The Winter Meetings run next week from Monday through Thursday. The Royals are the champs, but still have a lot of work to do with free agents like Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist to try to re-sign, as well as holes to fill in right field, the starting rotation, and bullpen.
How has Dayton Moore typically worked at the Winter Meetings? If the past is any indication, don't expect a ton of fireworks from Dayton Moore over the next few days. Here's another look back at the Winter Meetings under Dayton Moore, updated from a piece I wrote last year.
2006 - Let's Transform This Team
Dayton Moore's first Winter Meetings were a busy one. He set out to re-shape the franchise and get younger. He quickly completed a deal with the Mets to trade wild reliever Ambriorix Burgos in exchange for starting pitcher Brian Bannister. He tried to hammer out a deal with the Orioles to swap 38-year old outfielder Reggie Sanders for starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, but the deal could never be completed with Baltimore preferring outfielder Emil Brown.
Dayton put out a three-year $24 million offer to free agent starting pitcher Miguel Batista, only to be turned down. However he did land his free agent gem - Mariners pitcher Gil Meche. The right-hander signed the most lucrative deal in franchise history, a five-year $55 million contract. Moore immediately followed that up with a one-year $5 million contract to reliever Octavio Dotel and a two-year $4 million contract with reliever John Bale. To conclude the meetings, Moore plucked a young right-handed reliever from the Padres in the Rule 5 draft named Joakim Soria.
"What we've done is fit within our payroll structure," Moore said. "It fits in going forward. What I've said all along is we're going to sign players that will make a difference for us long term."
2007 - I Gots Money to Burn!
Fresh off a 93-loss season, Dayton Moore was authorized to spend even more money that off-season. He tried to land Twins outfielder Torii Hunter or Braves outfielder Andruw Jones, but never engaged in serious talks. Dayton did sign a power bat at the Winter Meetings with a three-year, $36 million contract to Mariners slugger Jose Guillen. Days after signing the contract, Guillen would be suspended for 15 games for violating the league's PED policy. The Royals also pursued Japanese free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, but Kuroda would sign with the Dodgers. Kansas City selected lefty reliever Ray Liotta (not the actor) in the Rule 5 draft, but he never made the ballclub. Dayton Moore may have also lay the groundwork for a trade he made following the meetings, swapping pitcher Billy Buckner to Arizona for infielder Alberto Callaspo.
"Now, we're not the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Dodgers," Moore said. "And I'm not going to do dumb things, but the Glass family wants to win. They expect to win, and they've empowered our front office to make decisions that are going to put us in a position to win."
2008 - Calling All Ex-Braves!
The Royals went into the Winter Meetings having already addressed their two biggest perceived needs by acquiring first baseman Mike Jacobs and center fielder Coco Crisp in separate trades. The Royals were already dissatisfied with Jose Guillen and looked to shop the malcontent. They also looked to deal Mark Teahan, who no longer had a starting position with the team. One crazy rumor had the Royals acquiring right-fielder Jeff Francoeur from the Braves for pitcher Zack Greinke, but club officials laughed it off. Speaking of ex-Braves, the Royals tried to sign infielder Rafael Furcal, but couldn't make the finances work without dealing Guillen. Instead, they had a quiet Winter Meetings, signing a trio of relievers - Kyle Farnsworth, Horacio Ramirez, and Doug Waechter.
"I understand why people would wonder about it in our market," Moore told the Star. "We've obviously brought in a lot of Atlanta people and players from Atlanta. If anybody was in the same situation that I was in, they would do the same thing because it's information that you have."... "I can understand why people would speculate," Moore said. "Jeff [Francoeur] is coming off a bad year, and they need pitching."
2009 - Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
The Royals came into the 2009 Winter Meetings tight on funds, so they sought a trade to free up some cash. They dangled infielder Alberto Callaspo and outfielders David DeJesus and Jose Guillen as trade bait, but could not find a deal. With Miguel Olivo departing as a free agent, the club looked at Rod Barajas, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Kendall as options at catcher, settling on Kendall with a two-year, $6 million contract. The Royals would also pursue outfielder Scott Podsednik, eventually landing him in January. The Royals made some waves at the meetings when they handed $9 million to a Cuban defector, pitcher Noel Arguelles. Reports were high on Arguelles with ESPN.com analyst Keith Law ranking him as the tent-best free agent available, and a top-five talent in the draft, were he eligible.
"Arguelles earns raves for his athletic body and wide receiver-like build," Law wrote, "and his change-up projects as a plus pitch with his curveball further behind it. "Arguelles’ command and control are still well below average, and he has limited professional pitching experience, so I wouldn’t expect him to reach the majors for three or four years."
2010 - Bye-Bye, Zack
The big talk surrounding the Royals at the 2010 Winter Meetings was where they would end up dealing ace pitcher Zack Greinke. The right-hander was seeking a trade, and Texas, Toronto, and Washington emerged as the early favorites. The Royals sought infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielder Engel Beltre, plus a pitcher from the Rangers, but Texas preferred to wait to see if pitcher Cliff Lee would become available. Toronto balked on sending both outfielder Travis Snider and pitcher Kyle Drabek for Grienke. The Royals would leave the meetings without a deal in place, but would set the groundwork for a trade of Greinke to Milwaukee a few weeks later. The Royals wouldn't walk away completely empty-handed however, signing outfielders Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur to one-year deals, and snagging pitcher Nate Adcock in the Rule 5 draft.
"We targeted Jeff and Melky months ago as players we felt were not even at the prime of their careers yet, haven't peaked," Moore said. "There's upside there. Guys who were going to play with energy, guys who were going to be enthusiastic."
2011 - At Least the Continental Breakfast was Nice
The Royals again looked to have a quiet Winter Meetings, having already acquired starting pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Bruce Chen as well as closer Jonathan Broxton. They made feeble attempts to get starting pitching, asking about Derek Lowe before he was shipped to Cleveland, and inquiring about A's pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, before balking at the asking price. The Royals sought to add a right-handed utility infielder to rest third baseman Mike Moustakas and second baseman Chris Getz and a situational lefty as an alternative to Tim Collins. So it was curious that they shipped utility infielder Yamaico Navarro to Pittsburgh for a pair of minor leaguers and drafted left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral in the Rule 5 draft, then immediately sold Cabral to the Yankees.
"If we’re going to build a pitching staff," Moore said, "we’ve got a better chance to build a good bullpen through free-agency and our farm system than we do with ones and twos starters."
2012 - "The Trade"
Dayton Moore came to the meetings in Nashville having already re-signed pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and trading for pitcher Ervin Santana, but he was still determined to land a front-line starting pitcher. The pursued high-dollar free agents like Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse, as well as a cheaper option in Scott Feldman. They engaged in serious talks with free agent Ryan Dempster, but were unwilling to give him the third contract year the free agent sought. When the dollar demands of free agents made them uncomfortable, the Royals sought a front-line pitcher in a trade for part of the "Best Farm System in the History of Whatever."
They pursued Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey but were unwilling to give up top talent to get the knuckleballer. They were willing to part with top talent for Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester or Rays pitcher James Shields, danging either first baseman Eric Hosmer or outfielder Wil Myers as trade bait. The Royals would leave the meetings without a trade in place, but days later they would acquire Shields and pitcher Wade Davis in a blockbuster deal with the Rays for Wil Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, and first baseman Patrick Leonard.
But remember: Moore and many of his top staff members cut their teeth in Atlanta, which for years swapped highly-regarded prospects for proven big-league parts. Some of those same officials now point out, albeit privately, clubs generally over-value prospects.
"Alex Gordon has turned into an All-Star-caliber player," one said. "He’s a guy you build around, and we’ve done that. But you tell me when was his trade value higher? Now? Or back in 2006 before he even played a major-league game?"
2013 - Second to None
The Royals expected a quiet Winter Meetings again, having already acquired pitcher Jason Vargas and outfielder Nori Aoki, and losing out on slugger Carlos Beltran. They looked to acquire a starting second baseman, targeting Mark Ellis and Omar Infante. Moore also indicated he was willing to deal closer Greg Holland, although the asking price would be huge. There were also rumors the Royals might deal designated hitter Billy Butler to gain flexibility at the DH position and free up cash. Ultimately, the Royals left the meetings without any moves, but a few days later signed second baseman Omar Infante to a four-year, $30 million deal, outbidding the mighty Yankees.
"Oftentimes," Moore said, "(the meetings) are a precursor to another deal or an opportunity to make a deal. More than anything else, you’re able to dissect your team and get a good evaluation of the other 29 teams."
2014 - Planning a Championship Parade
The pennant-winning Royals came into the 2014 Winter Meetings needing to fill a lot of holes. They had to replace three departing free agents - right fielder Nori Aoki, designated hitter Billy Butler, and pitcher James Shields. There were also rumors swirling that they were at least considering dealing one of their dominant relievers, Wade Davis or Greg Holland. It was speculated that the Dodgers, Blue Jays, or Astros could be interested, but no rumors surfaced and a deal never happened.
The Royals reportedly pursued some old friends like Ervin Santana and Melky Cabrera to fill some holes. They also pursued Brandon McCarthy and reportedly were barely outbid for Francisco Liriano. Torii Hunter, long coveted by the club, was made a top priority to play right field and some DH, but he opted to return to Minnesota.
There were even a few wild rumors the Royals were interested in a trade for slugger Justin Upton, but it seemed far-fetched. Dayton Moore also had contact with free agents willing to sign shorter term deals like Mike Morse, Alex Rios, and Kendrys Morales, eventually signing the latter two. There were also a few rumors they might be interested in trading for Padres pitcher Ian Kennedy, Mets pitcher Dillon Gee, Braves slugger Evan Gattis, or Nationals infielder Asdrubal Cabrera.
Ultimately, it would be a Winter Meetings week in which the Royals would fail to make a single move. Instead, they lay the groundwork to make moves later that winter, including short-term deals for Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales, and Alex Rios that would contribute to a championship ballclub.
"We’re in an interesting spot in the sense that a lot of our players are going to start making more money," Moore said. "We want to be able to potentially execute contracts that, perhaps, keep them here beyond their free-agent year."