unfortunately, I’ve never felt like Dayton was creative in his outlook of picking up pieces. Sure, Moore has had some good trades, some even great(Guthrie for Sanchez? Still a steal!). But most of what Moore does is thinking that most other GM’s would do as well. It’s almost like they follow the same handbook. That is what the Royals next GM should not do; follow a handbook. Instead he needs to be ahead of the pack, thinking in ways the other GM’s in the league aren’t thinking. Beane has made a living out of being unorthodox and it has paid off well. Whomever the Royals hire next needs to work along that same vein.

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3) Build a Team Around Your Strengths

It’s conceivable here to make the argument that the Royals in a lot of ways have already done this. There is some truth to that statement. The Royals are a team focused around pitching and defense, which is a large chunk of this team. But if you look at the Royals teams of the 70’s and 80’s, they were catered to Kauffman Stadium. Their hitters were good hitters who knew how to hit the ball in the gap for extra bases. They had power, but not exactly power hitters(minus a John Mayberry or a Steve Balboni here and there). In some ways this Royals team is the same way-only the Royals hitters have forgotten how to hit. You very rarely ever see them hit the ball in the gaps, which means they seem to be a station to station team. Whitey Herzog understood this and helped build his Cardinals teams in the 80’s to play faster than everyone else. It helped that Herzog was one of the best managers in the history of baseball, but he understood playing to one’s strengths. The Royals will need hitters who can hit, not just hit home runs, although a power hitter would be nice for this team. Whoever ends up being the next GM needs to realize this and draft, trade and sign accordingly. Home Runs can happen at ‘The K’, but a team full of them probably won’t give them the success they want. A balanced lineup is really what this team needs to add to the already stellar pitching and defense.

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4) You Need to Charm David Glass

Sure, it seems as if it doesn’t take much to charm David Glass. I mean, Dayton has made him think that eight years is a perfectly fine amount of time to rebuild a team. But is he easier to charm than this David Glass?

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Or this David Glass, who seems to be looking for a good time?

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Now that I have given you nightmares, let’s get back to the point of this. I’m not so sure Mr. Glass really understands baseball, or at least understanding what a real GM should look and sound like. Moore was smart enough to get Glass to open up his pocket book over the last eight years, not only for major league talent but money for drafting and signing young talent. Moore had a plan lined out and even though it appears to be a total failure, I’m sure Glass was impressed that he had something lined up. If a candidate is going to interview for this job, they are going to have to show him they know what they are doing and give him a reason to hand him the keys to this struggling franchise. This is where it doesn’t matter one’s qualifications; it will come down to what Glass wants. I’m positive the Glasses know nothing about sabermetrics or just how unbelievable it is that team’s like the A’s and Rays compete year after year. But there is always hope that he will listen to other people within the Royals organization that know what they are doing and weigh his decision with them in mind. Or this is all for nothing and it is all about who can charm the pants off of a 78 year old man.

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5) Player Development Plan

I’m sure Dayton learned a thing or two about player development when he was with the Atlanta organization. Problem is, it hasn’t shown with Kansas City. So far, the only real players the team has developed and are high caliber major league players are Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura and Greg Holland…and even Ventura is questionable, since he has only been with the team a few months. There is obviously something wrong with the development of these players, otherwise why would guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas succeed in the minors then struggle so much once they made it to the big leagues? There is a chance the problem lies in the major league coaching staff, but there is also a chance that some things are fishy in the minor league development. At the end of the day, the next GM needs to have a plan outlined and hopefully it is one that has succeeded in the past. Look at a team like the Cardinals; they have a simple plan outlined for their entire minor league system and a lot of their success can be tied into that plan. Those players get to the majors and already know what they need to do to succeed. The Royals need a system like that, one in which there are simple plans to follow but also one that lets each player be an individual. Not every player is the same and what works for one player might not work for another. That is a big part of the entire player development program. The next Royals GM needs this to be a big part of his plan and be ready to implement it in any way possible.

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These are just some of the bullet points that the Royals should have in mind once Dayton Moore is shown the door. Most seem like simple things but just because something is simple doesn’t mean it works out that way. We are seeing that now, as GMDM’s ‘Process’ has turned into an eight year nightmare. Whomever is chosen needs to not make the mistakes that Moore has made over the last eight years. He needs to be not only creative when acquiring talent, but creative when putting together his master plan and no matter what they shouldn’t have a process. It just has a negative connotation now. All that Moore’s successor really needs is a winning formula. Do that and that person will be made in Kansas City.

Dayton Moore, Saying all the Wrong Things

I just need to vent real quick. Earlier today, the Kansas City Royals claimed pitcher Chris Volstad off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Volstad didn’t have a great year last year, but my gut tells me the Royals signed him more because of his potential, which is fine. This signing is okay as long as he is used next year as either a reliever or an emergency starter. If he starts over 15 games next year…well, if that happens there is a good chance the Royals are in trouble. But it wasn’t the Volstad signing that bothered me. It was the comments GM Dayton Moore made after the signing. So lets pick apart what Dayton is saying and why it is so distressing.

“We know who we are and how we have to build this team,” general manager Dayton Moore said, “and how we have to build our rotation. We’re going to be as aggressive as we can, but we know who we are and how we need to do it.”

 

This is Dayton alluding to the Royals being a small market team and how they can’t spend as thrifty as the big dogs in baseball. It’s true, but it almost reads like we as fans shouldn’t expect much this offseason. As in “no big catch on our fishing line”. I totally think this is Dayton preparing us for them to not sign a Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez. I can understand this to a degree, but I would rather have a GM who is confident and doesn’t use a team’s limitations as an excuse.
Luke Hochevar, Version 2.0

“His career, obviously, hasn’t gone to script,” Moore said. “He’s had a lot of ups and downs, but he’s still very young. Our scouts have seen him, and his stuff is still good. He just hasn’t had a lot of success but, hopefully, we can get him back on track.”

 

Of course Moore is talking about Volstad here. I have no issue with the Royals signing guys like this. It is a necessary evil in baseball, just in general. But doesn’t that read the same as if he was talking about Luke Hochevar? Shouldn’t you be fixing the first Hochevar you have first before taking on another Hochevar? and do the Royals get a discount for having two Hochevar’s on their roster? BOGO anyone?
“We’ve got to look internally,” he said. “We’ve got to look through trades. We’ve got to look, certainly, through free agency…we might be able to pick off a player or two, but we’re not going to build our team through free agency. It won’t work.”
I actually agree with Moore here. I think the teams needs to really look for trades this offseason rather than on the free agent market. I’ve written before that Tampa Bay would be a good partner. But as a small market team, you need to have an open mind and keep all options available. The Royals won’t be able to go out and sign a major name, but they can still make a splash in the free agent pool if David Glass is sincere about spending the dough.
“We’re not going to jump out there and be crazy on things,” Moore said. “We’re going to be aggressive and try to create as much depth and competition as we can. We know it’s going to continue to be a work in progress with everything we do in building a rotation.”
Depth is good. Bring as many pitchers to camp to compete as you can. Just don’t break the bank on lesser talent players. Spend money accordingly. Although, if there is a pitcher out there that you can get at a good price, the Royals should pounce. What if Greinke or Shawn Marcum would take a hometown discount? You can be crazy without anyone checking you into the nuthouse.

“He’s healthy and still young,” Moore said. “He broke into the major leagues when he was very young. He’s had some success, but it’s mostly been down lately.

“That being said, you get guys when they’re on the downturn. You don’t get them when they’re on the upturn.”

 

Alright, this is where I have a problem. Look at that last line. I’m sorry, that is just stupid thinking. You CAN get players on an upturn. You’ll have to either pay the money or trade talent for them, but like I have said ad nauseum, to get talent you must trade talent. If all you acquire are guys who are at the downturn of their careers, then that will be all you have; players at the downturn of their careers. Yes, some will pan out and improve. But the chances of that happening are slim and none. I’m sorry, but making such a ridiculous comment is insane and makes me think the sooner Dayton is fired, the better. I get that the Royals are not going to be a financial monster. But neither is Oakland’s Billy Beane and look what he does year after year. Dayton just seems like he can’t be creative or isn’t even willing to try. Maybe it’s just me, but I think having some of these “upturn” players would help Kansas City. It’s like Moore is working inside of his little itty bitty box and isn’t willing to venture outside of it.
How many cool points does Dayton get here for the shades?

So what do we take away from Dayton Moore’s comments today? Well, it seems like Moore is willing to live and die by his constraints. I really hope this doesn’t mean the Royals don’t sign two solid, established starters. I hope this doesn’t mean that they won’t re-sign Jeremy Guthrie. I hope this doesn’t mean that February rolls around and the pitchers competing for a starting gig are a bunch of Volstad’s. More than anything, I hope that this doesn’t mean that they are putting all their eggs into the “well, Duffy and Paulino will be back soon” basket. Sure, they should return in 2013. But you have to look at them as if they will not contribute to the Royals next year. Anything you get from them is a bonus. If they are counting on those two to return, plus Chen, Hochevar and Volstad to improve plus whatever lot of castoffs they acquire this winter, then we are in trouble. Dayton Moore has had over six years to build a rotation that is acceptable at the least. Instead, the Royals rotation looks like the island of misfit toys. At this point,  I would take King Moonracer in the Royals rotation.

Cheering for the New Kids

If one thing stands out when it comes to the teams looking to make the playoffs this season, it would be a new batch of younger, hungry teams look to be October bound. There is nothing like rooting for the underdog come the playoffs, hoping they can knock off a team like the Yankees. Three teams stand out to me this year as teams to root for in the postseason.

1) Washington Nationals

No one is surprised that the Nationals are making their first trip to the playoffs. What is a surprise is that it came this early. Washington is a team that did it the right way. Most of the Nationals talent are homegrown, from Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper. Sprinkle in some veteran pitchers(Gio Gonzalez), some cast-offs(Mike Morse), and one big free agent signing(Jayson Werth) and you have a team that could be a regular in the playoffs for years to come. Credit Gm Mike Rizzo for piecing this team together, and credit Manager Davey Johnson for getting them to gel. They will be interesting to follow, since Strasburg has been shut down, but this is a talented team that can go a ways just on their pitching. My guess? A NLCS appearance, before being knocked off in six or seven games.

2)Oakland A’s

In my On Deck Circle last week(which is weekly on kvoe.com), I discussed just how this team has been winning. If ever there was a team of nobodies that are surprising baseball, this is the team. Not only that, they are doing it in a rough division, which has the Rangers, Angels and Felix Hernandez. The fact they have gotten this far should be a sign of the great work of Billy Beane and Bob Melvin. But it is also a sign of what young talent can do, especially young pitching. Don’t expect any name players, or any stars to step up and dominate for this team. The concept of team is vital for this ragtag bunch, and so far it is guiding them to October. The A’s will probably be one of the wild card teams, so it’s a 50/50 shot of where they will end up. Either one and done, or going on to the ALDS. I wouldn’t expect them to go much farther, but so far they aren’t following convention. So if they go farther, don’t be surprised.

3) Baltimore Orioles

Now, here is a team I can get behind! The Baltimore Orioles are having one of those miracle seasons that are just amazing to watch. This is another team built around youth and veterans, and the mixture is working so far. Buck Showalter continues his career trajectory of turning every team around that he touches, as the Orioles are poised to make their first playoff appearance since 1997. There are stars on this team, like Adam Jones, and there are some great young talent like Manny Machado. Throw in some Jim Thome, a dash of Mark Reynolds, and a pinch of Nate McLouth and you have a recipe for a resurgent Baltimore franchise. This team has gotten by this year thanks to great relief work, clutch hitting and late inning heroics. Those are actually all great qualities for a playoff team, so don’t be surprised if this team makes a big run. World Series, possibly? Possibly. Yes, it seems crazy, but there is no reason to doubt them now. This team has been winning when they need to all year, so another rush of wins isn’t out of the question. If not, it is still a great story to follow. What was once a storied franchise could now make a case to add to their legacy…and we gain by watching it!

So there you go. Three teams to watch in the playoffs this year that can fill your heart with shock and awe. October can be a kooky month, so don’t be surprised if one of these teams makes a late appearance. Before you snicker and say no, who had the St. Louis Cardinals as the World Series Champions a week before the end of the 2011 season? Didn’t think so. So get ready folks, the playoffs are coming and don’t expect to see it coming. Trust me, it will be worth it.

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