The Royals sit less than a week away from what will be their most interesting trade deadline in franchise history. There have been rumors the Royals could be interested in adding a bat or a pitcher, with some reports they are "open to anything." Some fans have expressed Dayton Moore will be aggressive at the deadline, citing his conservative nature in the past.
But when have the Royals ever been in this situation before? In 2013 and 2014, when the team ended up in contention in the last few weeks, they weren't obvious buyers at the deadline, in fact it was argued they should be sellers. Dayton Moore has no precedent for being in this situation. If anything, he has shown he can be very aggressive in improving the ballclub, including trading multiple top prospects as he did in the James Shields trade.
Just for fun, let's take a look back at Dayton's July trade deadline history.
Royals record going into July 31: 36-67, 33 games back
Dayton Moore had been on the job for all of six weeks when he experienced his first trade deadline, and he was eager to work on transforming the moribund ballclub. There had been reports the Yankees might be willing to part with disappointing outfielder Melky Cabrera in exchange for outfielder Reggie Sanders, but an injury to Sanders nixed that deal. On July 19, Dayton made a minor trade, sending disappointing second baseman Ruben Gotay to the Mets for infielder Jeff Keppinger, who would not be in Kansas City long and experience success elsewhere. On July 24 he traded reliever Mike MacDougal to the White Sox for minor league pitchers Dan Cortes and Tyler Lumsden. The trade was considered a minor miracle since MacDougal had been injured most of the season and was no longer considered the closer he was in his All-Star season of 2003. Cortes and Lumsden weren't top prospects, but were ranked among Chicago's top 20 by John Sickels, and it showed that Dayton Moore was unafraid to deal young players for prospects.
Dayton was not done. The very next day he dealt infielder Tony Graffanino to the Brewers for pitcher Jorge de la Rosa. He also made an interesting deal sending valuable swingman Elmer Dessens to the Dodgers in exchange for expensive malcontent pitcher Odalis Perez and a pair of prospects - Julio Pimentel and Blake Johnson. The Royals fielded offers on pitcher Mark Redman, who had pitched well that summer, but were ultimately not able to make a deal. Finally, on the last day of the trading season on July 31, he sent Matt Stairs to the Rangers for Jose Diaz, and pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista to Colorado for first baseman Ryan Shealy and pitcher Scott Dohmann. In one week, Dayton Moore had traded away seven players, receiving ten in return.
"I feel we've done the very best we could with the opportunities that were given to us," Moore said. "We're excited about the quality, but I think we always have to be focused on adding another pitcher."
Royals record going into July 31: 47-58, 14 games back
Dayton Moore shopped a couple of players around, including second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who was drawing interest from the Mets, and outfielder Reggie Sanders. There were reports teams were inquiring about pitcher Zack Greinke, who had just returned in 2007 after a hiatus due to social anxiety. But the player that drew the most attention was closer Octavio Dotel, who Dayton had signed as a free agent the previous winter.
The Indians, Dodgers, Braves, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, and Mariners all had interest in fortifying their bullpen with Dotel. Talks with Cleveland centered on outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Ben Francisco with the Royals most interested in Gutierrez. The Royals wanted either infielder Tony Abreu or Chin-Lung Hu from the Dodgers. The Mariners reportedly offered outfielder Wladimir Balentien in exchange for the hard-throwing reliever. Ultimately, Dayton would end up dealing with his old team, the Braves, getting pitcher Kyle Davies.
"We began this process three weeks ago," general manager Dayton Moore said, "and our focus was on young position players. But at the end of the day, we felt this was the best deal for us based on the players who were offered to us."
Royals record going into July 31: 50-59, 11 games back
Dayton Moore was dealing with drama at the deadline in 2008 amid reports that newly signed free agent Jose Guillen had a rift with manager Trey Hillman. The Royals and Yankees engaged in several talks, and the Royals reportedly came close to sending pitcher Brian Bannister to the Bronx for outfielder Melky Cabrera. There was also a report that the Yankees put on the table a deal that would have sent Cabrera and second baseman Robinson Cano to Kansas City for pitcher Zack Greinke and outfielder Mark Teahen.
The Royals seemed eager to trade impending free agent Mark Grudzielanek, but found no takers. The Cubs had some interest in David DeJesus. Reliever Ron Mahay attracted interest from the Rays, Yankees, and Phillies, who reportedly offered infielder Jason Donald. One report had the Red Sox offering outfielder Brandon Moss for the left-handed reliever. Ultimately, the Royals made no deals at the deadline. After the deadline, they would end up moving lefty pitcher Horacio Ramirez to the White Sox for a young outfielder named Paulo Orlando.
"We just felt at the end of the day," general manager Dayton Moore said, "that we needed to keep this group together and stand pat with what we have. If we felt, if I felt, there was an opportunity to improve our team for the long term, I would have done it."
Royals record going into July 31: 40-61, 13.5 games back
By 2009, Dayton Moore was very protective of his core group of players, and wasn't keen on moving guys like eventual 2009 American League Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. The Brewers, Marlins, and Yankees all pursued pitcher Brian Bannister (I have it on good authority that the Royals wanted a Brewers prospect by the name of Lorenzo Cain), but the Royals wanted two players back for Banny, a price no team was willing to pay. The Giants and Cubs showed some interest in Mark Teahen. Teams had tepid interest in David DeJesus and Ron Mahay. It ended up being a quiet deadline for the Royals.
"Let's just trust the process. If other people don't want to trust the process, that's fine. If other people want to abandon the process, then abandon it. I'm not abandoning the process. I believe in the process."
Royals record going into July 31: 43-60, 15.5 games back
David DeJesus was the most attractive asset the Royals had to offer with the outfielder enjoying a career-best season. The Giants, Padres, Red Sox and Rays all showed great interest. Boston reportedly offered outfielder Ryan Kalish with the Royals instead wanting outfielder Josh Reddick. The Royals had a high asking price, with one source saying they were asking for "a major league-ready prospect, along with at least one midlevel prospect or a pair of lower-level players." The Royals desperately wanted shortstop Jose Iglesias with names like Felix Doubront and Manny Delcarmen also discussed. Ultimately, DeJesus would tear his thumb ligament crashing into the wall for a catch on July 22, and would not be traded until that winter.
The Mets tried to get the Royals to bite on a swap of Gil Meche for Oliver Perez, but the Royals weren't interested. There was one report from ESPN's Jayson Stark that the Yankees were willing to deal top hitting prospect Jesus Montero for closer Joakim Soria, even thought the Yankees were on Soria's no-trade list. A week before the deadline, they shipped infielder Alberto Callaspo to the Angels for pitchers Will Smith and Sean O'Sullivan.
The Royals had the chance to get a draft pick for impending free agent Scott Podsednik that winter but instead dealt him to the Dodgers for pitcher Elisaul Pimentel and catcher Lucas May so the Royals could open a spot for newly-converted left-fielder Alex Gordon. The club also tried to move impending free agent Jose Guillen, but found few takers. Just before the deadline came news of a surprising deal, with the Royals shipping malcontent outfielder Rick Ankiel and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth to Altanta for outfielder Gregor Blanco, and pitchers Tim Collins and Jesse Chavez.
"If it wasn’t a deal that we liked we wouldn’t have done it."
Royals record going into July 31: 45-62, 11 games back
Dayton Moore wasn't looking to shake things up in 2011. There was speculation he might deal one of his outfielders - Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur, but he insisted he wanted to keep them and would shortly thereafter sign Francoeur to a contract extension. Moore fueled rumors when he said he would consider two impact starting pitchers in exchange for closer Joakim Soria, but he later clarified he was only making the point that the price would be very high to move his All-Star reliever. There were whispers the Royals might be interested in Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, but nothing much came of it. Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, and Bruce Chen all drew very light interest from other clubs, but the Royals made just minor moves, shipping infielders Wilson Betimet to Detroit and Mike Aviles to Boston each for a pair of low level minor leaguers.
"Nothing has changed with our situation," general manager Dayton Moore said. "The guys we have, I think, are more valuable to us than the potential (return)."
Royals record going into July 31: 41-60, 14 games back
The Royals went into the deadline out of contention, but with an eye towards contending in 2013 or 2014. They kicked the tires on Cubs pitchers Matt Garza and Paul Maholm and Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez. On July 20, they swapped disappointing pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to the Rockies for their disappointment - pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.
The Pirates showed interest in Billy Butler. The Yankees showed interest in Alex Gordon. The Royals tried to make Jeff Francoeur, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Jose Mijares available, but found few takers.
Closer Jonathan Broxton drew a lot of interest with the Giants, Orioles, and Mets all keeping in touch with the Royals. Ken Rosenthal reported the Royals at least discussed a deal to acquire pitcher Jake Arrieta from the Orioles for Broxton and Luke Hochevar. A deal with the Rangers was almost made, but Texas balked at including pitcher Justin Grimm in the deal. Instead, Broxton went to Cincinnati for pitchers Donnie Joseph and J.C. Sulbaran.
"We tried to focus on bringing back a starting pitcher who could be in our rotation today," general manager Dayton Moore said. "Or if not today, certainly next year. It just didn’t materialize for us."
Royals record going into July 31: 52-51, 7 games back, 5 games back of a playoff spot
The Royals were behind several teams for a playoff spot, but they wanted to end on a good note so they opted not to become sellers unless they were blown away for an offer for pitcher Ervin Santana. Instead, they looked to be buyers for the long-term, seeking to address holes such as second base. The Royals looked at the Howie Kendrick of the Angels, Rickie Weeks of the Brewers, Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, and Kevin Frandson of the Phillies. The Royals also sought to upgrade their outfield, kicking the tires on White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. In the end, the team only made a minor, bolstering the outfield by adding Justin Maxwell from the Astros for pitcher Kyle Smith.
"There's no reason this team can't go on a run where you win 15 of 20."
Royals record going into July 31: 54-52, 5 games back, 3.5 games back of a playoff spot
The Royals went into July 31 still behind three other teams for the final Wild Card spot, but winning six of eight had left them feeling like buyers, rather than sellers. The club sought a bat to improve a sluggish lineup, and had talks again about Alex Rios with the Royals and Rangers reportedly coming to agreement on a deal, only to have Rios (who had a no-trade clause) reject the deal because the Royals would not commit to picking up his 2015 option. Marlon Byrd also insisted the Royals pick up his option in order to waive his no-trade clause, with the Royals balking at that notion.
Dayton Moore also looked to beef up his rotation, with reports attaching him to Ian Kennedy, Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett, and John Lackey. Having already acquired relief help on July 16 with the acquisition of Jason Frasor from the Rangers, the Royals were reportedly also interested in Red Sox pitcher Andrew Miller. Dayton Moore also pursued bench depth, getting close to a deal to re-acquire Emilio Bonifacio, and pursuing Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia.
But the rumors would prove to be just a tease. The Royals would end up making a minor trade, acquiring pitcher Liam Hendriks and catcher Erik Kratz from Toronto for third baseman Danny Valencia. After the deadline, they would acquire Twins slugger Josh Willingham as well. But there were suspicions the team did not make a bigger splash at the deadline because of financial constraints.
"We’re not going to apologize for our market, and what we can’t do," Moore said Thursday. "But there’s certainly limitations." He added, "There are certain players available to certain teams for a reason. It’s just the way it works in the game."