This off-season will either be the beginning of Dayton Moore's rise in the ranks of GM elite or just the beginning of the end.
The majority opinion around here was, shall we say, less than pleased about the acquisition of Ervin Santana. Losing minor league reliever Brandon Sisk was not the issue, it was the $12 million due Santana in 2013 that caused the uproar. After all, Ervin was - by some statistical measures - the worst starting pitcher in the majors last year.
Let's just say that Dayton Moore's first step in his off-season quest to bolster the Royals' starting rotation was met with a bit of skepticism.
Moore followed up the Santana trade with the signing of Jeremy Guthrie. There were a lot of people who were for trying to keep Guthrie in Kansas City. He had a marvelous two months for the team after coming over from Colorado and, prior to that, a string of inning-eating competence that would certainly be useful. However, three years? For a thirty-four year old pitcher who has and never will be confused as a top of the rotation guy?
Now, we may well find out that the market this off-season really did dictate that 3/$25 was actually a good deal. As pointed out in one of the nearly 2,000 comments on this site with regard to Santana/Guthrie, we don't really know what the discussions between agents and teams have been. Maybe three years was the going rate, but right now there is a logical argument that this was just another case of Dayton Moore jumping the off-season gun and throwing in an extra year where it may not have been necessary.
No matter what you think of the Santana and Guthrie deals, it is hard to deny that they, along with whatever else Moore does this off-season will likely define him as a baseball general manager.
By most accounts (i.e. rumors), the Royals are pushing hard to acquire another starting pitcher. There is a fairly steady undercurrent of speculation that they may do so via a 'big trade' for an established front line starter. Be it via the big splash or by a lesser deal (there is another thread of speculation that Moore is seeking a younger starter in exchange for prospects not named Myer), it seems inevitable that the Royals will add a third new starter to the stable sooner rather than later.
Having already committed $37 million of David Glass' money to four years worth of two starting pitchers who come with a lot of question marks, I think it is safe to say that Dayton Moore is putting most of his chips on the table. He is gambling that Santana and his declining velocity will return to the form he displayed in four of the past six years. Moore is also spinning the wheel in hopes that Guthrie will be, at minimum, a 200 inning grinder for the next three years (or at least the next two). Whether you like either deal or not, you cannot deny that there is considerable risk associated with both.
I have no doubt that even if Santana is awful and Guthrie not good, that Dayton Moore will survive the 2013 season as GM of the Royals. Should that occur and this yet to be known third starting pitcher not be one of the top ten or twelve starters in the league, however, it might well have Moore on the road to finding a new job. We are embarking on year seven of The Process and even David Glass has surely looked up from his morning paper and mumbled something like 'seems to be taking a long time'.
Now, it's possible that Santana could rebound and Guthrie could be the same guy that pitched in Royal blue last year and vault the Royals, if not into contention, into a win total that has an eight in front instead of a seven or, gulp, six. Depending on Moore's next move, they could lay the foundation for a what Moore has always wanted: a platform of consistent post-season contention for years on end. It's possible...
This off-season, like or not, and even as incomplete as it currently is, will almost certainly become the point in history where Dayton Moore started his ascent to elite status or begin his true descent into become the Director of Scouting for some other team in 2015.