The Royals addressed the media on Monday in their annual end-of-the-season press conference following a disappointing 81-81 season, with General Manager Dayton Moore addressing the future of the ballclub as they head into the off-season. Moore held himself accountable for the team failing to make the playoffs, shrugging off any suggestion that a poor season by any one player, such as Joakim Soria, doomed the club. Moore defended the signing of Soria to a three-year deal, saying that last winter they felt it was important to bolster the bullpen.
"Looking back on our processes, our processes are good."
Moore did seem to indicate that inertia last winter may have not been a good strategy, suggesting that perhaps the team will shake things up a bit this winter.
"Last year we pretty much stood pat, we didn't make a lot of changes to our team. That didn't work out too well for us," explained Moore.
He did not try to use injuries as an excuse, instead saying it gave them a chance to see some of the younger players like Whit Merrifield and Cheslor Cuthbert. "We have to continue to evaluate other opportunities out there to improve the team for 2017 and beyond. We've got to look to be creative."
Moore said he was pleased with the starting pitching depth on the club, and praised Ian Kennedy for his performance after signing a five-year, $70 million contract with the club last winter.
"Ian was exceptional for us. He gave us innings, he gave us a chance to win, most times out."
Moore did say the bullpen needed to be addressed, but seemed confident that Joakim Soria would bounce back after a disappointing year. Moore suggested that the bullpen could be supplemented by young power arms in the system. The Royals were pleasantly surprised this year by the performance of rookie Matt Strahm, who had a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings after being promoted. The team has said they want Strahm to start next year, but he could find himself in the pen if the team needs depth.
With the Royals missing out on the post-season, Moore acknowledged that revenues would be down.
"We're living above our means. This payroll was put together to go deep in the post-season. That didn't happen. I'm accountable for that. Its not going to look very good on the spreadsheet."
He was non-committal about payroll, but indicated that he expected last year's franchise-record $137 million payroll to "regress a bit", although not by a significant amount. Reporters also asked him about Kendrys Morales, who has an $11 million mutual option that Morales will likely decline, making him a free agent. Moore said he "would love to have him back" but that the team would not publicly discuss their plans yet. Moore and Yost both discussed the appeal of leaving the designated hitter position open to allow other players to rotate in to give them a break.
"You're always looking for versatility," said Moore. "If you're locked into the DH, that hinders that."
The Royals had discussed positional versatility at designated hitter just before they signed Morales before the 2015 season. However, Moore explained that Morales was Plan B, and the original plan was to sign Torii Hunter and have him play rightfield and designated hitter. The Royals may be posturing, but it sounds like they would prefer a designated hitter who can at least play the field when needed, and may part ways with the 33-year old Morales.
The Royals also have a number of players reaching their last year of club control before free agency - Danny Duffy, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Jarrod Dyson, and Kelvin Herrera. Dayton Moore seemed pessimistic about any kind of long-term deals for such a player, saying they have never signed a player to such a deal in their last year before free agency.
Dayton Moore said they would be open to whatever situation arises this winter. He added that "free agency is a flawed way to build your team consistently", but that they would explore every opportunity after they look internally first.
On his future, Ned Yost indicated he would live up to the remaining two years on his contract, saying he would stay on as long as the job was fun. Yost also said he expects the entire coaching staff to return in 2017, including first base coach Rusty Kuntz, who has been hinting at retirement.