Dayton Moore has been on the job for eight and a half seasons now. He has produced just two winning seasons, but one of those seasons was a pennant winner. We have had some time to digest his off-season moves this winter, so let's give him his annual review. How's he doing?
The Case For Dayton Moore
1. He won the American League pennant. Last year. In real life.
Yes, the true talent level of the team was probably in the mid-80s win range and they got a bit lucky. Yes, they had an unbelievably lucky run in the post-season. But as Branch Rickey once said, "luck is the residue of design." Dayton Moore put the Royals in a situation where luck mattered. Had the 2006 Royals gotten lucky, they would have won 70 games. In 2014, luck allowed the Royals to get within two runs of being World Champions. Flags fly forever, man.
2. He convinced the Glass family to spend money
When he got here in 2006, Dayton Moore did something perhaps even more unbelievable than winning the pennant - he got David Glass to open his wallet. Say what you will about Glass's tenure as owner from 2000-2006, but it is clear since then he has invested in the ballclub. The Royals have beefed up their farm system, been willing to spend money on bonuses to amateur players, and have set payroll records for several years. Dayton Moore agreed to come to Kansas City only if the organization changed its mindset on spending, and its clear the Royals have taken a much different approach to investing in the ballclub.
3. The team is in a good position to be reasonably competitive in the near future
The Royals were built with a nucleus of players under the age of 30. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Yordano Ventura, Mike Moustakas - they're all here to stay (for better or for worse). Rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan could soon join the rotation, and Sean Manaea and even Kyle Zimmer could be positive contributors someday soon. Despite lackluster results, Raul Mondesi has been praised by all sorts of baseball men as a terrific looking shortstop for the future. It is clear the Glass family is now willing to spend money on this team to win ballgames, and with a good nucleus in place, Dayton Moore has the resources he needs to put the team in contention every year.
4. The short-term free agent deals this winter were smart considering the payroll crunch
Dayton Moore took gambles on Kendrys Morales, Alex Rios, Kris Medlen, and Edinson Volquez because they were willing to take short-term deals, a prudent move considering the Royals future payroll obligations. Each player has shown talent in the past, and Moore is banking on them showing that talent again. And if they don't, the team can get rid of them in short time without being attached to an albatross contract.
The Case Against Dayton Moore
1. It was all a fluke
The Royals were really a mediocre team last year that took advantage of a weakened American League with a hot two months to become league champs. While the media narrative may be that they are a young team set up for the future, the truth is this is not a very young team. Most of their players are hitting their arbitration years, making them very pricy, and as we saw with the 2008 Colorado Rockies, even having young players in the prime can set you up for a crash after winning a surprising pennant.
2. It took seven years for the team to even be competitive
That's a loooooong process to trust. Dayton Moore took over in June of 2006, and he didn't produce a team even close to having a winning record until 2013. Sure, it takes awhile for your draft picks to pan out, but that doesn't excuse his inability to field a competitive team in the meantime, especially when the Glass family has raised payroll for much of Moore's tenure.
3. The future looks ominous
The Royals are in for a big payroll crunch next year and possibly 2017 with several key players due for big raises. The farm system, once praised as the best in baseball, looks a bit thin after several key prospects had disappointing 2014 seasons. With every pop-up it becomes more and more clear that young players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are simply what they are, with not much hope of improvement. 2014 was fun, but is the team stuck in a bad spot for the next few years?
4. The short-term free agent deals this winter will make the team worse
The team reportedly did not want a full-time designated hitter, then went out and signed one in Kendrys Morales that can't get on base and is coming off the worst season of his career. They signed a maddeningly inconsistent performer in Alex Rios who has been benched in the past for a lack of hustle. They signed another maddeningly inconsistent performer in Edinson Volquez who has trouble finding the strike zone. They signed a two-time Tommy John survivor in Kris Medlen, who won't even be available to pitch until June. The Royals are coming off a pennant and should be going all-in with bold moves, not taking up reclamation projects that by many projection models, are likely to be barely replacement level in 2015.
What do you think? How much confidence do you have in Dayton Moore going forward? Can he repeat on the success of 2014? Is this a sustainable model for a small market team like the Royals?
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