There's a memo going around KC, propagated in large part by Soren Petro, that Dayton Moore doesn't have a fair shot to succeed, that he is handicapped by David Glass's penurious budgets, that we shouldn't call for Moore to be fired because the next guy will have his hands tied and will fail just the same as Moore has. The argument is that Moore hasn't actually done badly--he just hasn't had money to spend on free agents to get the team over the hump.
So I wanted to offer a little reality check on the money Moore has spent on free agents and what he was able to do with that money. Here are my ground rules and the logic behind them.
#1: I'm going to look only at Moore's MLB-level acquisitions. Nobody argues that Moore hasn't had money to sign amateur talent.
#2: I'm going to filter out any contracts that were valued at less than $3M. All of the Royals crappy GM's have had the freedom to take fliers on picking guys off of the scrap heap, and they've all had some successes. One advantage of having a team that always sucks is that you can throw enough darts at the wall to have some stick. So sorry Dayton, we're not counting Paulino, Melky, or Frenchy in this calculation. Baird hit on Raul Ibanez and Emil Brown. Hell, he grabbed Jose Bautista off the scrap heap, but threw him back on. The next guy will get prizes off the scrap heap as well. As long as the Royals are bad enough to fill their roster with metric tons of junk metal, some of that junk metal will turn out to be gold.
#3: I'm going to look at FA signings only, excluding trades and extensions. Kudos to Moore for extending our good players. That's something that Moore's done very well, but negotiating the right check to keep a guy at home is a different decision process entirely than picking the right free agent. I want to look at how he's done when he's in an open market filling holes and making additions to the team.
#4: I'm going to take contracts that show up in the spreadsheets here. Unfortunately, they only go back to 2009, but I don't know how to get the contract information for 2007 and 2008. If you know, link me and I'll add the information. For now, any contracts signed in 2007 or 2008 that were long enough to show up on the 2009 spreadsheet will be counted in the 2009 section. The deals that weren't long enough will be forgotten for now.
#5: For guys that were traded before their contracts expired, I'm going to count the full cost of the contract and all of the WAR accumulated over the length of the contract, including the WAR accumulated on the traded-to team. I think this makes sense since it's the WAR accumulated during the life of the contract Moore signed them to. It's also a hell of a lot simpler than trying to parse value acquired by flipping signed FA's at the deadline, which is a separate skill set than what I'm trying to look at anyway.
#6: For the 2012 signings, I'm going to count their salary to date and their WAR to date. This seems like the most fair way to do it.
Gil Meche, 5 years, $43M, 10.7 WAR. It was a $55M contract, but Meche gave back $12M, so we'll give Moore credit for signing a guy who wouldn't take pay if he couldn't work.
Jose Guillen, 3 years, $36M, -1.6 WAR. We knew this was bad at the time. Posnanski, who is not known for his negative commentary, thought Guillen was basically Emil Brown, but with a $36M contract. Pos was right.
Kyle Farnsworth, 2 years, $9.25M, 1.7 WAR. Kyle was traded, but our rules tell us to credit the full WAR for the length of the contract to Moore's ledger.
Ron Mahay, 2 years, $8M, 0.2 WAR.
Juan Cruz, 2 years, $6M, 0.1 WAR.
Willie Bloomquist, 2 years, $3.1M, -0.6 WAR. The Mighty Bloomquist just barely grinds his way over our $3M cutoff. Gamer.
Rick Ankiel: 1 year, 3.25M, 0.8 WAR.
Jason Kendall, 2 years, $6M, 1.3 WAR
Nothing. Moore signed no FA's to contracts valued over $3M. Maybe David Glass is a dick.
Jonathan Broxton, 1 year, $4M, of which he's played 0.55 years, been paid $2.2M and accumulated 0.5 WAR.
Bruce Chen, 2 years, $9M, of which he's played 0.55 years, been paid $2.475M and accumulated 0.9 WAR. Unlike Francoeur's extension, Chen's reacquisition was real live FA signing, so we count him here.
The Grand Total:
$119.3M, 14 WAR.
So over 10 contracts, Moore has paid about $8.5M per WAR he managed to reel in with FA signings over $3M. The MLB going rate is supposedly in the $5M to $6M per WAR, and while a small market team needs to be more efficient in order to compete, Moore has actually been significantly less efficient with his FA dollars than the rest of the league.
Granted, $120M over that span isn't a lot of money by MLB standards, but Moore didn't do well with the resources he had. If he'd been wise with his budget and made smart deals--maybe paying only $3M per WAR--that would have accounted for 26 more wins over this time frame. Hell, we might have even seen a winning season somewhere along the way. And maybe winning some games and making halfway decent decisions on the FA market would have convinced David Glass to pony up a little more money as well.
The Royals continued futility isn't a symptom of a lack of resources; it's a symptom of bad decision-making. Having much of the team filled out by talented, young, under-compensated players is actually a huge boon to resources since it frees up a lot of money that could be spent pursuing free agents. But Moore hasn't intelligently spent the free agent dollars he's had available, and after Moore's shaky forays into the FA market in his tenure, Glass has been unwilling to invest more money into the FA market in recent years.