Everywhere you go, people are talking about the Kansas City Royals. James Shields is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, CNN is giving us regular updates every five minutes as to what the Royals are doing now, even attention-monger Kanye West is trying to hop on the Royals bandwagon, We here at Royals Review thought, "hey, we have the word 'Royals' in our site name, how can we capitalize on this runaway freight train"? So we decided to get together and have a frank and serious discussion on the Royals upcoming season and Plaza parades.
Q: This was perhaps the most eventful off-season in Royals history with the James Shields/Wil Myers trade headlining the winter, and the Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie deals underlining it. What grade would you give Dayton Moore for his entire off-season and what might you have done differently? Do you agree with the "all-in" philosophy he seems to have undertaken? If the strategy was to go"all-in", should he have gone about it differently?
Craig Brown: I'll give Dayton a D-minus. The rotation has improved, but at the expense of our long-term health - especially fiscally. While James Shields, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and a full season of Jeremy Guthie makes for a better rotation, it's not a staff that can be counted upon for anything other than innings. Quantity over quality? Bah.
Plus, the decision to retain Luke Hochevar is another blunder that everyone saw coming. Everyone except for Dayton. Add the Bruce Chen contract and Jeff Francoeur - blunders from 2011 - and there's a lot of dead money on this team.
The Kyle Lohse signing serves to remind us Moore continues to act early in an effort to get ahead of the market, only to bungle and overpay for mediocre talent. The only way he escapes an "F" in my book is because the Royals will win more games in 2013 than they did in 2012. I would have made a run at Anibal Sanchez (knowing that was a pipe dream) and jettisoned Francoeur in place of Myers. I don't agree with Moore's strategy, but it's clear he felt the need to act. Sadly, this springs from his own doing in crafting a "Process" with a 10 year plan while others have been able to achieve superior results in much less time.
Jeff Zimmerman: The team needed pitching, but there was no reason to give up Wil Myers in order to get it. Even taking every other suspect deal the Royals made (signing Guthrie, keeping Hochevar, trading for Santana), the team would have been better off keeping Myers and signing another pitcher for the $9 million spent on Shields.
The team went "all in" for a .500 team. If a team goes "all in", it better be for the playoffs. To go "all in" would have been rough. A huge upgrade at second base would have been needed. I think the only way for the Royals to get there was to pull off the trades the Blue Jays did with Miami and the Mets - Jose Reyes or Yunel Escobar to second base and a new upgraded pitching staff with three average to above-average pitchers. The Royals only added one above-average pitcher this off season.
Old Man Duggan: This offseason was a spectacular failure. The James Shields/Wil Myers mega-deal displayed a level of ineptitude that had merely been feared amongst the fanbase up until now. He then made things worse by committing roughly 15% of the payroll to the reigning worst pitcher in the American League - a player who was going to have his contract bought out. Ervin Santana would have fetched half of what the Royals are paying him to hopefully rebound to becoming a 2 WAR pitcher and thus only a slight overpay. Dayton committed at least one too many years to Jeremy Guthrie, a type of pitcher who is widely available every off-season at a relatively reasonable price.
Our greatest fears have been realized. The emperor is bare-ass naked, and our last, best hope is that he succumbs to exposure. When you make one good move and that move was signing a no-defense/all-plate-discipline back-up catcher yet you increased payroll by roughly $40 million in a likely futile attempt to go "all-In" in a season where a fourth-place finish isn't out of the question, that qualifies as a complete failure, and the long-term effects of this gross miscalculation could be catastrophic.
Coming off a 72-win season, Moore decided the Royals were "there" and mortgaged the future, when plugging Myers into the line-up in Francoeur's stead and signing Dempster a three-year contract around $39 million while filling out the rest of the rotation with risk/reward guys like the Cubs did would have likely netted more wins gained while costing the team less both in terms of talent traded away and payroll.
Or if you're into the whole brevity thing - F.
Connor Moylan: "D". The only thing that keeps the grade from being an "F" is that the Royals are a better team now. When grading an all-in off-season, the grade needs to be skewed towards present value as opposed to future value. This winter will look really bad in 2015, which certainly needs to count for something. But Dayton still has time to improve the team by then, so the fact that Wil Myers might be an All-Star by then isn't keeping the grade too low.
The most aggravating part of the off-season to me is the number of alternatives available to Moore that could have improved the team AND not mortgaged the future. Remember, this team won 72 games last year - there was plenty of room for improvement across the board. Simply playing Myers over Francoeur probably improves the team as much in 2013 as signing Jeremy Guthrie does at a lot cheaper price and without sacrificing future potential. If Moore wanted to go all-in, he should have waited until the trade deadline. The team should have kept and played Myers, then signed either Lohse or Dempster, plus someone from the Brandon McCarthy/Scott Baker/Shaun Marcum/Joe Blanton group (or Guthrie at a more reasonable deal later in the offseason). Kansas City could have still pulled the trigger on the Santana trade, and the team would likely be projected to win a similar number of games this season.
The poor grade doesn't mean the Royals can't have a successful season, but Moore paid a premium price for pitching this winter, and the team does not appear talented enough to warrant the price he paid.
Clark Fosler: The Royals may not have gone ‘all-in’ in a Miami Marlins scorched earth ‘all-in’ sort of way, but Dayton Moore is as all-in as the fiscally stingy franchise could allow. Hindsight is always 20-20, but Moore deserves to get judged in that way given his longstanding tendency to jump early and often in the off-season. As if you get bonus points for getting your work in early.
Sadly, in acquiring $30 million of starting pitching for 2013 and giving up the organization’s most major league starting pitching prospect and one of baseball’s best hitting prospects, the Royals are still left with a very long list of ‘ifs’. Therein lies the problem: the Royals will almost certainly be better, but probably not enough better to garner their first playoff bid since 1985. There is a real chance that James Shields pitching in Kaufmann Stadium for Ned Yost in front of the Royals’ defense will be every bit as good as the James Shields that pitched in Tropicana Field for Joe Maddon in front of the Rays’ defense. I may be optimistically illogical, but I think there is a real chance that Ervin Santana will be a two plus WAR pitcher in 2013. Wade Davis back to the rotation? It might work. Jeremy Guthrie? He will eat innings and, for one-third of his three year deal, be very much like the pitcher we saw in the second half of 2012.
All that could happen and if Eric Hosmer doesn’t hit, if Jeff Francoeur doesn’t rebound…a lot, if Moustakas can’t increase his power AND his on base percentage, and if Cain can’t stay healthy or, hell, can’t hit, this team still won’t sniff contention. All that assumes that the bullpen and Gordon and Butler and Escobar and Perez all perform as they did last year. Like I said, that is a long list to have after giving up Wil Myers and $30 million.
That said, I don’t hate the off-season like some of the others. I view it with some skepticism, but even then, this will almost certainly be the best team of the Dayton Moore era. Yet, one wonders what might have been if Moore had fixed the single weakest spot on the roster (and the spot with the ability make the most dramatic improvement) by simply letting his best prospect take over rightfield. It is nice to have James Shields, but for the similar money, could the Royals have Dempster, Haren, McCarthy and Feldman in their rotation AND Myers in right? Truthfully, I don’t hate the off-season, but I don’t like it, either. I give Moore a ‘C’ because the Royals have a chance and, hell, it’s spring time and I get whimsical and optimistic the week before Opening Day.
RoyalsRetro: I think you guys pretty much capture the mood of most of our readers, which is much more negative (realistic?) about this offseason than the "DAYTON IS FINALLY DOING SOMETHING! I HAVE HEARD OF JAMES SHIELDS! WIL MYERS WILL BUST!" Facebook fans. The last time we had a roundtable, I think I was the lone optimist on the Ervin Santana trade, with the caveat that it depended entirely on what other moves that Dayton Moore made. My thinking was, if Santana was the third best starter Dayton acquired, it was probably a good trade.
Well, he is, and yet, I think the Santana move coupled with Dayton's other moves were awful. I really don't have a huge problem with an "all in" strategy of cashing in prospects for proven Major Leaguers, especially given how finicky and unpredictable the "success cycle" can be. But giving up the best hitting prospect in the game (apologies to Oscar Taveras) and a Top 100 pitching prospect for two years of a frontline pitcher and a replacement level starting pitcher strikes me as ridiculous, particularly in light of how the free agent market played out.
I'm probably more positive than most about the Santana deal, and more negative than most about the Guthrie deal. Santana I think at least has the upside to become a 2 WAR+ starting pitcher. Guthrie I find utterly below-average, in the "Jeff Suppan-innings eating, but still kinda crappy" mold. But he is entertaining to follow on Twitter, so there's that. I think we've all come up with alternate scenarios where Dayton could have spent the amount of money he spent this winter, gotten a better pitching staff than he assembled, and retained Wil Myers. Sure hindsight is 20/20, but its not like none of us predicted that jumping the gun on the market would come back to bite Dayton Moore.
But hey, at least we got George Kottaras. Who might make the Opening Day roster. Grade: D
im_not_that_bright: Dayton gets a "D". 2013 and 2014 might be a little better. 2015 and later are worse. I'm okay with going all in as long as all in results in something more than might be better. The thing that keeps me from giving an "F" is the fact that the bullpen is so good it has a couple of 4-5 million dollar guys in it. What should Dayton have done if he were to go all in? Get somebody like David Price or Giancarlo Stanton. If that's not possible, then don't give up the farm for might be better.
Q: What do you think will be considered a successful year for the Royals this year? Should we expect Dayton Moore or Ned Yost to be on the hot seat if the team stumbles out of the gate?
im_not_that_bright: The team has gone all in. Anything less than making the playoffs is a failure. I don't care if they win 85-90 games. They have mortgaged the future for the next two years, so if they don't at least make the playoffs both years it should be considered a failure. After the last 27 years, I want the playoffs. Going all in with the best farm system in the history of baseball should produce playoffs, and multiple appearances at that. If the team stumbles out of the gate I expect Ned to be the first too fall. Too much has been invested to not have a scapegoat if things go bad. For some reason I think Dayton has a longer leash. No matter how bad the year goes, I think he would be given one more year.
Craig Brown: I agree. Dayton has set himself up for playoffs or bust. While these statements of "we're trying to win now" irritate me to no end, they have thrown open the proverbial barn door and there's no turning back. Alas, I think they're good for a six-win improvement.
Is that enough to save jobs? I think so. Dayton seems to have the trust of the Glass family - at least David. (Who knows about Dan? I think he has the itchy trigger finger of the son trying to prove to dad he can accomplish things, but he's been marginalized. So far.) Besides, Dayton gets at least 10 years, right? Ned would likely be the first to fall, but I think if the team is hovering around .500 all year, his position is secure. Last year the scapegoat was the hitting coach and the first base coach. If I was the bat boy, I'd be feeling the pressure.
Clark Fosler: I don’t think Ned survives something like a 9-19 or 17-27 start (assuming no major injuries), but I do think both he and Moore feel little to no heat from management if the Royals linger around the .500 mark all year and end up with 80 or more wins. That would hardly be a successful season in my mind, however. Sadly, I think the Royals could have a wildly successful year and still not make the playoffs. If the Tigers play better out of the gate than they did in 2012, a 91 win season might still have Alex Gordon and Billy Butler watching the playoffs at Buffalo Wild Wings.
A realistically successful – albeit very optimistic in my book – 2013 would be 86-87 wins, which almost certainly means Moore was right on three of his top four starting pitchers and someone from the question marks (Hosmer, Moose, Frenchy & Cain) improved dramatically. That win mark certainly saves both Yost and Moore’s job, but also demands that this team is a force to make and advance in the playoffs in 2014.
RoyalsRetro: I think there is a reasonable expectation of "contention", but that term will be defined so loosely as to lose all meaning. "Hey, we were within ten games of first place in June, we were in it!" And of course, there are the inevitable injuries they will fall back on as an excuse (never mind that nearly every contender experiences some injuries). The Royals have long been a franchise that seemed reluctant to change management, and I don't see Dayton or Ned on the hot seat this year, even if they stumble badly. A bad season might produce big time pressure to perform in 2014, but I don't think either is in any danger of losing his job before then. They have both sold ownership on an eight-to-ten year Process (TM) and they will be allowed to see that through, no matter how modest the returns are.
Old Man Duggan: In my eyes, given Moore's offseason moves/spending and the likely long-term cost of wasted tens of millions of dollars, six-plus years of club-control of a possible first-division offensive prospect, and six years of a back-end of the rotation ML-ready starter, anything less than the playoffs is a failure. In my mind, they should both have been fired already, so yes, they should absolutely be on the hot seat if the team struggles out of the gate. They should be fired before the draft if they're fixing to be out of contention early.
Connor Moylan: I think a successful season would be 88 wins. That number of wins would likely keep the team in contention the entire seasons with a good chance at clinching a Wild Card bid.
I don't think Moore or Yost will be fired mid-season barring something completely catastrophic. I think as long as the team finishes above .500 both will be back; if the team finishes under .500 Yost might be gone. I don't see any way Moore loses his job unless this team loses 90- plus games again.
Jeff Zimmerman: I think the Royals need to be over .500 for the off season moves to be some what justified. This past off season reminds of the 2008-2009 off season where the Royals tried to bring in some offense (Coco Crisp, Mike Jacobs, Willie Bloomquist) to help the pitching staff. The team wasn't able to correctly identify MLB talented players and face planted.
They really can't fail again this time. Wil Myers was traded to bringing winning baseball to Kansas City. Winners win more games than they lose. Dayton Moore finally needs to put a winning team on the field.
No hot seat for Dayton and Ned, let them flail away until at least the All-Star break. This is their boat and they need to be publicly responsible for it. If a move is to be made, make it right before the trading deadline, so the new G.M. will have time to make a move before the trading deadline. Head coaches matter little in my opinion except to be used as scapegoats for bad personnel.
Part Two to come tomorrow.....