Coming off a World Championship, the Royals had one priority this past winter – keep the band together. It was a forgone conclusion that Johnny Cueto would leave, and it seemed doubtful that the Royals would be able to keep Ben Zobrist, but they hoped the rest of the club would be able to stay in the fold, in particular, All-Star left-fielder Alex Gordon.
Gordon did stay, as did starting pitcher Chris Young, who was so pivotal for the Royals throughout the playoffs. The Royals also brought back an old friend, reuniting with All-Star reliever Joakim Soria on a three-year deal. To the surprise of many, they also addressed the starting rotation by signing one of the biggest contracts in franchise history, inking Ian Kennedy to a five year, $70 million deal. To top it off, they added depth by bringing in injured pitcher Mike Minor on an incentivized Major League contract.
Hindsight is 20/20 and while some questioned these transactions, many of these deals were praised at the time. There is still a long way to go before those moves can be fully evaluated, however a few months into these transactions, Dayton’s off-season looks like a bit of a disaster.
Signed a four-year, $72 million contract
This is the contract I will give Dayton Moore a pass on. Alex Gordon was an integral part of the World Championship club, a fan favorite, a multiple All-Star and Gold Glove winner, and a Midwestern kid drafted and developed by the Royals. Had the Royals let him walk and signed someone else for much cheaper, fans would have been apoplectic.
Still, signing a 32-year old outfielder to a multi-year deal is a dicey proposition. Gordon has been a disaster this year, hitting .202/.312/.342 with just 7 HR. He has been barely over replacement value, and his defense has declined while his strikeout rate has spiked. Gordon is still a decent bet to bounce back, but at his age, the worry is that his bat just cannot keep up with sliders anymore and the Royals will be on the hook for a massive salary and no production.
|Denard Span||3 years||$31 million||SFG||405||.254||.330||.344||4||0.1|
|Gerardo Parra||3 years||$27.5 million||COL||249||.263||.274||.424||5||-1.2|
|Dexter Fowler *||1 year||$13 million||CHC||299||.291||.398||.490||8||2.7|
|Ian Desmond *||1 year||$8 million||TEX||429||.310||.361||.523||19||3.5|
|Chris Young||2 years||$7 million||BOS||142||.277||.338||.508||6||0.3|
|Hyun-Soo Kim||2 years||$7 million||BAL||173||.329||.410||.454||3||0.9|
*-required forfeiting a draft pick
Signed a five-year, $72 million contract
Kennedy was a bit of a shocker, both in that a pitcher of his quality landed such a massive deal, and that the Royals were the team that gave it to him. Not only did they hand him a huge contract, but they gave him an opt-out if things went well, and forfeited their 2016 first-round pick for him.
The Royals have been linked to Kennedy several times in the past, and they thought that his flyball tendencies would play well in Kauffman Stadium. The problem is that home run rates have spiked all over baseball, so flyballs that might have stayed in the ballpark to be caught by Lorenzo Cain last year are now leaving the ballpark at alarming rates.
Kennedy leads the league in home runs allowed with 26 and his 4.41 ERA is probably not quite what the Royals envisioned when they signed him to the largest contract for a pitcher in franchise history. Kennedy has maintained his high strikeout rates, but his FIP is 5.33, suggesting he has actually been a bit lucky with balls in play. He has an opt-out after two seasons, but with the way he is pitching he would be insane to forgo the money owed him at this point.
Scott Kazmir seemed like a nice option at the time, especially with no draft pick compensation. Kennedy has at least pitched better than Yovani Gallardo, who the Royals were linked to at one time, although Baltimore is only on the hook for two years. I thought Kennedy would pitch better than this, but that five-year deal is looking really awful right now.
|Wei-Yin Chen*||5 years||$80 million||MIA||4.99||4.57||110.0||7.3||1.9|
|Mike Leake||5 years||$80 million||STL||4.24||3.86||123.0||6.7||1.2|
|Scott Kazmir||3 years||$48 million||LAD||4.35||4.28||109.2||9.6||3.2|
|J.A. Happ||3 years||$36 million||TOR||3.27||3.98||124.0||7.3||2.7|
|Yovani Gallardo*||2 years||$22 million||BAL||5.37||5.07||62.0||6.2||4.8|
*-required forfeiting a draft pick
Signed a three-year, $25 million contract
The Soria signing was a bit surprising since the Royals already had a very solid bullpen, and spending that much money early on in the off-season seemed like a questionable use of resources. Soria's velocity was up last year, and he had put up pretty decent numbers since recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he was still a big injury risk.
Soria has stayed healthy this year, but has been a big disappointment. His 4.29 ERA is the highest of his career, and his walk rate has spiked to 4.1 per-nine-innings. He has already given up seven home runs, one shy of his career high. He was supposed to be the "eighth inning guy" but has failed in high-leverage situations.
|Darren O'Day||4 years||$31 million||BAL||3.00||5.00||21.0||12.0||3.9|
|Ryan Madson||3 years||$22 million||OAK||3.77||4.67||43.0||7.3||2.9|
|Shawn Kelley||3 years||$15 million||WAS||3.11||3.03||37.2||13.9||1.7|
|Tyler Clippard||2 years||$12.3 million||ARI||4.17||4.04||36.2||11.0||3.7|
|Mark Lowe||2 years||$11 million||DET||9.19||6.97||31.1||7.5||3.7|
Signed a two-year, $13 million contract
Young was a valuable member of last year's team, particularly in the post-season when he gave the Royals huge relief innings against the Astros, and big starts against both the Blue Jays and Mets. The Royals got him on a steal of a deal last year, with a low base contract and incentives that pushed his salary to just over $5 million. To reward him, they signed him to a two-year contract and gave him a rotation spot out of spring training.
Young, like Kennedy, has been killed by the long-ball. He is tied with Kennedy for the league lead in home runs with 26, despite having pitched just 64 innings this year. His 6.61 ERA is the sixth-highest in baseball for someone with as many as 60 innings pitched. Although his strikeout rate is way up, his walk rate is up to alarming levels at 4.8 per-nine-innings. With another year and a half left on his contract, it is difficult for the Royals to simply release the disappointing right-hander.
Signed a two-year $7.25 million contract
The Royals also added Mike Minor on an incentive-laden deal, with the lefty recovering from labrum surgery. They were hoping he might be ready by June, but setbacks have pushed expectations, and the Royals will be lucky if they get more than a start or two from him this year. The true value of Minor should probably be judged in 2017, when he is further removed from his rehab.
|Bartolo Colon||1 year||$7.25 million||NYM||3.48||4.28||108.2||5.8||1.7|
|Doug Fister||1 year||$7 million||HOU||3.42||4.63||118.1||5.6||3.0|
|Rich Hill||1 year||$6 million||OAK||2.25||2.53||76.0||10.7||3.3|
|Colby Lewis||1 year||$6 million||TEX||3.21||4.26||98.0||5.6||1.7|
|Mat Latos||1 year||$3 million||CHW||4.62||5.52||60.1||4.8||3.7|
|Bud Norris||1 year||$2.5 million||ATL||4.56||3.99||92.2||8.4||3.2|
Every general manager makes mistakes, and Dayton Moore has a shiny championship ring that makes it easier to forgive his sins. This week is an important week for the franchise that could help determine whether next year's team can compete for another championship. Perhaps these transactions will look better once we have seen the full tenure of these players in Kansas City. But more than halfway through a disappointing season, they look like a disaster.