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Reviewing Dayton Moore at the Trade Deadline: 2006

As we approach this year's trade deadline, it's useful to look back at Dayton Moore's deadline track record. In the first of three posts, we look at Dayton's first trade deadline: 2006.

The Royals hired Dayton Moore during the 2006 season. Moore was hired on May 30th and officially took over on June 8th, shortly after the 2006 Draft. (Which remains another story.) Moore was extremely active during his first few months as the Royals GM. After a week as the head man, Moore had parted ways with three minor leaguers, including Kyle Snyder, and signed Todd Wellemeyer, Brandon Duckworth and Donovan Osbourne. None of these guys did very much for the Royals, but they are emblematic of Moore's first eighteen months on the job. If you ever thought about pitching, the Royals took a flyer on you.

On June 20, 2006, Moore made his first major move, sending J.P. Howell to Tampa for Joey Gathright and Fernando Cortez. Seen from the beginning as a signature move, Moore parted ways with the college pitcher with seemingly limited upside for the tantalizing speed and defense of Joey Gathright. Like many of Moore's subsequent moves, there was a certain bravado to it: I'm not just going for speed, I'm bringing in the fastest guy in baseball, despite no evidence he can hit, or actually play center well, deal with it.

The Gathright trade has been discussed quite a bit over the years, and there isn't much more to be said. Gathright had his moments in Kansas City, and in theory was not a bad guy to take a look at. Howell however, has been better than 90% of the relievers the Royals have employed since his departure, and has recently blossomed into one of the better relievers in the American League. Fernando Cortez spent parts of two seasons in the Royals' system, and randomly had 16 PAs with the 2007 Royals. In the long run, the Gathright trade was a signature move, just not the type of signature Moore wanted.

The Gathright trade was not technically a "deadline deal" but beyond its date, there's not much to separate it from the other moves Dayton made that year. Let's take a look at the other trades Dayton made that July:

July 19, 2006: Traded Ruben Gotay to the Mets for Jeff Keppinger. A weird challenge trade if there ever was one. Gotay has some vague semblance of potential in 2006, while Keppinger was seen as a guy with a decent infield bat, but not a solid defensive reputation. Keppinger hit .267/.323/.400 in 67 PAs for the 2006 Royals, playing mostly at third base. Keppy should have been a sign of Dayton's love for scrappy white guys who play the game the right way. Keppinger was traded in Jaunary to the Reds for Russ Haltiwanger, who left the system last season. Keppinger, of course, immediately had a career season with the Reds in 2007. Gotay, of course, did little in New York and is currently in the Arizona system. Yours truly thought the Keppinger trade was fairly pointless back in 2006, but he likely would have been a better option at short in 2007-8 than Tony Pena Jr. turned out to be.

July 24, 2006: Traded Mike MacDougal to the White Sox for Daniel Cortes and Tyler Lumsden: This was a big trade back in 2006. MacDougal was a longtime Royal by the standards of the day, was one of the heroes of 2003 and was something of a fan favorite. While generally unreliable in both the long and short term, had his uses as a reliever. MacDougal was quickly signed to a three-year deal with the White Sox, yet never really pitched well there. Dayton's haul of Dan Cortes and Tyler Lumsden was viewed from the onset as a great trade, and through 2008 Cortes was highly regarded as a pitching prospect. Considering that both Cortes and Lumsden are both gone now, having never contributed at the Major League level (Lumsden stayed in the KC system until last November, when he was claimed by the Astros) it remains mostly a good trade in only in an alternative universe. Of course, according to the party line, Cortes was used to acquire a great everyday shortstop with lots of upside. So another victory.

July 25, 2006: Elmer Dessens traded to Dodgers for Blake Johnson, Julio Pimentel and Odalis Perez. This was an interesting trade. The Royals shipped out Elmer Dessens, who was having an ok season for the Royals as a middle reliever (4.50 ERA, generic peripheral stats) and, in exchange for taking on a portion of the Odalis Perez contract, came out with two pitching prospects. Odalis made 38 starts for the Royals, and while he was the subject of many jokes on this site and elsewhere, he was not totally terrible (84 ERA+). Plus, he gave rise to the former-Brave theory, which has been one of the few things keeping me alive during this decade. Blake Johnson is currently pitching at AA, and Pimentel (currently injured I believe) was at AA in 2008. Considering that both are still around and somewhat well-regarded, the Dessens deal may be Dayton's best trade.

July 25, 2006: Tony Graffanino traded to Milwaukee for Jorge de la Rosa. By the time this trade hit, we were starting to think we'd figured out Dayton Moore. Arms with upside. Jorge was not a former Brave, but he felt like one. A guy with a great arm, who'd seemingly been around as a prospect for decades. Graffanino had had a weird run with the Royals: signed to a 2 year 2.2 million deal for 04-05, Graffy was traded to Boston in 2005. After the '05 season, he signed a $2 million dollar deal with Boston, but ended up being DFAed. In March of 2006, the Royals claimed him off waivers from Boston. Then, Moore traded him. JDLR spent two seasons with the Royals and was nearly identical to Odalis Perez, posting an ERA+ of 83 in 36 games. I don't remember ever feeling like he was going to be a contributor or that he was turning it around. JDLR eventually ended up in Colorado, where he's still pitching. Graffanino meanwhile, retains historical importance as one of the early examples of the team's Gritty Scrappy White Middle Infielder Fetish: McEwing, Graffanino, Grudzielanek, Keppinger, etc.. Of course, St. Willie Bloomquist has been the apogee of this bizarre fixation.

July 31. 2006: Matt Stairs sent to Texas for Joselo Diaz: Would you believe that Diaz was a minor league pitcher? Dude ended up being completely horrible in extremely limited action with the Royals in 2006, and was hardly better in Omaha. Diaz left the system as a free agent after the 2006 season, and is currently with the Dodgers. The Stairs trade was more or less a salary dump, only that Stairs wasn't that expensive, given that he was making $1.4 million. Stairs has bounced around, but is still contributing at the Major League level, while the Royals will head into 2010 not sure who to play at DH.

July 31, 2006: Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista sent to Colorado for Scott Dohman and Ryan Shealy: Another highly-praised trade at the time, the Affeldt-Shealy deal ended up working out much better for the Rockies than the Royals. Affeldt was a tantalizing but generally despised Royal by 2006, after three years of countless message board debates about how he should be used. And shockingly, he always had nagging injuries! He must have been a pansy. Shealy appeared for all the world to be a plug and play AAAA masher who could provide cheap offense at 1B/DH. Instead, after a passable 2006 debut with the Royals (102 OPS+) he was one of the worst players in the Major Leagues in 2007, and has been injury-plagued and unheard from since. Affeldt ended up giving the Rockies 86 innings of 105 ERA+ pitching over two seasons, and is currently with the Giants. Dohmann and Bautista did very little with their new teams, though Denny Bautista did make everyone confused for a few years, as he was one of like six guys out there named "Denny Bautista".

Overall Evaluation: In 2006, it looked pretty good. I count 12 players in, 8 players out. Dayton's five trades during deadline week were what every single Royals fan wanted. There was a general impression that Moore was clearing the roster of the detritus of the Baird regime and beginning the long rebuild of the franchise. Still, by 2008, only four of the new guys -- Gathright, Shealy, Pimentel, Johnson -- were still with the Royals, and Gathright and Shealy were almost certainly done as Major League contributors. Moore did dump some salary, but only the modest amounts which remained owed to Stairs, Graffy and Affeldt. We're talking about maybe 1.5 million here, not a large number. Other than the ill-fated Gathright, effectively, none of Moore's myriad moves produced a single Major League player for the Royals. Nothing.

Here's the damning thing: if you gathered up all the players involved in this flurry of 2006 and subjected them to a draft, here in 2009, the players the Royals sent packing in 2006 are still the best players. Of course, that's partially to be expected, given the example of a player like Matt Stairs. Nevertheless, none of the prospects Moore acquired has turned out to be a contributor in 2009, and only two, Johnson and Pimentel, have any real shot of doing so. In that fictional draft, right now you'd take Howell first, then, probably Affeldt, then Stairs. Someone might take MacDougal fourth, or maybe, maybe de la Rosa. (Actually, many GMs would probably take Cortes near the top of that list, but after the Betancourt, I can't give Dayton credit for him.)

Moore's deadline trades did not make the Royals better in 2006, or 2007, or 2008, or 2009. While he won the extremely minor Gotay-Keppinger trade and got nice value with the Dessens swap, none of Dayton's 2006 deadline deals really worked out for the Royals. He lost the Affeldt-Shealy trade and he lost the Howell-Gathright trade. The deals made involving MacDougal, Stairs, and Graffanino, ultimately did nothing for the franchise at all.

This deadline was really the beginning of Moore's reputation as a transactions hound, as someone who was actively scouring the low minor leagues for pitching talent, and as someone who would need to make approximately five million trades to fix the disaster that was the Royals.

Finally, one thing that stands out about these trades is how utterly inconsequential they all were. Most of the players involved, coming and going, left no real impact anywhere. That should remind us something about how most of these deadline deals end up. This is especially true when you're talking about the kind of C market players that the Royals shop, and shop for.

The Joselo Diazes come, the Joselo Diazes go. Only the Baseball Annies of the minor leagues remember much.