Cooking the books

Partners in crime. - Ed Zurga

Royals General Manager Dayton Moore met with the media on Monday, ahead of his departure for Surprise. Pitchers and catchers report at the end of the week. Yes!

Moore touched on a range of subjects. Signing Ervin Santana? Forget about it. Chris Dwyer? Under the radar. Yordano Ventura? He could open in the bullpen. Or he could throw 200 innings. Twelve pitchers on the roster? You betcha. Have most of the players reached their peak? Hell, no.

The quote that will make the waves is Moore's assertion that the Royals team payroll will be slightly north of $90 million.

"I know what our break-even point is. We're beyond that at this point in time. Hopefully we have a great year, and we're able to create a lot of interest with this team, and people show up at the ballpark. And hopefully the gamble pays off economically."

Ummm... What? $90 million is over the break-even point for the Royals?

Previously, David Glass stated the Royals needed to keep payroll at $70 million in order to break-even. That was back in November of 2012. The following March, Forbes released their annual valuations that said the Royals pocketed over $16 million on a payroll of $64 million. Oops. Fuzzy accounting and all that. The thing about that break-even point was the actual number Forbes used for payroll was much higher - $83 million - which was the total payroll (including benefits and bonuses) for the entire 2012 season. Now, Moore indicates the break-even point is around $90 million. Funny.

This is simply the Royals trying to justify their budget. "Yeah, we'd like to spend more, but if we do, then we will lose money." As Moore says, this payroll is a "gamble." Whatever. We're Royals fans. We're used to being jerked around and told tales by management.

Don't forget, this season all teams get an extra $25 million from the new television contracts. All indications are the Royals Opening Day 2014 payroll will be about $10 million more than last year.

That math doesn't add up. Again.

My contention continues to be the Royals have built a team with a thin starting rotation. As Clark noted earlier, the rotation is James Shields and a bunch of other guys. Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen can be solid major league starters, but as a group they vibe number four starter. I hear all the optimism around the young starters, but I don't see it. Yet, anyway. Danny Duffy has command issues. Ventura could open in the bullpen. (Gulp.) Kyle Zimmer isn't going to start throwing until late March and will be on an innings limit. Sure, the young guys can come through but it's highly unlikely all three will be quality starters this year. And the Royals, outside of Shields, are thin on quality.

It's too bad the Royals don't appear ready to make one more aggressive move to position themselves for October baseball. One more starter. But I guess the Royals are tapped out. The flip side is when you look at the roster as constructed, there's waste all over. Luke Hochevar at $5.2 million. Vargas at $7 million. Wade Davis and Chen at a combined $8 million. Then there was the whole Emilio Bonafacio deal. Why tender a contract to a player who was essentially your 38th or 39th player on your roster? Sure, it's only going to cost the Royals around $500,000 when he clears waivers, but as always with the Royals, it's the little things. Some fiscal mismanagement here, wasteful spending there... It all adds up. And when a team allegedly is in some dire straits at the current, self-inflicted, payroll. Let's just say this doesn't bode well for the future of this team.

It's frustrating because it feels as if this team is so close to doing something fun. Is it too early to say, "Wait until next year?"

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