Continuing our look back at Dayton Moore's performance at the trade deadline. For 2006, click here.
The 2007 Royals were the first Royals team since 2003 that did not lose at least 100 games, though at 69-93 they were hardly a factor in the AL Central. They reached the level of "not laughably bad", which is more or less where the Royals have stayed. In 2009, through 99 games, the Royals were 40-59. In 2007, they were 43-56. In a way, it should come as too much of a shock that this stagnation has occurred: after a very busy first year on the job, Dayton Moore has stopped aggressively shopping players.
The 2007 trade deadline was the beginning of this new phase, a phase that apparently will continue through 2009. Although the 2007 deadline did produce one of the better trades of Dayton's tenure, his inability or reluctance to do more makes the 2007 deadline an incomplete success
July 13, 2007: Dan Christensen traded to Tigers for Roman Colon. Christensen was one of the many Baird Era guys who found new addresses in 2006-7. A pitcher drafted in the fourth round of the 2002 draft, Christensen is now in the Seattle system. Considering the long odds that Christensen will ever contribute at the Major League level, snagging Roman Colon -- yes, a former Brave -- was not a bad move. Colon is no great shakes, but after spending 2008 in Omaha, he's appeared in 22 games with the Royals this season. He has a live arm, but little control (11 walks in 24 IP) and is your standard issue mediocre to poor bullpen arm. Then again, the Colon trade was less a case of Dayton's great scouting abilities than a case of the Tigers needing to part way with Colon. The Tigers likely gave Colon away for so little because he had punched Jason Kamuth -- who was trying to break up a fight between Colon and another pitcher -- so severly that Kamuth needed plastic surgery on his face. Cool!
July 25, 2007: Royals release Scott Elarton. Hours after a horrible Elarton start against the Yankees that had me questioning the meaning of life, Dayton parts ways with one of Allard's worst signings. Elarton was signed to a two year, eight million dollar deal for 2006-7. He was terrible. Moore showed a willingness to move on... from somebody else's mistake.
July 31, 2007: Octavio Dotel traded to Atlanta for Kyle Davies: An early high point of the Moore regime. Dotel had signed a one year, $5 million dollar deal, with a number of appearance escalators, in December. Everyone's assumption was that Moore had taken a chance on the oft-injured Dotel on the chance that, if healthy, he could be traded. Dotel made his first appearance with the Royals in late May, and eventually appeared in 24 games, notching 11 saves. On deadline day, this actually happened, with the Braves, yes the Braves, sending back the promising but inconsistent prospect Kyle Davies. Davies has started 46 games for the Royals since, but like JDLR and Odalis Perez, has turned in an ERA+ of 85. Davies has improved a little since his Braves days, though he hasn't made a great leap forward, and his numbers remain all over the place. His 1.8 WAR season in 2008 makes him one of Dayton's better pickups, especially considering the price paid was a partial season of Dotel.
That's it, two trades and a no-brainer DFAing.
The Colon trade was ok, but basically pointless. The Dotel-Davies trade was a very good deal however, probably the best trade of Dayton's career. (However, it's 2009 and Davies is in Omaha, so let's not go crazy.)
In spite of two ok-to-good trades, in retrospect, it is clear that a more aggressive approach would have better served the Royals long-term. The bottom line is that Dayton should have done more.
The biggest mistake was at second base. Not trading Mark Grudzielanek was an absolute mistake. It was a mistake at the time and it's a mistake now. Grudz was hitting .305/.346/.441 on July 30th, and was only owed ~2 million of his $4 million dollar salary. You have to find value for Grudz in that situation. And if you can't find the value you want, you settle for what you can get. Work with the salary and turn it to your advantage if you can in the form of another body. Whatever it takes. The Royals, of course, stuck with Grudz, and it worked out so well for them that they started 2009 with Mark Teahen playing second.
Dayton's second mistake at the 2007 deadline was holding onto David Riske. Riske had a 2.22 ERA with 11 holds at the deadline, and was only owed ~1 million in salary, with an affordable club option for 2008. Again, get something. Get a body. Take a bad contract from someone else, package it with Riske, and get two bodies. Now, of course, we know that Dayton loves collecting mid-tier veteran relievers.
Lastly, there's the possibility of buying at the deadline, as the Mariners just did. No, it wouldn't have been easy, but rebuilding the Royals was never going to be easy.
Supposedly, the Royals were going to rebuild around Dayton's scouting acumen. (Which frankly, should not be taken as a given anymore.) What better chance to display it than finding a 19 year old kid languishing in obscurity in some other system that turns into a useful player? Instead, Dayton quickly fell in love with his ability, real or otherwise, to scout 33 year old veterans, which is how we ended up with the Jose Guillen Generation.
Nearly all of Dayton's 2006 moves ended up being losing trades for the Royals, but most of them were chances worth taking. For whatever reason, after 2006, Dayton's mentality seems to have changed by 2007. Perhaps the success of the Meche signing convinced him he could win soon, especially with Greinke, Gordon and Butler lying around.
As it turned out, he was wrong then, and wrong now, and we're still paying for it.