The Royals seem headed to a crossroads as a franchise this summer, as Dayton Moore may have to confront the reality of trading away the core group of a team that won him a championship. Rumors of a firesale have begun since last winter, when the club traded away Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson, and intensified after a slow 16-23 start to the season.
Moore addressed some of those rumors today while talking to Soren Petro on The Program on 810 WHB.
“There’s just not a lot of movement certainly at this point in time, and historically there never really has.”
Despite rumors the Nationals have begun looking at closers such as Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera, Moore is correct in that major trades typically don’t happen until at least June, and more commonly, in July. Some say a loaded pitching market may cause the market to respond earlier this summer, but teams are still trying to sort out whether they are contenders or not.
Moore emphasized staying the course, saying the organization was prepared to do a deal if one came up, but that they would not make advance decisions because of the changing nature of the game. This echoes comments he made recently to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com, when he dismissed talk of a “firesale.”
"Our process when we left Spring Training was to compete for a division title and the World Series," Moore said. "That thought process isn't going to change after 10 games or 20 games or 37 games or whenever. It's not going to change.
“We're going to continue to expect our team to play better. We're going to focus on winning our division. We had a plan in the very beginning and we're not going to abandon that plan. We're playing very good baseball right now."
Moore has continually balked at the notion of making “advanced plans” due to the changing nature of the game. He made this same point with Kansas City Star reporter Rustin Dodd, saying that deals can come together quickly based on events, using the 2015 Tigers as an example.
“You just don’t know what the climate is going to be like in the game...The Tigers made it pretty clear that they probably weren’t going to make any deals. And then all of a sudden, some things changed, and (general manager) Dave Dombrowski says he’s going to trade David Price, and the deal comes together very quickly.”
While it is probably true the Royals are not actively engaged in trade talks with any teams, the idea is certainly in the back of their minds. As Moore suggests, the Royals are aware of the top prospects of potential trading partners, and will heavily scout those players as the trade deadline creeps up.
Moore told Soren Petro he would not “make deals just to make deals”, saying that he walked away from trade offers on Edinson Volquez last year because he did not want to make a deal for a player that would not be among the top ten prospects in the Royals system. He seemed to imply that getting mediocre minor league talent was just a waste of time.
“When you trade for average talent in the minor leagues, its not going to be average in the Major Leagues.....You need to trade for strong-average to good players in the minor leagues if you expect them to be average or strong-average in the Major Leagues. It just takes too much time.”
This could be rather instructive when it comes to how the Royals will approach the July trade deadline this year. If the team is out of it, many expect a “firesale”, however it seems clear Dayton Moore won’t make a trade just to get rid of his inventory. It is quite possible that if he doesn’t get the kind of deal he likes - particularly for a player like Eric Hosmer, in which there may be a wide gulf in opinion on his value - he will balk at making a deal.
Moore: “There is a business side to what we do. I’ve never made a decision that I didn’t think was best for the Kansas City Royals."— Soren Petro (@SorenPetro) May 18, 2017
Looking beyond the horizon for the Royals, don’t expect them to raze the Major League talent and start over as teams like the Astros, Cubs, and Braves have done in recent years. Moore was sharply critical of “tanking”, fielding a poor MLB team as part of a rebuild.
“If tanking is a part of your mentality, you shouldn’t be in professional sports. In fact, you shouldn’t be in sports.”
He illustrated his point by discussing the 2006 Royals, which swept the first place Tigers to end the season, costing them a short at the #1 pick in the 2007 draft, which was used by the Rays to select David Price, while the Royals chose Mike Moustakas. Moore said the draft position was not a concern of his, saying he only looked at the draft once the season was over.
Moore said he could have maximized the trade value of the core players by trading them away right after the World Series, with those players having two years of control left, but that is something they would never consider.
“That’s wrong, in my opinion. Some baseball people may say that’s shrewd, that’s the way to do it...but baseball is more about heart than the head.”
In his talk with Petro, Dayton Moore said there was a possibility of retaining some of his potential free agents, but did not tip his hand whether it was more likely or less likely, saying that deals could come together very quickly.
“There is no doubt we have a young player in Cheslor Cuthbert who is clearly a part of our future, but that doesn’t mean that we’re gonna be in a hurry to trade Mike Moustakas. He has been a huge part of what we’ve done here and can be a huge part of what we do in the future. And just because we have Cheslor Cuthbert, doesn’t mean that Mike Moustakas doesn’t have a chance to be on this team going forward.”
Dayton Moore offered a few other tidbits, taking responsibility for the team’s current struggles. He revealed that they had trade talks about Wade Davis last year, but teams were not convinced on his health. He supported the struggling Alex Gordon, insisting he is not “done.” He also supported Chris Young, saying he was working on a slider with Dave Eiland, but added a caveat:
“You can’t keep running guys out there that are struggling in a mighty way and clearly aren’t performing.”
Moore talked about doubters to the Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist trades, saying they were very motivated to complete those trades.
Moore on the deals for Cueto/Zobrist… “We would have even given up more for (Cueto/Zobrist)."— Soren Petro (@SorenPetro) May 18, 2017
There is one thing Dayton Moore was certainly right about, and that is that events can change quite a bit, particularly between now and the July 31 trade deadline. The Royals can still make a run back into contention, but they will need to start winning a lot, and soon, or else Dayton Moore will have to begin having the trade discussions he seems reluctant to have.