One of the favorite pastimes of Royals Review posters is to comment or complain about the number of former Atlanta Braves players that Dayton Moore has acquired for the Kansas City Royals. Sometimes this is a joke and sometimes it is a genuine complaint. I've always thought that the argument that Dayton Moore has somehow hurt the Royals with this "obsession" was a bit thin. Have these acquisitions actually hurt the Royals?
When a general manager brings in players from an organization where he used to work, there are at least two ways to look at it. The first is that he knows a good deal about these players and is using this information for the benefit of his new team. Information is a good thing, and therefore knowing more about these players allows him to bring in good values for the team. The second way of looking at this practice is that the GM is obsessed with these players that he once thought were great (or would be great) and so he's dead set on bringing them in regardless of their actual talent or cost and that he's doing this to the exclusion of players from other organizations who might help his new team.
J.C. Bradbury of Sabernomics.com mentioned this issue in a brief but interesting article which deals with the subject in question. He sums up his concern (but doesn't go farther than that) in this excerpt:
Dayton Moore appears to be fascinated with the farm system he used to oversee. Since moving to the Royals he’s acquired former Braves products Odalis Perez, Tony Pena, Kyle Davies, Brayan Pena, and Horacio Ramirez. It’s not that acquiring these players were necessarily bad moves, but I think that fans should have a right to be worried when a GM seems attached to things that he once saw as great in his mind’s eye.
Ok, this "fascination" gives rise to what I think is a reasonable concern. So let's look at some numbers to see if Moore is obsessed with mirages of talent from his past, or if he's actually adding value to the Royals.
The table below shows the former Braves that the Dayton Moore has acquired and given a major league contract to (or who have played at all for the K.C. Royals, and thus earned a major league salary). It shows their Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for the years they were with the Royals (prorated for the portion of a year the player was a Royal, where applicable) along with the dollar value of that WAR in a given year, the actual salary the Royals paid to that player and the difference between the player's value and his cost.
|Player||Year||WAR||Value ($)||Salary ($)||Difference ($)|
|Tony Pena, Jr.||2007||1.6||6.5||0.38||6.12|
* - Odalis Perez's salary was determined by the portion of his 2006 salary for the part of the season he was with the Royals ($2.4M) plus his 2007 salary ($7.75M) plus half of his signing bonus ($0.75M) minus the $8M which the Dodgers threw in as part of the trade which brought him to Kansas City. This equals $2.9M, which I divided proportionately between 2006 and 2007.
[Note - one could argue that I should account for the lost value of Elmer Dessens and Octavio Dotel who were traded for Odalis Perez and Kyle Davies. This could be done, but it wouldn't change the bottom line very much. Dessens pitched 23 below average innings for the Dodgers and Dotel pitched 7.2 below average innings for the Braves. Given their small contributions and the fact that the Royals saved money by trading them away, including them would likely improve that bottom line but only by a little.]
[One more thing, I think Ron Mahay's inclusion in any analysis of Moore's acquisitions of former Braves is ridiculous. Mahay played for the Braves for one-third of the 2007 season, more than a year after Moore had left the Braves. Now, Moore may be acquiring former Braves because of the information he has on them from when he worked in that organization, or because he's obsessed with those players he knew who he mistakenly thought would be great. But does anyone seriously think that Moore is in love with every player who has ever worn a Braves jersey, including those who did so before and after Moore worked for that organization? That would be an exceptionally odd assertion. But, I didn't want to be accused of cherry-picking data, so I threw Mahay in there as well.]
It's hard to have a problem with those numbers. Obviously there were pluses, minuses and pushes, but overall Moore got good value for the former Braves he acquired. Over his three years, the actual value of the former Braves he has brought in has more than doubled their cost to the Royals.
So Moore's record with former Braves to this point has been quite good. But some might say that while the former Brave "obsession" has been merely interesting so far, the contracts given to Farnsworth and Ramirez this offseason change this fascination into a clear liability. Then let's look at the 2009 projections for Royals who were once Braves:
|Player||Year||WAR||Value ($)||Salary ($)||Difference ($)|
[I could have included players like Tony Pena and Brayan Pena, but I chose to include only those players likely to make the 25-man roster. If both Pena's were included, using CHONE's projections, it would improve the bottom line, as both players are projected to have values which match or exceed their 2009 salaries.]
Again, there are some significant positives and negatives on that list, but the overall numbers are quite good. While there are some pretty clear mistakes on that list, one has to feel good about getting $19.6M worth of performance for $13.6M. If we add the to-date total from the first table to the projected totals from the second table, we get:
|WAR||Value ($)||Salary ($)||Difference ($)|
The bottom line is $41.6M of performance for $22.7M. If that is an obsession, It's certainly a very functional one. So far it looks like Dayton Moore's habit of acquiring former Braves has, on balance, been very good for the team.
Unaccounted for in the above analysis is the opportunity cost of bringing in these players. Signing Juan Cruz means not acquiring another player. Claiming Brayan Pena off of waivers means potentially not claiming another player (although waiver claims are clearly not a zero sum transaction). It is possible that Moore's acquisition of former Braves prevented better moves. It is also possible that these acquisitions prevented Moore from making worse moves. Has Dayton Moore been choosing former Braves when he could and should have chosen better players who have never been in that organization? I have no idea. But given the above numbers, it's hard to argue that, overall, he could and should have done better than those choices.
My analysis also does not include minor leaguers. Moore has brought some minor leaguers like Roman Colon, Matt Wright, Jairo Cuevas, etc. But it's hard to see how their acquisition has hurt real prospects in the system. They don't appear to be blocking any genuine prospects. Actually, if anything, they appear to be taking up space, allowing prospects to not be rushed through the system to fill holes at a higher level they aren't yet ready for. Again, there is the opportunity cost that perhaps another minor league FA could have been acquired or another player claimed off of waivers. But the claim that Moore could, would or should have brought in better, essentially free players for the minor league system is speculative in the extreme. It's possible that he could have brought in better players, and it is also possible that he would have brought in worse players. How could we possibly even guess?
Does all of this put the issue to bed? Certainly not. But I think the above is good evidence that Moore has used his knowledge of former Braves to bring in talent which has helped the Royals much more than it has hurt them, and for a very good dollar value.