Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star has a terrific piece out today that you should read that seems to relays frustrations within the Royals front office on payroll limitations by David Glass that will inhibit the team’s chances of competing in 2017. Mellinger does not quote anyone on the record, but does say that Glass’s frugal stance has been taken “like a punch in the nose” to some in the organization. While it doesn’t appear as if the Royals will have a firesale to trade off their core, Mellinger notes that financial limitations will keep the Royals from adding to the roster than won 81 games last year and must deal with the losses of Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales.
Mellinger specifically cites the pursuit of free agent Josh Reddick as a way in which Glass’ financial rigidity has cost the Royals. According to Mellinger, the Royals had targeted the right-fielder as a power bat that could help the middle of the lineup. Reddick hit .281/.345/.405 with 10 home runs in 439 plate appearances last year for the Athletics and Dodgers, but has flashed 20-30 home run power in the past.
But with the Royals unable to add payroll, the club had to look to off-set any free agent signing by trading away current personnel. Reddick did not wait, and the 29-year old ended up signing a four-year, $52 million deal with the Houston Astros.
Moore has consistently said the club will not be active in free agency and that the club would not add payroll, although David Glass added the caveat that Moore could be a “persuasive kid.” With Mellinger’s piece today, it seems the internal battle that has been brewing in the Royals front office has come down on the side of austerity. The fact that the notoriously tight-lipped Royals has leaked this kind of information suggests it was done purposefully, as a last-ditch effort to get the Glass family to move off their position in the face of public backlash (hey, season tickets went on sale this week!)
The leak of these battles also shows that Dayton Moore is not as content with the current roster as he has publicly stated. The team has puffed up the performance of Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson as options in right-field, but the pursuit of Reddick suggest they know that they must upgrade the offense. Will they able to with the payroll limitations that have been placed on them?
Dayton Moore stated the need to be “creative” this winter, and the Glass family has made his job all the more difficult. Mellinger has suggested possibly signing Danny Duffy and/or Mike Moustakas to long-term deals that are heavily backloaded to give them more financial flexibility in 2017. Trading Wade Davis remains an option to move his $10 million salary. Despite a strong 2016 season, the club would probably love to move Ian Kennedy. Dealing players like Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier, or Jarrod Dyson could be a way to add cheap, valuable players to fill other needs on the roster.
It is true that Dayton Moore bears some responsibility for putting himself in this mess. As Shaun Newkirk points out, about a quarter of this payroll is tied up in dead money, whether it be money owed Omar Infante, the free agent flop of Joakim Soria, or deferrals from contracts signed for players that are no longer here like Volquez and Morales. But David Glass has always said he will dip into his own pocketbook to produce a winner. And the current Royals roster is good, but not good enough to contend right now.
David Glass has erased a lot of the bad memories of him as an owner in the early 2000s by giving Dayton Moore the resources he needed to win two pennants and a championship. With one more year before the core of this team hits free agency, now would be a foolish time to get frugal. There will be plenty of time to that in 2018. David Glass needs to let his front office make one more run in 2017. And if he doesn’t, well its time to begin the rebuild in earnest. Doing neither is the worst option that will damage this franchise and the goodwill that has built up over the last few seasons.